How to Succeed in a Virtual Interview

Updated March 9, 2023

Phone and video interviews became particularly prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic when governments around the world issued social distancing guidelines to limit the spread of the virus. As these guidelines ease, many companies will likely continue to rely on virtual interviewing to make hiring decisions. So, in this article, we review the best ways to be successful in your next virtual interview.

Related: How To Nail A Job Interview in 12 Clear Steps

What is a virtual interview?

A virtual interview is an interview that takes place remotely, sometimes over the phone, but often using technology like video conferencing and other online communication platforms. Virtual interviews are often conducted much the same way as face-to-face interviews. That said, virtual communication requires special considerations and adjustments due to the limited ability to read body language and facial expressions.

Related: Best Practices for a Successful Zoom Interview

Perfecting your virtual interview

Here are a few considerations to set yourself up for success in a virtual interview:

1. Test your technology beforehand

A virtual interview requires tools like a camera and microphone on your computer, a software program (such as Google Hangouts, or Zoom), and a reliable internet connection. At least a day before your virtual interview, check all of your technology to ensure it works effectively and can be used to communicate effectively. That means having a functional computer that meets technical specifications, downloading any necessary software, and ensuring the connection is strong enough to sustain streaming video.

In the 15 to 30 minutes before your interview, check your internet connection and sign in to the video or phone meeting provided by the HR representative or hiring manager. Turn on the sound and video to ensure everything is in working order in time for your conversation.

Related: Video Interview Guide: Tips for a Successful Interview

2. Wear professional attire

In a virtual interview, you should dress the same as you would in a face-to-face interview. Doing so not only makes you appear professional and excited about the opportunity but will also make you feel more prepared and confident. When an interview takes place from a remote location like your home, you should expect it to be just as formal as one that takes place in an office—if you’re unsure, business casual is a good standard to follow. A great outfit example for men and women is a button-down shirt and blazer with suit pants.

Related: What to Wear and Avoid Wearing to an Interview

3. Prepare in advance

As with any interview, you’ll get the best results if you take the time to prepare in advance. Just because you're in front of your computer doesn’t mean you should rely on the ability to quickly look up answers or rely on pre-written answers you can refer to. You should prepare so you're able to have a natural conversation without clicking around or reading directly from a script, which can seem rehearsed and unnatural.

Employers may give you a list of questions in advance that they want you to answer, which can help you navigate your research. More often, you'll be asked to give answers without prior knowledge of the questions. If this is the case, prepare the same way you would for an in-person interview:

  • Plan your answers for commonly-asked interview questions

  • Research the company

  • Carefully review the job description noting your relevant qualifications

  • Prepare relevant examples of your achievements and experiences

Related: How to Prepare For an Interview

4. Limit distractions

The best place to have an interview in your home is in a quiet location with few distractions. Choose a room that is clean and professional-looking so the interviewer can focus their attention on you and not what's around you. If you don’t have a dedicated office space, you can also use a bedroom or guest bedroom, your kitchen table, or even cleared-out closet space. Try to place your computer on a table or desk instead of your lap or a couch.

Tell people who you're sharing space with about the area you’ll be using for your interview, the time of your interview, and that you and your quiet space will be off-limits during that time. Respectfully explain that during this time, the house should stay quiet with limited distractions. If possible, you might also place pets in a designated room during critical working hours.

Related: A Parent's Guide to Working From Home With Kids

5. Use professional body language

Because interviewing via video or phone limits the ability to communicate with body language, it's important to use body language in a clear, professional way. For example, if you get asked an unexpected question, make sure to remain poised and take a moment to collect your thoughts.

Sit up straight and ensure your camera is placed so your face is in the middle of your screen (not too much blank space above or below your head). In most interviews, you shake hands with your potential employer at the beginning and the end of the discussion. It's an important body language cue that helps you establish the relationship. Instead, find other ways to greet them and exude enthusiasm, like smiling and giving a confident wave with eye contact.

6. Build rapport

Establishing rapport is important in any business relationship because it allows you to separate yourself from other candidates by building a personal connection with the interviewer. When you interview in person, your enthusiasm, body language, handshake, and early small talk all help you build that connection with your potential employer.

When communicating virtually, it's still necessary to find ways to establish rapport. You can do this by being prepared to talk about a common interest, asking how your interviewer’s experience has been with virtual interviews, or by finding some other neutral topic with which to learn more about your interviewer.

Related: Mastering the Virtual Interview

7. Be authentic

When interviewing virtually, you have the rare opportunity to speak in a relaxing, familiar environment and show the interviewer who you are and why you’re the best person for the job. Recruiters will look for how you express yourself to understand whether you're a good fit for the company. Use tools like your body language, facial expressions, and interview preparations to convey your confidence and personality as it relates to the position.

8. Follow up

After your interview, plan to send a well-timed follow-up. It's good practice to send a follow-up email within 24 hours of an interview, thanking the interviewer for their time and letting them know you're available if they have any additional questions. Reach out to the HR representative or hiring manager you’ve been speaking with to get a list of your interviewers’ emails.

Related: How to Write a Thank-You Email After a Zoom Interview

Now that you have a step-by-step plan to follow when preparing for a virtual interview, you can feel confident that you will succeed the next time an employer reaches out for an online interview.

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