Job interviews can be stressful enough, but the pressure increases when they’re done over video. In today’s remote-work landscape, however, candidates likely won’t have a choice — virtual interviews have essentially become the norm, as many companies plan to maintain a work-from-home environment into the near future.
That said, with the right preparation, you can still make a solid impression on screen. Here’s how to have a successful video interview.
DON'T READ FROM NOTES
If you’ve never experienced a virtual interview, you may feel uneasy simply because you aren’t sure what to expect. According to Ineke McMahon, a recruiter at Path to Promotion, you should prepare for a virtual job interview exactly as you would for a face-to-face one, especially if you’re going to be on camera.
“Do not bring in a whole bunch of notes and think that you can read from them and the interviewers won’t be able to tell,” McMahon says. “If anything, you need to increase your practice time because it’s harder to get your personality across in a virtual meeting room. You need to be able to answer questions succinctly and with all of the valid qualitative data. It’s harder to be engaging, and interviewers tend to lose focus a lot quicker.”
DO A FEW PRACTICE RUNS
Virtual interviews are not dissimilar to in-person ones. “Ensuring that you get your message across is key, and practice will help you to do that smoothly,” McMahon says.
As with any interview, you’ll want to review the job description in detail beforehand. To prepare for questions, McMahon suggests noting any phrases that reappear throughout the description and thinking about how your own experiences apply. For example, if the phrase “key stakeholder” appears frequently, be ready with past examples of how you’ve successfully built relationships.
You’ll also want to be able to identify areas where you learned from past mistakes and how you would apply that knowledge to the role. By doing these exercises for each section of the job description, you'll feel prepared for any question that comes your way. “Over-preparation is better than under-preparation in this highly competitive environment,” McMahon says.
SET UP YOUR SPACE
One advantage of a virtual interview is that you can control the setting. After you’ve prepared your answers, do these three things:
Test your equipment. “Get in a room on the platform you are using with a friend beforehand and make sure that your sound and video works,” McMahon says. “I have seen multiple cases where the person has come into the room and doesn’t know how to turn the sound on or can’t get a visual, which can waste up to 10 minutes of precious interview time.”
Be conscious of lighting. “There are many videos on YouTube about how to look good on a video call,” McMahon says. “Take note of lighting and angles. It’s not great to interview someone when you are looking up their nose, or when they are sitting in front of a window and their head is a shadow. If possible, have a window behind your computer for the best light.”
Stay still. Before the interview begins, find a comfortable sitting position. If you're nervous, fidgeting and moving around can be distracting, and leaning forward to read a note you jotted down can leave the interviewer looking at the top of your head, McMahon says.
MAKE A PERSONAL CONNECTION
A successful interview often means connecting with the person on the other side of the table. While this can be difficult virtually when you can’t gauge the energy of the room, do your best to build rapport. Refer to each interviewer by name, make eye contact and ask relevant questions.
“You need to try and build relationships with the people that are interviewing you,” McMahon says. “The best way to do that is at the end of the interview when you have the opportunity to ask questions. Asking an insightful question to each interviewee will make you stand out.”