How to get the most out of your next virtual interview: a guide for candidates and employers

Whether you are hosting or participating in a virtual interview, a little planning and etiquette can go a long way. Here Chris shares some top tips for getting the most out of your next virtual interview.

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At a glance:

  • The use of virtual interviews has grown alongside acceptance for virtual and remote working.
  • Familiarity with online meetings has created some complacency around the etiquette for virtual interviews.
  • To get the most out of any interview, Chris recommends adequately planning and preparing; consciously framing your interview; and following interview best practice.

Virtual interviews have long supported the recruitment process, and as the popularity of remote and virtual working has grown, the reliance on virtual interviews has grown alongside it.

“Even prior to COVID virtual interviews were considered a useful tool for candidate screening, and this practice is now embedded as an industry norm,” explains Chris Tan, a Principal for Gerard Daniels. “But to ensure confidence in decision making, all parties must consider what it takes to deliver and perform effectively in this style of interview. Doing so increases the likelihood of a successful appointment. It also reflects well on the hiring organisation, enhancing the ability to attract and secure top talent.”

Chris shares these top tips to help you get the most out of your next virtual interview.

Planning and preparation

Who, what, when and how

Knowing what to expect from any interview is key to success. Interview hosts should clearly communicate:

  • When and how to connect, with instructions on any hardware or software required.
  • Who will participate in the interview.
  • The interview style – is it a panel interview or an informal chat?
  • What candidates need to prepare ahead of time or have access to during the interview.

Getting tech ready

While modern devices are equipped with most of the necessary technologies, checking and testing these technologies reduces the likelihood of technical issues on the day.

“A little planning goes a long way,” says Chris. “Think about whether you will have access to a reliable internet connection; if your microphone and speakers work or any settings need adjusting; if you need to download or test interview software or apps; and whether you have a reliable back-up if your primary device fails.”

“Logging in late is never a good look, so test out your interview link ahead of time and remember to log in early on the day,” Chris continues. “It’s also worthwhile keeping a phone number handy, because whilst a phone call may not be as effective as a video interaction, connecting by phone as a backup is still better than a missing the opportunity entirely.”

Framing your interview for success

Backgrounds

Background filters are common practice for virtual meetings, removing the need to perfect your backdrop and providing a convenient way to maintain privacy. Should someone mistakenly walk behind you during an interview, background filters have the added benefit of selectively detecting movement only right in front of the camera.

Your choice of background matters, too. “Natural backgrounds are always a good option, as they are unlikely to offend or distract other participants,” says Chris. “If you decide against using a background, pay close attention to what’s in the frame behind you, as it will soon be broadcast to everyone on your call.”

Lights, camera, angle…

Framing virtual interviews may seem obvious, but subtleties can easily be overlooked.

  • For the best visual effect, light from in front of you, not behind
  • Position the camera at eye level – too high and you will have a large forehead; too low and your nostrils will be on display
  • Avoid balancing your laptop on your lap, or moving the camera around
  • Despite the temptation to do so, refrain from turning your camera off.

Limiting distractions

Distractions can make you lose focus and appear disinterested. To limit your distractions:

  • Choose an interview location that is quiet and free from unnecessary distractions
  • Shut down any necessary apps and documents before you dial in
  • Silence your phone, or better still put it in another room
  • Turn off message notifications on all devices
  • Open or print out any pre-prepared notes or materials that you might need before dialling in.

Virtual interviews put endless information at our fingertips, which can be a great advantage for some people and a distraction for others. “While I don’t advocate surfing the web during interviews, it can be helpful to discretely check in on pre-prepared notes and interview prompts,” says Chris. “However, over-reliance on these resources gives the impression of being disengaged and can make you lose focus, so use them sparingly”

Best practice for successful interviews

Most people have experienced virtual meetings and know what to expect. But this familiarity can create a complacency that allows mistakes to be made and important considerations to be overlooked “I’ve experienced candidates scrolling through their phones, forgetting to brush their hair, and disregarding other basic etiquette during virtual interviews – behaviours that don’t bode well for candidates,” says Chris.

Whether you are interviewing online or in person, remember to: 

  • Watch closely what you say and do – your behaviour will shape the impression that you make
  • Think about your body language: much of our communication is non-verbal, so sit still; lean forward (rather than back); keep your arms and body language open; and remember to smile!
  • Slow it right down – speak slowly and clearly, and take pauses when you can
  • Video interviews may feel more casual, but don’t fall into the trap of behaving casually
  • Maintaining eye contact can be difficult, particularly with multiple interviewers. “Looking directly at the camera will make you appear more engaged and create the impression of maintaining eye contact with all participants,” says Chris.

Whether you host or participate in an interview of any kind, the same etiquette and principles should apply. “You must always be prepared; turn up on time; smile; be engaged; hold your posture; dress for success; ask good questions; and remember to thank people for their time,” says Chris. “The only real difference is the lack of handshake.”

For more interview top tips, connect with Chris or reach out to your local Gerard Daniels team.

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