During lockdown, the virtual interview has become a necessity, and yet so many candidates (and recruiters!) get it so wrong. Recently, I’ve been hearing some horror stories from both sides.
Here are my top tips from a candidate perspective, edited from my book, Foolproof Interview Skills (available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats):
- Do your preparation as you would for a face to face interview – You can prepare for up to 85% of all questions you may get asked. In my online course, Foolproof Interview Skills (and in my book of the same title) I give step by step guidance on interview prep, including researching the company, using the STAR format to answer competency-based questions and how to answer the Top 10 Most Asked Interview Questions.
- Use a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted – If you’re at home and the family are around, ask them to go out for an hour during your call. There’s nothing worse than having someone barge in on you when you’re in the middle of explaining the key aspects of your role.
- Check your appearance – Although it’s not necessary to wear a suit, you should ensure that you look neat and professional. Wear a shirt/blouse and your hair should be neat and tidy. Sportswear, t-shirts, anything revealing or too casual, is not acceptable.
- Be mindful of your surroundings – Even though the assessor shouldn’t consider your room, if it is dirty, messy or you have inappropriate posters on the walls, it won’t give a professional image. Position your computer/ phone/ tablet/ phone in a way that you are in front of a blank wall. Remember, what you see on the screen is what the assessor can see. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU CONDUCT AN INTERVIEW (OR ANY OTHER VIRTUAL MEETING) FROM YOUR BED!
- Check that the technology is working – There’s nothing more frustrating for a recruiter than arranging time in their busy schedule to talk to a candidate, only to find that there are technical issues such as phones running out of charge, bad internet connections or you haven’t downloaded the right app, etc. If possible, try it out with a friend beforehand so that you’re ready to go at the allotted time.
- Make sure you’re on time – It’s incredibly annoying for a recruiter when the candidate is late – it’s no different from turning up late for a face to face interview. You should enter the virtual meeting room at least five meetings before the start time.
- Remove any pets from the room – It is not acceptable (not to mention unprofessional) to stop to talk to your pet during an interview. Also, if you know you have a dog that likes to bark, make sure that you place it far enough away so that it won’t interrupt the interview.
- Have the right information to hand – It’s helpful to have your CV, the job description, person specification, your key achievements in the STAR format, the company’s competencies and your questions for the interviewer in front of you (pin them to the wall in front of you).
- Look into the camera – Candidates tend to look at the little picture of themselves displayed on the screen rather than looking into the camera lens. Looking at your own picture appears very odd to the recruiter and has the same effect as not looking someone in the eye when you’re face to face.
- Know when to keep quiet – In an interview, it’s not up to you to fill silences. Just because the interviewer is silent when you’ve finished answering does not indicate that you have to fill the space with waffle! Know when to stop. If they are quiet, it’s not a cue for you to keep talking – they are probably just making notes.
In summary, you should treat a virtual assessment as you would any other face to face interview. If you wouldn’t do something face to face, don’t do it ‘virtually’!