15 ways to prepare and succeed at virtual job interviews

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted the workforce in many ways, and one significant change is to move from physical, face-to-face interaction to virtual meetings, interviews and even webinars.

As a result, many job interviews are now being conducted virtually in Singapore. Recruiters and hiring managers require candidates to get organised and prepared quick-smart, ensuring they are set up with the right technology and tools.

FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, even Instagram Live and Stories, have helped us grow accustomed to communicating socially through digital screens on our mobile phones or tablets. However, when it comes to job interviews, there are numerous additional considerations to be taken into account when preparing for an online job interview. It is also important to highlight that just because you are not physically present does not make the interview any less formal.

There are essentially four popular video interview platforms that recruiters and hiring managers use for online interviews, and they are SkypeZoomGoogle Hangouts and Microsoft Teams – do familiarise yourselves with them.

A simple Google or YouTube search can provide you with a quick introduction and tutorial of how these platforms work. By getting to know these platforms, you will avoid any additional stress that comes with navigating new technology – you’re dealing with enough pressure for the interview as it is.

Navigating video interviews: The right interview setting

It’s not as scary as you think. Many job seekers have said it is more intimidating to meet face-to-face. Meeting in a comfortable and familiar environment at home can be a good thing as you would have control over your surroundings.

On the other hand, if you find that you don't have the right setup at home for an online job interview, run through the following options:

  • Ask family or friend if you can interview at their place.
  • Ask a work colleague if they can lend you their laptop.
  • Reach out to your network for the use of their office’s spare meeting room
  • Research co-working spaces and one-time shared office facilities (this will come at a cost)

Whether or not you’ve had a video interview before, do go through our checklist below to ensure you give yourself the best chance at impressing your interviewer.

15 essential tips for video interviews

1. If you’re using your mobile phone, do not hold it in your hands in selfie mode. Find a way to prop it up either on a stand or shelf – and consider the camera angle. The interviewer should not be looking up your nose or seeing your side profile.

2. Conduct the interview indoors. Just because you have a mobile phone or laptop, it doesn’t mean you should do it at the beach or the park.

3. Don’t conduct your video interview on the couch.

4. Do a test run with a friend or family member. Check connection, system updates, microphone, volume, lighting and outside noise. If you already know the platform used for the video interview, create an invite with a friend, and test that the web link or app opens up and connects successfully.

5. Your interview attire should be what you would otherwise wear to a face-to-face interview. Some candidates think that just because they’re at home means they can stay casually dressed. That will not bode well with the recruiter or hiring manager. If you only plan to dress the top half of your body, do so with caution. There have been instances where people stand up or grab a glass of water, only to reveal they were not appropriately dressed for the bottom half. Be wary that some colours and patterns will not translate well on camera. Avoid anything too bright or clothing with stripes, patterns or checks.

6. Related to the point above, ensure you have a glass of water nearby. You may get a dry throat from talking and getting up to leave the interview is not only rude, but it will ruin the momentum.

Don't wear checks for online interviews as that can be distracting for the interviewer.

7. Make sure that the part of your background that appears on the screen is clear of clutter as well. The foolproof way is to go with a blank background. Anything that is messy can reflect poorly on you, and will be distracting for the interviewer.

8. Watch your posture. You may appear slouched on the screen, so make sure you’re comfortably seated upright. It helps to check how you appear beforehand in the ‘video preview’ settings.

9. Ensure your interviewer is not looking at a zoomed-in, close-up of your face. A reasonable distance is a headshot or having your shoulders in the shot, depending on the space you have around you.

10. Show you’re engaged and try to make a connection. Natural physical cues are less evident due to screens as compared to in-person interviews. Show engagement by nodding your head or responding every few minutes. You will otherwise appear bored or not focusing on the discussion. Also, find a way to establish rapport so that the video interview is not so clinical.

11. Have a pen, notepad, questions and your resume in front of you. A video interview from home means taking notes or referring to your resume and list of questions is generally acceptable, as long as you’re not entirely relying on them or forgetting to interact.

12. Since the interviewer cannot see you physically, get your notes ready and keep standard answers next to you. These notes will keep you focused, especially if you tend to get nervous or are worried you will miss out on vital information that you want to relate to the hiring manager.

13. Accept that because of technology, no matter how good your connection is, there will be lags or buffering or sound cutting out. Leave more gaps of silence between questions and answers, and don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat themselves if the sound does cut out.

14. Related to the tip above, ending the video interview may not occur as naturally as it does in person. Ensure you have asked all your questions and find out what steps are next. When you say goodbye, stop yourself from repeating goodbye once the interviewer has responded. You will end up in a cycle of repeating yourself. Wait until they have answered, then hang up.

15. Ensure you have officially logged off before you relax. Many candidates have reacted without realising that the interviewer was still connected to the interview video call.

While it is doubtful that you will be asked to attend a face-to-face interview any time soon, demonstrate your preparedness when speaking to your recruiter on the phone. You can also reply to their email 5 to 10 minutes before the scheduled interview timing to inform them that you are set up and ready to do the interview virtually.

Video calls and video interviews can be highly effective when you prepare and practice. From now on, it will be the standard process and expectation for most jobseekers, as COVID-19 continues to impact the hiring process.

Importantly, know that if you’re using a professional recruitment consultant, they are also adjusting to the new reality, so reach out for help if you have any questions or concerns.

Need more assistance? Contact a Michael Page consultant, or search for current job opportunities.

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