Job interviews conducted via videoconferencing programs such as Zoom and Skype were already in wide use before the coronavirus pandemic, but for understandable reasons they are now more popular than ever.
Just as for an in-person interview, you should carefully prepare beforehand, but there are other considerations specific to virtual interviewing that you will need to keep in mind.
Become familiar with the contents of your résumé and be ready to discuss the ways they demonstrate your qualifications for the position.
Have stories from your previous work experience at the ready to demonstrate why you’d be an asset to the firm.
Practice with a friend or relative using the videoconferencing program that will be used for the interview, in order to get a feel for the technology and a sense of how you’ll appear to others onscreen. Familiarize yourself with the buttons and menus that allow you to mute your microphone, modify the screen display, choose a virtual background, etc.
While practicing, rehearse the main points you’d like to make, and try to include the question asked as part of your response. Don’t, however, assume you can rigidly follow a script of main points once the interview is in progress, because the interviewer’s questions may take the discussion in unanticipated directions. Be flexible.
Keep your phone nearby (but in silent mode) in case there are problems with the technology during the interview and you need to quickly contact the interviewer. (Make sure beforehand that you have this person’s phone number.)
If using a friend or relative’s computer, update the username that will be displayed onscreen during the interview.
Adjust the camera angle so that your head fills the middle of the screen and does not appear at the bottom. The camera should be at eye level; you don’t want to appear to be looking down or upward.
Lighting (natural or interior) should come from behind the camera, not directly overhead or behind you, and it should be diffused rather than bright and concentrated. Glasses, if worn, should ideally be glare-proof.
The background that appears behind you should be clean and uncluttered, preferably a blank wall. If this is not possible, most videoconferencing programs allow you to choose a virtual background for your video display (but, again, it should be plain and not something distracting like a beach scene or busy street view).
Do what you can to keep pets, kids, or relatives off screen and out of microphone range. Lock the door to the room if possible to ward off this type of inadvertent intrusion. (A warning: virtual backgrounds will not block out people or animals that approach within a few feet of the camera.)
Use the built-in computer microphone/speakers and avoid earbuds, which can be a distraction (especially if they fall out of place). Take advantage of the muting options most videoconferencing programs offer so that random sounds don’t interrupt comments from the interviewer(s). For example, in Zoom you can leave the mute on and use the space bar to activate the microphone only when you’re speaking.
Close other open programs that may create distractions with alerts or notifications going off.
Clear the desk of everything except your résumé and notes, and perhaps a small glass of water in case you need to rehydrate while speaking. (You don’t want to be seen reaching for something visually distracting like a brightly colored water bottle or a large mug.) You may also be able to minimize your view of the interviewer(s) and have your résumé and/or notes open on screen for quick consultation, so that you won’t have to glance down at printed documents.
Wear darker colors (light colors create a washed-out appearance on screen), and dress conservatively, in an outfit that is appropriate to the work environment the job would entail.
Look directly at the computer camera to maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s). Resist the urge to periodically check your own appearance on the screen. (If possible, minimize the view of your image to avoid this temptation.)
Smile and appear engaged in the conversation. Avoid touching your face or hair.
Before the interview is over, make sure you’ve obtained the interviewer’s e-mail address so that, no later than the following day, you can send a thank-you note (copied to a Human Resources staff member) for being given the chance to interview.
Help from Richland Library
Although our locations are currently open only on a limited basis (see here for details), you can set up a virtual meeting with one of our certified Career Coaches for help with interviewing skills, your résumé, interest/skills assessments, and more. On the library’s home page, click on Services, then Book a Learning Coach. Fill out and submit the form, and you will be contacted later to schedule an appointment.