How to Ace Your Virtual Interview

Expert tips to land your dream post-lockdown job

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The last few months have seen the world of work change tenfold. Not only have employees and employers had to ride the wave of a huge shift towards remote working, but those hoping for a new job have been thrust into the unknown when it comes to video interviewing. Now that we’ve gotten the first few months out of the way, we’re able to gather some of the best, expert tips to ace your virtual interview.

Look the Part

The first thing that crosses anyone’s mind when they’ve managed to score an interview is “what’s the dress code?” And rightly so! I’ve been to many job interviews in trainers and jeans… but I also got turned away from a trial shift for not preemptively buying a pair of smart shoes (for a breakfast waitressing role). 

When it comes to at-home interviews, the waters are even murkier than usual. Chances are, you abandoned your everyday work attire for pyjamas as soon as you got the memo you’d be working from home for the foreseeable future.

Tech CTO Jon Holloway has conducted hundreds of interviews since March and noted that most people went for the ever-reliable smart casual look. Jack Walford, who interviewed for a sales job at the start of Summer, went for a smart jacket, shirt, and tie – just to be safe. 

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen though? Wear pants. Look, I know it’s tempting to dress up the top half of your body and go casual Friday on the bottom, but what if your camera is just ever-so-slightly tilted down? Or what if there’s a serious commotion in the background that desperately requires you to stand up? Better safe than sorry: don’t risk it.

Generally, there’s no need to think too deeply about your interview attire. Just wear what you always do to interviews, and you’ll be on the money. 

Speaking of dressing up your top half, if you’re a fan of wearing makeup for interviews (or generally), it’s easy to fall into the trap of going full glam – especially if you’ve not painted your face for a while. On top of wearing the makeup that makes you feel the most confident – which should be a given – makeup artist Penny Williams suggests toning your eyeshadow and contour down (unless you’re going for a creative role, in that case, go all out!).

She also notes the importance of getting your base right. “Super glowy looks don’t translate too well on camera and can be distracting, so make sure you use either a matte foundation or powder to eliminate shine on your T-zone,” she advises. 

Finally, Penny says a bright lipstick works wonders for an interview. “This draws attention to your mouth and what is coming out of it,” she says. “It is also a memory jogger. [The interviewer will remember you as the candidate with the bright pink lipstick.” If a bright lip color isn’t for you, Penny vouches for a bold top, scarf, pair of earrings, or even a funky tie.

Set Yourself Up for Success

A more niche problem that has been posed only in recent months is making sure your set-up is perfect for your remote interview. Important things to consider are lighting, angles, connection, visuals, and audio. Making sure all of these elements are working together in perfect harmony should prevent any fatal technical difficulties. 

Your first port of call is to make sure you’re in a private setting (or as private as possible, given the circumstances) to ensure that there will be no distractions throughout the interview. Next, check your internet connection is stable and working in the room you plan to take the interview so that there are no connection failures; choppy sentences are a recipe for disaster.

In terms of lighting, Penny suggests flooding the interview room with natural light (which is the best light). If that’s not possible, Penny says, “make sure you are lit from the front rather than overhead, which can cause shadows under your eyes making you look tired”. It’s also essential to get the camera angle right. Keep yourself head-on, in the middle of the screen to avoid looking awkward or showing anything you don’t want to (this is why you need to wear pants, btw). 

Having great audio is especially important in remote interviews since it’s pretty hard to carry charisma through a screen, meaning that your job is riding on what you say. This means your interviewer needs to be able to hear exactly that. It’s a good idea to get yourself a decent, external microphone (rather than your device’s built-in one) if you don’t have one already. A headset might also help with managing background noise. Similarly, if you’re not talking, it’s good practice to mute your microphone so as to avoid any unnecessary noise and distractions. 

Another cheeky tip for setting yourself up for success came courtesy of the author of the forthcoming Healthy Happy Homeworking book series and remote working advocate, Maya Middlemiss. “The online interview makes it easier for you to refer to notes discreetly, so that’s one advantage,” she tells PC Guide. “Having the questions that you want to ask them, or talking points you are determined to bring up, on a post-it note or iPad or something is a lot easier, than when you’re in the room! 

“[Make sure to] have that note as close to the camera as possible so you’re not looking away from it.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Speaking of setting yourself up for success, getting familiar with the technology you’ll be using to conduct your interview is a must. Whether you’re using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet or something else, it’s best to get acquainted with the software, so you don’t run into any issues five minutes before the interview. As Maya says, “you can’t blame the traffic if you’re late, so why make a bad impression”.

If video calls make you feel a little bit uncomfortable, Maya also suggests practising with a friend a few times to find your bearings and get used to seeing your flipped face on a little box in the corner of the screen.

It’s also great to “prepare your confident mindset,” as confidence coach Lucy Baker advises. “Ideally start this a few days before the planned interview to wipe out any negative self-talk you may have,” she says. “Start by writing down everything negative that you are telling yourself – ‘I feel nervous,’ ‘What if there are lots of people on Zoom?’ – and replace with positive opposite statements; I am calm and confident, I can pay attention and listen, I can cope confidently with more than one person on Zoom.

“Write your new positive statements on sticky notes and stick around the house and next to your laptop, and say them out loud as much as you can.

“Add in this one too; I am confident and I will enjoy the interview”.

Body Language Matters

Body language is a huge part of day to day communication. Most of the time, along with tone, it lets us know if someone really means what they’re saying. It has a huge effect on how we interpret what someone is saying and gives us some insight into their personalities. But being online, the rules for body language have to be a little different. 

Carole Railton, the number one Business Body Language Coach in the UK and author of The Future of Body Language, has been focusing on how we can adapt our body language to suit a digital world. Firstly, she says, you should make sure you remain “much stiller” on camera than you would in person. This is to help you to maintain eye contact, which is much more important when there’s no walls or trinkets on desks to distract you. 

According to Carole, if you’re an extrovert, you’ll be used to using your hands a lot while you talk. But, she warns, “your arms are three times the size of your head and should be kept away from the screen”. To combat hiding your face with gigantic looking hands, Carole suggests holding something in your hands underneath the table. Alternatively, you could always just sit on them.

If you’re worried about tackling a first-time remote interview head-on, don’t worry. Times are tough, and employers know that such a dramatic change in environment might impact the way you conduct yourself during a video interview. As the months go buy and remote working starts to look like something more permanent, it will soon feel natural enough. Besides, if our expert tips didn’t spark some confidence, we’re sure there’ll be much more to come in the future.