How to prep for an interview, both virtual and in person

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Job interviews are nerve-wracking no matter how they take place, but virtual interviews are especially daunting. You’re trying to connect with the interviewers while dealing with the ins and outs of cameras, background noises, and potential internet troubles.

However, if you take time in advance to make sure you’re set up for success — if you follow these virtual interview tips — you can ensure you’ll able to put your best foot forward, even from hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.

What to expect from a virtual interview

A great virtual interview should have a lot of the same ingredients as an in-person one! But instead of the formalities of handshakes and figuring out which chair to sit at in the conference room, you’ll click a link and drop into a video call, where hopefully your interviewer will be waiting.

How to prepare for a virtual interview

Follow these tips to prepare for your virtual interview and make sure you’re set up for success when it starts

Ensure you have a fast, reliable internet connection

A poor connection means you risk unclear audio on the call, which is a real deal breaker. No matter what excellent preparation you do for the call, if your interviewers can’t hear you or if your video freezes, you’re off to a start you may not be able to recover from.

In case you’re curious about your internet speed, there are a variety of sites online where you can measure your bandwidth. It’s also a good idea to close out of any other programs that might be slowing down your computer or using data before your interview starts.

Get the hardware you need

Whenever possible, always do your video call on a laptop with a webcam. It’s a better experience for you and those on the other end; joining a video call from a mobile phone can come across unprofessional if not done properly. If you have to take the call from your phone, try to get a stand to stabilise things.

Pro tip: Always wear headphones on a video call, especially if it’s an interview. You’ll get clearer audio, reduce the chances that you’ll get an echo, and minimise surprise background noise.

Master your tools

Remote interviews are unique in that your relationship with your potential new employer is brokered by technology, not by sharing space and connecting in the same room.

Take the time to learn and get comfortable with any tools that will power your interview. This way, the technology will blend seamlessly into the background so your human connection will shine through.

  • Check to see if you need to set up an account or download new software for the video call service you’ll be using for the interview. You don’t want to be late to join the call on the big day because you didn’t download a plugin.
  • Make sure you know how to manage the audio inputs/outputs on your computer, as well as how to adjust the audio in the video call service.
  • Practice muting and unmuting yourself, sharing your screen, and so on.

Set the stage

Fire up a practice call using the software your interviewers plan to use, then:

  • Decide how you’re going to sit in relation to the camera.
  • Check your background to make sure there’s nothing in the shot that would detract from your interview.
  • If you’re using multiple monitors, set them up so that you’ll be looking directly into the camera on the screen ahead of you. Otherwise, your interviewers will be looking at the side of your face, and you’ll look unfocused

Light from the front

To look your best on a video call, you want to remember to have your light source in front of you. While it might be tempting to show off your sweeping window view, being backlit will lead to shadowing your face — and a weird interview experience!

Since you probably don’t have ring lights and fancy light gear lying around, place yourself facing a window to take advantage of natural light. If you don’t have a good window to use, find a table lamp and place it a foot or so in front of you, then fire up the video call to test what you see.

Go somewhere quiet

Don’t try to conduct an interview from a coffee shop. Background noise will be distracting, and you want to eliminate the potential for interruptions.

Turn off notifications

You won’t get a reminder to turn off your phone notifications before the interview, so make sure you create yourself some kind of reminder. Also make sure to turn off notifications for other online services that might ping, ring, or otherwise distract you from your interview.

Sign out of messaging services, turn on do-not-disturb in any tool you can’t close, close out of social media sites that give you notifications, and close any browser windows or tabs that might surprise you with an auto-play video.

Adjust what you can see

Video calls allow you to see yourself and the person or team of people you’re speaking with on-screen. Experiment with how these windows are displayed so you can find the right arrangement for your call.

Pro tip: Place the video window as close to your actual webcam as possible so when you’re looking at the interviewer, you’ll also be looking at the webcam

Do a test run

On the day of your interview, you don’t want the technology that is allowing you the opportunity to work at a remote company to trip you up! Practice so that the technology will feel invisible to you and your interviewer. You can practice with anyone — it doesn’t have to be a professional connection.

If you’re struggling to think of someone who would practice with you, use this as an opportunity to reconnect with a friend or family member with whom you haven’t spoken in a while. If you’re not used to video calls, you’ll have a nice chance to experience the richer connection of witnessing each other’s reactions on camera in real time

Have a backup plan

No matter how much you prepare, a video tool can break. Do a test run the day of your interview to make sure everything is still working, and be prepared to send an alternate suggestion, such as a traditional phone call, to the interviewers in case your technology fails.

How to stand out in a virtual interview

Once you have your quiet corner with reliable internet picked out and a laptop charged and ready, you’re almost ready to wow your interviewer. But consider these things for the interview:

  • Look into the webcam. I know that might feel unnatural, but it will give the interviewer the sense that you’re making eye contact and paying attention to what they’re saying.
  • Don’t move. That’s not particularly possible, but try not to fidget, swivel your chair, type on the keyboard, or leave the frame of the video chat. It’s distracting and feels off-putting.
  • Set any note-taking expectations. Taking notes during an interview is encouraged, but if you plan to type notes on the same device from which you’ll be taking the call, let your interviewers know so they’ll know you aren’t being rude or distracted.
  • If something happens with the connection, be honest! Everyone understands that a video call can have some glitches, so it’s always okay to ask someone to repeat something because the screen froze temporarily.
  • Have fun. Smiling, laughing, and showing you’re enjoying the video chat are absolutely encouraged.

What to do after a virtual interview

As with an in-person interview, it’s always a nice touch to send your interviewer a short email thanking them for their time and to leave a lasting impression. This is a great moment to reiterate your excitement about the team and the opportunity as well!

In the end, interviewing for a remote job is no different than interviewing for any job at a co-located company: You need to convey your passion for the company and display what value you can add to their business.

Preparing thoughtfully so you’ll have comfort and confidence in the technology powering your call will allow you to focus on the important work of presenting yourself as an excellent candidate and knocking your interview out of the park.

Click here for a comprehensive guide on Job Hunting in the Age of Remote Work: Virtual Interviews & Onboarding

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