Making the Most of Virtual Interviews: 12 Tips for Candidates & Employers

Hosting virtual interviews presents a modern solution to an age-old problem. The hiring process is costly and time-consuming for everyone involved. It grinds productivity to a halt for employers as the hiring manager must stop their regular operating duties to meet with several candidates. Candidates must take time off their current employment to travel to the interview. Virtual interviews provide a modern solution that streamlines the interviewing process. However, candidates and employers must keep a few things in mind to make the most of virtual interviews. These tips will help make everyone have a better virtual interviewing experience. 

Virtual Interview Tips for Candidates

Attending virtual interviews has become standard practice in today’s professional marketplace. While they give professionals greater flexibility in their career search, they also present unique challenges. By understanding the subtle differences, candidates can tailor their approach to make the most of their virtual interview experience.

1. Prepare in Advance

Prepare for your virtual interview by researching the company and position. The position you are interviewing for will dictate what you focus on during your research. Look at what the company recently published. This will give you talking points about where the company has come from and where it is going. You can speak to challenges currently faced and how you can be an asset in overcoming them.

Prepare a few questions that you can ask during your interview. Some of them can be functional, such as hours, manager, and workload. Other questions should be at a higher level. This shows that you understand the bigger picture and want to know how your role will impact company operations.

2. Log In Early

When attending an in-person interview, a good rule of thumb is to arrive ten to fifteen minutes before your interview start time. This gives you time to freshen up and find where you need to check-in. It also gives you a time cushion for unexpected delays so that you are not late. 

While you do not need to log in fifteen minutes early for your virtual interview, you should plan to log in at least a few minutes early. It is also smart to do a test run before your interview time. Log into the interview platform and check for any installation or update requirements. Test your camera and microphone to ensure they work. That way, you are logged in, set up, and ready when your interview time arrives. Remember that clocks can vary slightly, so you do not want to keep the interviewer waiting. Many interviewing platforms have a virtual waiting room where you will wait until the interview starts.

3. Stay Professional

A common mistake candidates make is to not treat their virtual interview as professionally as an in-person one. This can result in them dressing and acting unprofessionally. Shower and perform personal hygiene as if you were attending an in-person interview. Dress in clothing that would be appropriate for an in-person interview. Follow industry standards for the type of position you are interviewing for. 

During your interview, sit upright with your legs in front of you, shoulders back, and your back straight. This body posture gives you the look of confidence, which is important when applying for a new position. Position the camera so that it is a good distance from you. It should not be so close that your face is uncomfortably filling the entire screen. It also does not need to be so far away that your entire body is on the screen. Aim for it to show your upper body.

4. Think About Location

Choose your location wisely when deciding where you will set up for your virtual interview. It needs to be a quiet and distraction-free place. You need to give your full attention to the interviewer. Otherwise, you risk looking disengaged and not serious about wanting the position. Choose a location where you won’t be tempted to look beyond the screen. 

Similarly, turn around and look behind you once you have chosen a location. Take a critical eye to the space by cleaning up the mess and removing anything questionable. You may no longer notice the details of your surroundings, but the interviewer will. Another good option is to initiate the privacy or blur effect. While you could add a virtual background, be careful with this. They do not always work well and can result in you looking strange. 

5. Camera Eye Contact

When speaking to someone in person, you can easily make eye contact by facing them and looking at their eyes. With a virtual interview, this becomes more challenging. Instead of looking at the person, people tend to look at their screen. This could be because they are looking at the other person on their screen or themselves. The problem with this is that you never actually make eye contact with the person interviewing you. 

To combat this, try to look into the camera when speaking. It helps if you position the camera to be directly in front of your face at eye level. That way, you do not have to awkwardly look up or down. That way, you look like you are speaking directly to the person interviewing you. It creates a better sense of eye contact and makes you more personable. Use hand gestures and facial expressions as you would when speaking in person. 

6. Have Materials Ready

Like an in-person interview, you must have your interview materials ready. Depending on your industry, this could be as simple as a resume and cover letter. Or it can be more extensive to include a portfolio, professional website, or test task deliverables. Before your interview, queue these materials up by opening the tabs on your computer. That way, they are ready when you screen share to show them. Or you can open the folder on your computer and have the files ready to drop into the virtual interview portal when needed. Doing this makes you look prepared and reduces dead time during the interview while you queue up what you need.

Virtual Interview Tips for Employees

Employers must rethink how they approach interviews to ensure a smooth virtual hiring process. While some things can easily be transferred from in-person to online, others cannot. Taking a thoughtful approach to virtual interviews will help you optimize your internal processes while making a good first impression on candidates. 

1. Establish a Process

Before conducting virtual interviews, you must have an established process. Determine how and when you will conduct virtual interviews. Decide who will attend the interviews from within the company. Once completed, outline how the process will move forward to narrowing down top performers and hiring. Communicate the process to the internal team to ensure everyone is on the same page. You need to have your employees know what is expected of them. 

It helps to have a centralized place where employees can provide feedback and submit questions. This open sharing of information bolsters company culture and improves the end process. 

2. Test Run The Technology

Nothing is more embarrassing than having everyone ready to go and the technology not working. This looks unprofessional and makes a wrong first impression for your company. It is easy to assume that in a post-COVID-19 world, everyone has experience with video conferencing. But this is not always the case. Start by choosing the software or platform that your company will use. Then arrange for a training session to teach everyone how to use it. 

Before a scheduled interview, encourage hiring managers to do a test run. This lets them test their internet connection, camera, sound, and lighting. If they plan to record, screen share, or have others join, they should try these features, too. That way, you have a smoother interview experience. 

3. Openly Communicate With Candidates

Your candidates do not know your process. They will also have to do a different interview process for each company they interview with. It is stressful to decipher each company’s hiring process. Your company can stand out by clearly communicating what candidates can expect. Put your applicants at ease by openly sharing your interview process. This establishes a better rapport with your candidates. 

Tell your candidates everything they need to know about logging into their meeting. This could be a simple step-by-step email in advance of the interview. Include the names of the people they will interview with. If possible, include what will happen after the interview.  

4. Dedicate a Private Space

Give your interviews your full attention by having a private space. It needs to be free of distractions and excessive background noise. That way, you and the candidates can hear each other clearly. It also ensures that you won’t get interrupted, causing interview delays. Consider the amount of lighting in the room. Too much or too little natural light coming in through the windows can make it difficult to see you on camera. Not only does this look unprofessional, but it makes it harder for the candidate to connect with you. 

5. Using a Rating System

The advantage of virtual interviews is that you can do significantly more of them in a short amount of time. This is great for productivity but creates new challenges. Performing multiple virtual interviews in rapid succession will make it difficult to keep the candidates organized. It will become increasingly more difficult to accurately reflect on the interviews later. To address this, have a standard list of questions you will ask all candidates. Print the questions out with space for notes. Rate their answers on a rating scale of one to five or ten. This lets you quickly take notes while conducting the interview. You can then rate the candidates and narrow down the top interviews. This streamlines the interview process and helps you quickly identify the individuals you want to move forward with. 

Using a standardized rating system can also improve your internal hiring processes. As interviewers use the rating system, you can review the ratings later. Compare the rating assessments to the hired employee’s performance. Over time, you can identify the hiring managers within your organization who are more adept at identifying talent. You can then use their knowledge and skills to improve your hiring practices company-wide. This results in better hiring choices and a stronger team. 

6. Have a Company Pitch

Today’s workers know the value that they bring to the table. The most desirable candidates will be interviewed at multiple companies. They will approach a virtual interview wanting to know what the company can do for them. You need to have a sales pitch ready. Be able to explain the company culture and benefits clearly. Because the interview is virtual, the candidates won’t have an opportunity to see and experience company culture for themselves. There is no office tour or casual chat with current employees. 

Another option is to provide a virtual tour. You can give the candidates a link to a short video before the interview. The video can include a walk-through of the offices, highlighting notable features. Or you can include quick introductions of people in key roles. This humanizes your company while providing a more personalized introduction. It allows candidates to get a better sense of the company through visuals. 

Providing this information before the interview also gives you a talking point during the interview. Interviewers can ask about the video and gauge the candidate’s reaction. Engaged individuals will speak directly to the video and discuss specifics from what they saw. Someone not engaged in the interview will have less to say because they either did not pay attention or watched the video. 

Improve Your Virtual Interview Process

Whether you are the one hosting the virtual interviews or the candidate attending them, preparation is key to success. Virtual interviews require the same level of professionalism and respect as in-person interviews. For candidates, it means researching the company and position, logging in early, and exhibiting good interviewing skills. For companies, it means establishing a process, communicating it to the candidates, and using a rating system to streamline the hiring process. 

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