Nailing the interview can be stressful. You want to be wearing the right outfit, say all the right things, and leave the interviewer with the best impression. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, and everything went virtual, suddenly interviews got tougher. The opportunity to shake a hand and flash a winning smile for a great first encounter got replaced with fuzzy video and spotty internet connection. In an office, the world’s distractions can be minimized, whereas, at home, they’re everywhere.
So you have put in your resume and got that email or phone call confirming an interview time. How do you walk away from the computer having left your best impression?
Here are eight tips for nailing your virtual interview.
Wear a suit – from head to toe.
Just because everything has become a little less formal while everyone wants to be comfortable working from home doesn’t mean potential employers want to see you in your pajamas. Professionalism isn’t dead yet. Dressing well shows that this moment is important to you because people tend to put more effort into the things they most value.
Don’t cheat either and only look good from the head to the hips. Make sure your bottoms are equally professional. While, theoretically, you should be able to conduct the entire virtual interview sitting down with only your head visible, the reality is that things go wrong, and it is important to be prepared. Something could happen that requires you to stand up for a minute, or something could knock your laptop over. Don’t get caught in your fuzzy, dancing avocado PJs!
Put your phone in another room.
We all know that urge, that itch, to look over at your phone when it pings or buzzes. Your eyes glance away from what you were doing, your fingers creep over, and your mind jumps away from where it was to focus on the phone. It can even happen unconsciously.
When you have to take the time to drive to an office for an interview, it was probably easier to remember to shut off your phone; at home, don’t forget that it is still unprofessional to have your phone ringing in an interview. If the safest thing to do is put your phone in another room, do it. Shut it off. Do whatever you can do to make sure you avoid the temptation to look at your phone.
There are always exceptions – addressed later in this list. On the whole, though, it is best to keep the phone out of arm’s reach.
Try to be in a quiet space, but accept you can’t control it all.
Being at home can mean you either have full control of the noise level or no control. Depending on location, number of people sharing the living space, and whether or not there are pets, noise interruptions can range from barking, arguing children, sirens, construction, or the fire alarm. There are dozens of examples of cats and dogs interrupting their newscaster owners online to prove this point. While none of this can be fully controlled, prepare a quiet spot ahead of time and inform family or room-mates about your interview. If noise happens, smile, apologize and keep going. Don’t get flustered or upset over noise you cannot control. Use it as an opportunity to show you can handle the unexpected.
If you know an interruption could happen, acknowledge it at the beginning of the interview.
The more Zoom meetings and interviews you attend, the more you will hear certain phrases: “Can you see me?” “Did I freeze?” “Sorry for the internet quality.” One of the key ones, especially for people with kids or pets, is, “I apologize ahead of time if [insert thing here] happens.”
People understand the trials and tribulations of doing everything from home. They are also very understanding of emergencies. If you have babies, small children, or animals in the home, take time at the beginning of the interview to acknowledge their presence and the possibility of interruption. If you are expecting a call or text about a true emergency, this would be the time to inform your interviewer. True emergencies include hospitalizations or surgeries. Hopefully, nothing will interrupt your interview, but if you know there is a strong possibility of it, go ahead and politely let your interviewer know. Odds are, they have been in your shoes and will understand.
If something goes wrong, have a sense of humor.
There is no way to guarantee you have thought about everything or prevent all interruptions. Technical issues are frequent and hard to control. Many people are struggling to maintain a consistent internet connection. Sometimes your video call software cuts out. Sound issues, camera issues, so many things can happen! If and when it does, resolve it as quickly as possible, apologize, and be willing to smile and laugh about it.
Be patient with their technical issues.
Because you want your interviewer to be gracious if something goes wrong with the technology on your end, be willing to extend that to your interviewer. Their video could have a problem, their audio could cut out, or their internet could be dipping in and out as well. As annoying as it can be, being upbeat and patient about these issues shows your better traits. Even if it appears they’ve been dropped from the call entirely, do not let your frustration get to you. They may have only disconnected for a few seconds or appear offline. If you mutter a curse word or express your annoyance verbally, by rolling your eyes, or any other gesture that could be taken as rude because you think they cannot see or hear, you’ve probably lost that job opportunity.
Know your talking points.
When you walk into any job interview, it is important to know how you want to sell yourself, know the job description, and know a little bit about the organization you want to work for. That should be what you expect out of yourself. Because you’ll be on the computer, the temptation to have some information on a post-it, or pulled up on your screen, may be strong. Try not to do that. They may notice your eyes darting away from the screen, or to the corner.
Be confident, professional, and respectful.
It can be nerve-wracking to go to a job interview, especially if it is your first interview for a professional position. Keeping your head up and being confident is important for clear communication. Be polite, and reflect their language and posture. Slouching, looking like you’re not paying attention, or using casual language sends the message that is how you would communicate with a client, something the organization would probably avoid. While today’s employers probably won’t mind if an occasional “like” or “ummm” slips in there, be aware of how often you say it.
Remember that no one owes you an interview or a job. This interview, even though it’s virtual, is a chance someone is extending you. Be sure to thank them for the opportunity, as well as for their time. These little touches show respect, meaning you know how to interact with others appropriately.
Finding a job can take time, but do not be discouraged! Whether this interview is the right one or not, every interview is a chance to hone your skills, improve your professional poise, and gain experience speaking to professionals. Nailing the interview is a crucial step to adulthood, so be prepared, and chase every good opportunity.