Acing a Virtual Interview

More and more companies today are employing virtual interviews as a means of first contact with candidates. Whether the interview is slated to take place via Skype, GoToMeeting, or even FaceTime, here are 9 expert tips on how to ace this type of interview.

1. Choose an Appropriate Virtual Name

According to Davina Douthard, CEO of career training firm Polishing the Professional, having an appropriate virtual name is one of the most important ways to communicate professionalism during a virtual interview. "A good choice most often is simply using your first and last name. This is also a very good branding technique to help the employer remember you," Douthard says. Douthard cautions job seekers to stay away from names that are in any way unprofessional, risque, or otherwise inappropriate in nature.

2. Test Your Connection BEFORE the Interview

Chris Dyer, founder and CEO of west coast human capital intelligence firm People G2, says testing platform connectivity is one of the most critical steps a job seeker must take in preparing for a virtual interview. "Test your connection ahead of time with a friend. Does it work properly? Can you be heard clearly, or do you need to speak louder? Dealing with adjustments during the interview can be annoying." Dyer warns. Lynde Gillis, senior recruiter at Orlando-based recruitment firm Interior Talent, Inc., says that testing any virtual platform at least a day in advance of an interview is essential not only to avoid breakdowns and interruptions, but it will also give candidates an opportunity to come up with alternate arrangements should something go awry. "If the platform is not working, you have time to come up with a Plan B," Gillis says.

3. Lighting Matters

According to Cheryl Palmer, owner of executive coaching firm Call to Career, the pre-interview technology check doesn't stop at just confirming connectivity. Palmer recommends paying very close attention to the lighting as well. "Since you are clearly trying to put your best foot forward, you don't want shadows over your face," Palmer says. "It is advisable to put a lamp behind the computer so that there is enough light to illuminate your face."

4. Shut Down Competing Programs

Dyer advises that whatever platform is being used should be the only program that is open during the duration of the interview. "Shut off any other applications or features on the computer that could interrupt the interview, this includes email, instant messaging or chat programs, and alerts," Dyer says.

5. Limit Background Noises

Ensuring that background noises are controlled is critical to a successful video interview, according Gillis. Gillis recommends securing a childcare arrangement in advance of the meeting, and making sure that any pets are in a different part of the house to limit disruptions from unexpected barking or the like.

6. Find a Professional Environment

Gillis says it is essential that job seekers find a professional, de-cluttered space to conduct their video interview, preferably in an office-like environment. "The video should show a professional background resembling an appointed office. Do not Skype in front of a bookshelf," Gillis warns. "Your interviewer will draft conclusions from your diet, self-help, and 'how do I handle a boss from hell' books." Palmer agrees. "You may think the interviewer can only see your face, but the reality is that they can also see whatever fits in the camera lens that surrounds you. The room that you are in should look neat and attractive, and not be visually distracting,” Palmer says.

7. Dress to Impress

Palmer says that even though you are taking the interview from the comfort of your home, job seekers still need to communicate a level of professionalism in their appearance. "Dress appropriately," Palmer warns. "Even if you are not interviewing for the position in person, appearance still matters." Palmer still recommends a suit, even though only the top half of the job seeker will be seen by the interviewer.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

Steve Langerud, principal at Iowa-based Steve Langerud & Associates, says it is critical for candidates to keep eye contact with their interviewer the same way they would if the conversation was taking place in person. â"Raise the camera and screen on your computer to just above eye level," Langerud says. "We all love to see ourselves on the screen, but looking down doesn't make eye contact with the interviewer. Raise the screen and look them in the eye."

9. Forget It's Virtual

Langerud says that one of the most important pieces to acing a virtual interview is behaving as if the meeting is taking place in person. "The goal of a virtual interview is to forget that it is virtual," Langerud explains. Langerud says that this step can make all the difference in presenting yourself well in a virtual interview.


Happy Hunting.


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