How to ace virtual interviews – top tips for interviewees and interviewers

From both an interviewee and interviewer’s perspective, virtual interviews are increasingly the norm. However, this can be anxiety inducing especially if you have not previously had to interview in this way. Based on our extensive experience of working with clients – individuals and organisations – we have highlighted below our top tips for preparing, executing and following up on virtual interviews from both the interviewee and interviewer perspective. (We appreciate that there are some recommendations duplicated that are vital to both.)

Interviewee

  1. Pre-Work – this is even more critical than when you prepare for in person interviews as you have to ensure you come across effectively through a screen. A key step in ensuring this is to prepare effectively.
    • Much the same as for in person interviews – find out how many interviewers there will be, what are their backgrounds, what is the key focus of the role and any recent developments within the organisation (check press releases and press coverage). To help with this process, check LinkedIn to see if there any connections who can help with your research? Don’t be thrown if it is a panel interview with individuals dialling in from multiple locations.
    • Check the invitation carefully – this should be clear on preferred technology (eg Zoom or Microsoft Teams), length and preferred format of the interview. Make sure you are comfortable with the technology. You may want to confirm if they are recording the interview.
    • Check your set up and connection before the interview date to avoid unnecessary stress on the day. This includes checking your WIFI connection and if necessary invest in a LAN cable to be absolutely sure.
    • If possible use a room with carpet to ease echoing, chairs moving, and is somewhere you are unlikely to be interrupted.
    • Think about the (natural!) background – preferably uncluttered and with not too much light behind you. Consider using an appropriate green screen background. Add extra light in front of you to illuminate your face clearly.
    • Place yourself at sufficient distance straight in front of the screen – there should be a little headspace, but not too much, and at the bottom there should be enough space for subtitles to run without covering your face if applicable. Ideally set the camera up at eye level or just above, so it appears you are on a level or slightly looking upwards.
    • In particular, check if you have to give a presentation. Prepare and practice your pitch and personal intro and research how your skills and experience match their requirements. If possible, practice the presentation with an audience using the technology (eg with friend or family member) to get feedback on your style and how you are coming across through the screen. You may even want to record yourself and watch the recording to work on your style and content. Check if they want the slides in advance so that they can “manage” or if they are happy for you to do so on the day.
    • Finally, prepare a list of questions you wish to ask the interviewer/panel.

 

  1. On the day
    • Allow sufficient time to set yourself up on the day. Login early – as you would do for an interview be 5 minutes early (this also buys time if you do have issues with technology, slides if you are using them, check they are working properly etc).
    • We would not advocate the use of notes on the day as tempting as it may be (even if you have to give a presentation), as this may trip you up and detract from the natural flow of the interview. If you are giving a presentation using powerpoint, make sure it is as visual as possible keeping words and slides to a minimum.
    • Remember to dress appropriately – personal grooming is important.
    • Put your mobile phone on silent or turn it off.
    • Turn off all unnecessary apps on your device to ensure it is able to give its best performance.
    • Make sure you speak to your camera and not to the person/people on the screen.
    • Try to pace the speed at which you speak and wherever possible and appropriate vary the tone of your delivery to avoid sounding monotone. Do not rush – embrace pauses as this helps with any recording. If there is more than one interviewer, make sure you are in gallery view so you can closely observe any or their reactions.
    • Ensure you have practiced your elevator introduction to ensure you come across effectively on the day as the best candidate (often the best place to use this is at the end to highlight your enthusiasm and experience for the role). And don’t rush straight into proceedings let the lead interviewer manage proceedings (incl introductions) but be ready to step up when needed.
    • If you are asked a question that you are unsure about, repeat it back to the interviewer/panel to clarify you have heard it correctly – it can give you a little more time to formulate your response. Do not be thrown if you are asked to repeat the odd question or point for clarity purposes. It can be difficult sometimes through the screen to get clarity (due to the lack of immediate access to body language and other such signals).
    • Remember to ask the questions you prepared when the time comes. Remember to thank them for taking the time to speak with you and reconfirm next steps verbally.

 

  1. Follow up – as in person, send a note or make call to thank the interviewer(s) for their time and reconfirm your interest in the role.

 

Interviewer

  1. Pre-Work – this is even more critical than when you prepare for in person interviews as you have to ensure you come across effectively as an interviewer or a group of interviewers through a screen. A key step in ensuring this is to prepare effectively.
    • Much the same as for in person interviews – clarify in writing with the interviewee the format of the interview including the interview duration, technology (eg Zoom or Microsoft Teams) and if a presentation is required (be clear on whether you require the submission of a powerpoint in advance). Also confirm who will be in attendance and leading the interview. And whether they will be dialling in from multiple locations or from one location. Finally, confirm if you are recording the interview.
    • In addition to the role description, it is helpful but not necessary to provide background information on interviewers, recent organisational developments (eg change in organisational strategy).
    • If working remotely, it maybe worth checking your set up and connection before the interview date to avoid unnecessary stress on the day. This includes checking your WIFI connection and if necessary invest in a LAN cable to be absolutely sure.
    • If possible use a room with carpet to ease echoing, chairs moving, and is somewhere you are unlikely to be interrupted.
    • Think about the (natural!) background – preferably uncluttered and with not too much light behind you. Consider using an appropriate green screen background. Add extra light in front of you to illuminate your face clearly.
    • Place yourself at sufficient distance straight in front of the screen – there should be a little headspace, but not too much, and at the bottom there should be enough space for subtitles to run without covering your face if applicable. Ideally set the camera up at eye level or just above, so it appears you are on a level or slightly looking upwards.
    • Finally, if you have co-interviewers check who will be leading on which questions and prepare a list of questions you wish to ask the interviewee and make sure you all have a copy of the candidates CV and/or application in front of you.

 

  1. On the day
    • Allow sufficient time to set yourself up on the day. Login early – as you would do for an in person interview be 10 to 15 minutes early especially if you have co-interviewers (this also buys time if you have issues with technology or any final pre-interview points you want to clarify).
    • Make sure you have any relevant notes to hand and if candidate is giving a presentation using powerpoint make sure you are clear on who will be “managing” it.
    • Remember to dress so that you represent you organisation in an appropriate manner.
    • Put your mobile phone on silent or turn it off.
    • Turn off all unnecessary apps on your device to ensure it is able to give its best performance.
    • Make sure you speak to your camera and not to the person/people on the screen.
    • Welcome the candidate – put them at their ease by clearly walking through how the interview will be structured (eg how best to ask questions, run the presentation if there is one, whether it will be recorded etc.) and ask any co-interviewers to introduce themselves as well as introducing yourself. Allow for those first few minutes of more informal contact as you would in person.
    • Try to pace the speed at which you speak and wherever possible and appropriate vary the tone of your delivery. Do not rush – embrace pauses as this helps. If you have co-interviewers, make sure you are in gallery view so you can closely observe any reactions of them as well as the candidate.
    • If you are unclear of a candidates’ answer, ask them to repeat it back to the interviewer(s) to clarify further. It can be difficult sometimes through the screen to get clarity sometimes (due to the lack of immediate access to body language and other such signals). Use this sparingly though in order not to throw the candidate too much.
    • Remember to ask the candidate if they have questions when the time comes and also to thank them for taking part and reconfirm next steps verbally.
    • Once the candidate has left the call, you may choose to stay on the call if you have co-interviewers to discuss the candidate and any follow up.

 

  1. Follow up – as in person, send a note or make call to thank the candidate for their time and if there are next steps outline these.

James Hasler and Rebecca Hill are both principal consultants at HaslerHill Consulting, an organisation specialising in moderationfacilitation and curation of events, as well as presentation skills and public speaking skills training. If you would like to learn more about the services they offer and how they can be of benefit to your business, please get in touch via the HaslerHill Consulting contact page or call +44(0) 7773 229909 jameshaslervoice TMITRC and Wise Sherpa



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