17 August 2020

Thirteen Questions to Ace a Virtual Job Interview

Alaina G. Levine

Virtual interviewing, while exclusively used during the pandemic, is undoubtedly here to stay. Even before COVID-19, there were many organizations that were utilizing virtual interviewing via Skype, Zoom, and other online platforms; and of course now, its use has exploded. Since your next job interview will probably be virtual, below are a few questions to ask yourself as you prepare. By considering these issues in advance, you will feel more confident, calm, and collected during the interview. Let’s help you triumph your next virtual interview! 

virtual interviewing

1. Where will I be conducting the interview? Find a quiet and neat space in your home (or office) to do the interview. It doesn’t have to be perfect, especially during the pandemic. But there shouldn’t be any dirty laundry or dishes in the background. If you are in a large room and you can’t move your computer closer to the wall, then just make sure you tidy up the space behind you.

2. How is my internet connection? Do a speed check at least a day before your virtual interview to see how fast your Wi-Fi is and to ensure its stability. Check this again at the time of day when the interview will take place.

3. Which platform will I be using? Download the software you will be using way ahead of time and make sure you practice at least twice using the platform. Ask your friend in another location to download it so you could practice together.

4. What is my light source? Your light source should illuminate your face, but not be so bright as it washes you out. It also shouldn’t only shine on part of your face. A good light source is usually above and away from the face, versus a lamp that is five inches away from your face.

5. What time of day will I be conducting the interview? Know exactly what time (in your time zone!) you will be interviewing and practice at least once at that time of day so you a take an assessment of the light source. This is especially relevant if you’re going to be sitting near a window, as it means different lighting and direction of lighting during different times of the day.

6. Where is the camera pointed? It should ideally be slightly above your head and about a foot or more away from you. The interviewer is not your dentist so they don’t need a close-up of your throat. 

7. What microphone are you using? You do not have to buy a fancy mic. It is OK to use your headset or the microphone that comes with your computer. But, do test it out in advance.

8. Where should I be looking? I know you are curious to see your interviewers’ faces, but if you are to demonstrate that you are speaking with them, you need to look at the camera, not at the video images of you or the others. Put a note with an arrow on your screen pointing at the webcam lens to remind yourself to look into the webcam and stay engaged.

9. What should I wear? The beauty of virtual interviewing is that you can wear what I call the half-suit: pajamas on the bottom but a professional look on the top. Even during the pandemic, it is wise to project a professional image while you are interviewing for a job, so wear a button-down shirt or blouse and a blazer. Reserve your T-shirt for another day. Make sure that the camera is only showing your top half if you do employ the half-suit!

10. What about my notes? You can have notes open on your computer or on paper in front of you and certainly you can look at them. Just don’t read them like you are reading a speech word-for-word. You can also take notes; however, I would recommend that you jot the notes down with a pen on a pad or a tablet rather than typing so as not to distract yourself or the interviewer(s) with the noise or action.

11. What questions should I ask when scheduling the interview? You certainly want to know the date, time, and virtual platform, but it is also important to know who will be interviewing you and if you should prepare anything in advance (such as a formal talk). Also double-check with them when they will be sending you the login credentials or Zoom invitation. 

12. Can I use hand gestures? You can use your hands to speak if you are comfortable with this; but keep any hand gestures small and close to your body, especially given that the webcam is only capturing a certain part of your hand and fingers. You wouldn’t want to accidentally give the wrong message or have a gesture misinterpreted as something that is inappropriate!

13. What should I do when my friend texts me? This is a trick question! Your phone should be on silent and off to the side. It should not be in a place that can distract you. If you do get a text or a call during the interview? Simply do nothing. Your focus should be entirely on the interview and interviewers. So, with that in mind, close your email and any unnecessary programs and web pages.

Note: Some of the text of this tip sheet has appeared in other works by the author, including her articles, columns, speeches, and book, Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015).

Alaina G. Levine is an award-winning entrepreneur, international keynote speaker, STEM career consultant, science writer, corporate comedian, and author of Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015), which beat out Einstein (really!) for the honor of being named one of the Top 5 Books of 2015 by Physics Today magazine. She is a regular speaker and consultant for AAS. @AlainaGLevine

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