How to Prepare for a Virtual Interview

A virtual interview is a digital technique that allows employers to remotely assess the suitability of a candidate via a video link. Virtual interviews are usually performed as a first-stage screening method, used to narrow down the pool of applicants invited to the next stage of the recruitment process.

A virtual interview can be conducted in one of two ways:

  • A live, two-way conversation between employer and candidate, held via a digital conferencing platform or video chat application, such as Skype, Zoom or GoToMeeting.

  • A one-way session where the applicant is presented with pre-set questions and required to provide their answers through video recording software.

A virtual interview brings many benefits to a hiring organisation. They are cost-effective, easy to set up and, unlike telephone interviews, they offer the employer a visual impression of a candidate’s interpersonal skills.

They also provide a greater reach by eliminating geographical obstacles in the search for talent.

For the candidate, a virtual interview also offers benefits over traditional face-to-face meetings and phone interviews:

  • Many people feel more confident and comfortable in a familiar environment. A virtual interview allows you to present yourself from a location of your choice – whether that be at home or another suitable space, such as a private study or meeting room.

  • A virtual interview can reduce stress by removing the need for travel. It eliminates the potential added pressure of train delays or traffic jams, as well as saving you travel-associated costs.

  • Unlike a telephone interview, a virtual interview gives you the chance to present yourself in full. Positive body language and a confident demeanour can increase your chances of progressing to the next stage.

  • Just as an employer’s talent pool is widened by a virtual interview, so too is your job search. Travelling a long distance to attend a first stage interview in person can be impractical, especially if you are unsure of your chance of progression.

10 Tips for Acing Your Virtual Interview

Best practices for virtual interviews include the same methods of preparation as any form of interview.

You should conduct thorough research on the hiring organisation; be sure you understand its industry, and are aware of its objectives, culture and values.

You should also be familiar with the specifics of the post for which you are applying and prepare for any role-related questions you think you may be asked, as well as rehearsing answers for general competency-based questions.

In addition to the basics, there are also some unique challenges to address in your virtual interview preparation. With that in mind, the following offers guidance on how to ace a virtual interview, with tips for before, during and after.

1. Before – Arrange Your Setup

There are two main factors to the setup of a virtual interview – equipment and location.

You’ll want either a desktop or laptop (never attend a virtual interview via a smartphone), with quality audio and video capabilities.

Don’t assume that your computer’s built-in speakers and webcam are sufficient. Test them out and if you encounter any issues, look to buy or borrow additional equipment.

When choosing your location, make sure it’s private and as soundproof as possible, as any external noise will be a distraction for both you and the interviewer. Ensure that your backdrop is suitable and the lighting is appropriate.

You’ll also want to be sure that your chosen location has the relevant internet capacity and, preferably, a wired connection, as this will decrease the chances of dropout.

2. Before – Rehearse for the Virtual Environment

A virtual interview can feel like an odd process, especially if you’re unfamiliar with it. For example, a face-to-face interview would normally begin and conclude with a handshake.

This is not possible in a virtual environment, so practice a professional greeting such as a slight nod or a subtle raising of the hand.

It’s also important to practice talking into the camera instead of looking directly at the on-screen image of the interviewer. Virtual eye contact is a difficult skill to master, but if you can achieve it, you’ll make a much better impression.

3. Before – Be Fully Prepared

You will want complete confidence that everything will go well, so make a checklist of everything you need to consider – and make sure all actions are completed before the interview starts.

Test your equipment and connection and double-check your surroundings. Make sure you’ll encounter no unexpected disturbances and neatly lay out everything you need on your desk.

As with any interview, dress appropriately and do so in full. Whilst it might be tempting to only smarten the upper half, dressing professionally from head to toe will put you in the right mindset. 

Crucially, make sure you have a glass of water to hand. The last thing you want is to have to pause the interview if your mouth goes dry.

4. Before – Plan Your Time Effectively

For a virtual interview, it’s important to plan your time accordingly and be ready and waiting to join the call.

It can be tempting to leave it until the last minute since there’s no travel involved but, ideally, you should clear your schedule at least an hour beforehand to focus your mind on the task at hand.

Use the time to go over your research notes, reread the job description and remind yourself of your initial application. This should get you fully focused and interview ready.

5. During – Watch Your Body Language

Whilst attending a virtual interview from the comfort of your own home can make you feel more confident, it can also make you feel too relaxed. Be sure to constantly maintain a good posture and keep your body language professional.

Also, be aware of the interviewer’s field of vision. If you’re trying to emphasise a point with hand gestures that can’t be seen, it can create a disconnected atmosphere.

Try and keep your movement minimal but natural. Don’t overly gesticulate, but don’t sit too rigidly either.

6. During – Maintain Your Focus

It’s far easier to drift off or get distracted in a virtual interview than it is sat face-to-face with another person.

The fact that you are online can prove a big distraction in itself, so be sure to avoid any temptation to browse or check your emails. It’s also good practice to turn off notifications as part of your virtual interview preparation.

There can also be the temptation to play around with things the interviewer can’t see, like your phone, or doodle on a piece of paper. Just because the interviewer can’t see what you’re doing, doesn’t mean they won’t notice you’re distracted.

Stay fully focused on the process at hand and what is being asked of you.

7. During – Try and Build a Connection

Remember, if you’re partaking in a virtual interview it’s likely you’re one of many candidates being screened for the next round, so you’ll need to make an impression.

As it can be difficult to make a personal connection via virtual means, this aspect of the interview will take a little more effort.

A good tip is to do a bit of background research on your interviewer and see if there’s any common ground you can build on, such as a mutual interest. It’s also important to ensure your personality comes across well.

In a face-to-face interview, you give a lot of yourself away through your natural presence; in a virtual interview, there’s a barrier, and you’ll need to go the extra mile to build a rapport.

8. During – Let the Interviewer Lead

Dead airtime can seem like an eternity compared to moments of face-to-face silence, so there can often be the temptation to fill gaps in the conversation. Avoid this urge and let the interviewer lead the process.

It could be that they’re taking the time to jot down some notes, or there may simply be a delay in the transmission. Be patient and wait for a prompt before you speak. Unnecessary chat can derail the whole interview process.

9. After – Follow up and Ask for Feedback

As with any form of interview, it is both professional and courteous to follow up in the aftermath of your virtual interview. Thank those involved for their time and for considering you for the role, and be sure to let them know you’re open to providing further information should they want it.

If you’re unsuccessful in moving to the next stage, be sure to ask for feedback to help your future performance.

If you’re new to the virtual interview process, you could even ask for feedback specific to the virtual element to see if there’s anything you could improve on.

10. After – Review Your Performance

Take the time to assess what you think went well and what you could have improved on. This is standard practice for any interview format but it is especially important for a virtual interview where there are additional factors to consider.

In some instances, you may even be permitted to record the interview and watch it back at a later date. This will be down to the employer, though, so be sure to seek written permission to do so in advance.

Mistakes to Avoid

To ace a virtual interview, there are a few common mistakes that should be avoided:

  • Don’t get flustered if technology fails you – This is a common pitfall of a virtual interview. Stay calm and attempt to reconnect.

  • Don’t fidget – This can appear unprofessional and be a distraction. If you’re particularly nervous, try holding a stress ball under the desk.

  • Don’t use a swivel chair or a chair with wheels – You could end up swinging from side to side, or altering your position without even realising.

  • Don’t have programmes or downloads running in the background – This can slow down your connection and disrupt the interview.

  • Don’t forget to ask questions – Despite being two-way, a live virtual interview can often feel one-sided. Treat it as you would a face-to-face interview and ask insightful questions that demonstrate your enthusiasm.

Final Thoughts

Virtual interviews are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the benefits they bring to employers. Many large corporations have included a virtual interview as part of their standard procedure for some time, but they are now being used by many smaller organisations to save time and cut costs.

If you’re invited to a virtual interview, it’s important to approach it with the same professional mindset as you would a face-to-face meeting. Be prepared, calm and confident and, crucially, ensure you have the right equipment, connection and procedures in place.

Take the time to practice and perfect how to ace a virtual interview to give yourself the best chance of success.

Further Reading

You might be interested in these other WikiJob articles:

What Is A Sonru Video Interview?

The 50 Most Common Interview Questions

How to Prepare for a Telephone Interview

10 Common Interview Mistakes You Should Avoid Making

10 Surprising Job Interview Tips You May Not Know

Informal Interviews