Suzy Sallam career and leadership coaching

Preparing for a virtual interview

As the virtual world is becoming our new norm, and more of us are working from home using virtual channels for our meetings, I’m starting to see more and more companies conducting interviews virtually.

Making a good impression virtually can be a little difficult but it is not impossible. As I say to my clients, it takes time and effort to prepare before the virtual interview starts. You’ll also need to pay extra attention to some details during the virtual interview that you may not have thought about in face to face interviews.

Here are a few of my tips to help. I’ve broken this down to three stages – What to think of before the interview, during the interview and after the interview.

Before your interview

Before your interview:

  • Be strategic with your contact details. With more of us now working from home most of the time, let potential employers know the easiest way and best times to contact you on your CV. Suggest a video channel that you are comfortable using and provide your username.
  • Keep a contact log. I always remind my clients that if you’re sending out multiple applications, keep a contact log of the person you spoke to for every application. That way you’ll be better prepared for impromptu phone and video interviews or any return calls, and you will build instant rapport when you know which company and position they’re calling about.
  • Do your research properly. A phone or video interview requires just as much preparation as the face-to-face version. You’ll be able to have notes to hand, however it’s far more impactful if you can look at the camera while speaking with people rather than at your notes. Learn all you can about the company, position and people you’re going to interview with.
  • Prepare talking points and questions. Write down talking points and follow-up questions that you can refer to during the discussion. It will help you sound prepared and make it easier to remember everything you need to address.
  • Warm up your voice. Your voice matters when your body language and facial expressions aren’t visible. Hum or read to yourself for a few minutes to get it warmed up, and have a few practice runs with the video channel you’re using to make sure your microphone works well.
  • Think about your appearance and background. In the absence of body language and a handshake, the screen will now be the only window to learn about you as person. Make sure you and your background look professional and reflect a bit of your personality. Adjust the camera position so you are centre stage, and at all costs, avoid bleak grey backgrounds. Your background doesn’t need to be an instagram worthy shot, however, you will be a lot more memorable if something sparks an interesting conversation.
  • Clear away distractions. It goes without saying that you will need to give the interview your full attention. So let your partner, kids, or flat mates know about the interview in advance and ask them not interrupt you. Do what you can to shield yourself from external noise that will overpower your own voice and cause a distraction on the call.

During the virtual interview

During the virtual interview:

  • Be friendly and enthusiastic. Make a strong first impression. Smile and hold your head up. Focus on the positive aspects of the position so you’ll sound excited to discuss it.
  • Record everyone’s name. You need to do what you can to make the virtual discussion as personable as possible. If you’re interviewing with more than one person, write down everyone’s name from the get go and use their name often so everyone knows who you are talking to.
  • Adapt to the interviewer’s approach. Be yourself but be sensitive to the style of your interviewer. Adjust to their level of formality and the degree of detail they’re seeking. Some employers may just ask a few preliminary questions while others will go into great depth.
  • Deliver your summary statement. Have a brief summary statement prepared about why you think you’re the right candidate. It should be about 20-30 seconds long. Weave this into your discussion subtly at the start and the end of the call.
  • Avoid interrupting. It can be difficult to judge when someone is done speaking when you can’t see them properly. Pause for a second before replying to avoid any awkward interruptions.
  • Request feedback. If you sense any weak areas during the interview, try to revisit them. Ask the interviewer to clarify their needs so you can offer more information to strengthen your case.
  • Ask questions that show you’re a good fit for the position. An interview is an opportunity for you to find out if you will like the role and the company. Ask questions that demonstrate that you’ve done your research. It will show that you’re really interested in the job and give you another chance to talk about why you’d be an asset.
  • Clarify the next steps. I always like to end my calls by summarising the next steps to make sure everyone knows what to expect. Ask about their hiring process and what you can expect next. They may want to schedule another interview immediately or let you know when they’ll decide on the remaining finalists.

After the virtual interview

After the virtual interview:

  • Send a thank you email. Send a brief note of thanks by email to all those that were on the interview panel. It’s good etiquette and yet another chance to show you’d make a good employee.
  • Make follow up plans. Hiring decisions often take longer than expected. Follow up as needed with tactful persistence.

As we all get more comfortable using virtual channels for negotiations and meetings, the skill of being able to ace a virtual interview and projecting your personal brand on screen is critical. Spend time practising and get feedback from your friends and family.

Of course I’m here for you if you have any questions or would like help you on your journey. Drop me an email today and we can chat about your current circumstances and what you want to achieve.

Suzy Sallam

I am a Career and Leadership Coach on a mission to help professionals just like you, experience the confidence and satisfaction that comes from being authentic to yourself and living in a fulfilling career.

1 Comment

  1. […] Finally, once you’re clear about what you want, your career coach will help you structure your job search, put together job applications and coach you through the interview process. […]

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