You've found what could be your dream job, submitted a fine-tuned résumé, and have been invited to do a video interview—now what? There's no doubt that the rules and conventions that once governed a job interview have shifted. Firm handshakes have been replaced with rehearsed on-screen introductions, Wi-Fi issues are more pressing than interview attire, and you're suddenly tasked with the challenge of conveying your personality and competitive edge from the confines of a screen. Virtual interviews might be commonplace but few realize they require a unique set of skills, says Skype career expert Maxie McCoy. Case in point: One in four participants have done an interview from a restaurant or coffee shop, and not surprisingly, 22% admit to only dressing the part from the waist up. Are you guilty? We spoke to McCoy to find out the new rules to ace a virtual interview like a boss. Here's how it's done:
Yes, your potential employer can only see a limited part of your surroundings, but that doesn't mean you should choose an informal location, says McCoy. Her top tip? Pick a space you can control, such as a desk at home, rather than an unpredictable space like a restaurant or café with public access, varying background noise, or backdrops that draw attention away from you. "Best practices like great lighting, using headphones to cut out noise, and simple non-distracting backdrops [are vital]," she says. Surprisingly, when Skype surveyed 1000 users aged 18–25, they discovered over 30% had done an interview from the bathroom or conference room at their current job. Suffice to say that's a surefire way to lose your existing position and any chance of a job offer.
"One thing that I see people forgetting all the time is to think about their picture and profile," says McCoy. "You don't want [it] to say 'currently slaying in Miami' with you throwing up a peace sign, rosé in hand." She recommends checking this information well before you even hand over your username to arrange a call, as a quick scan of your account and other social media handles could undercut your chances before you've even before the interview has taken place.
While almost half of respondents said they'd prefer a face-to-face interview over a video call, there is one key advantage that's often overlooked: using notes. Bringing a notebook of talking points to a meeting seems stilted, so make the most of the virtual setting and strategically position Post-It notes out of sight, says McCoy. "I'm a big fan of using sticky notes on and around your workspace to remind you of the integral prep that you've done to get ready for the interview. Jot down notes or key words that you want to emphasize or notes on anecdotes to use when explaining yourself."
"Storytelling is your super power," McCoy emphasizes. "It allows you to make a meaningful connection that is often difficult over technology." If you're struggling to convey your personality to the interviewer, prompt yourself to answer questions with anecdotes. "Research shows that stories can be more powerful than data when trying to influence someone, so mine the experiences of your life to use anecdotes to show why you're a great fit for the job, rather than just telling them," she recommends.
Even if you're confident, she also says it's vital to practice speaking on camera before your one-on-one. "Not everyone is super comfortable staring into a small lens and feeling completely in their skin," she says. The only way to push past this discomfort is by filming yourself. "Try answering those infamous interview questions like, Tell me about yourself? and see how you're coming across when you watch it back," she says. "You'll not only get comfortable speaking to the camera, you'll notice where your words feel comfortable and how your expressions look."
We know to bring a few printed copies of our résumé and samples of work to a face-to-face interview, so don't come to a virtual meeting unprepared. "Being ready to shoot over a virtual copy of your résumé is important because it shows both thoughtfulness and preparation on your part," says McCoy. "Who knows where and when your résumé got sent to the person interviewing you? Like any email, it can get lost in the thousands of notes sitting in our inbox." Try to preempt work samples or references the interviewer might request, and have soft copies on hand to send as soon as the call ends.
Like encountering a subway delay en route to an interview, virtual meetings are fraught with their own technical issues. "What's really important is having that 'show must go on' mentality and being ready for the unexpected," says McCoy. Don't let background noise or distractions disrupt the flow of conversation, and if a technical issue presents, prepare a Plan B. "Make sure to get the phone number of the person interviewing you just in case of an internet outage or an ambulance parked right outside your window. The last thing you want is 20 minutes of a 30-minute interview wasted." While it's frustrating, being able to calmly move past an issue and continue the discussion shows you're prepared and comfortable under pressure. Course-correct, and move on.