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Five ways to succeed in a virtual interview

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15th Apr 2013
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Even though it's not taking place face to face, the virtual interview needs just as much care and attention, says Andrew Millard.

With many UK businesses actively looking for ways to cut the cost of their recruitment programmes, virtual interviews look set to become a business reality. In the US, as many as 63% of HR managers are already using virtual interview technology, research by OfficeTeam has showed. While the practice has yet to reach these high levels in the UK, cost-effective collaboration technologies are increasing in popularity, with video calls and virtual meetings fast becoming an everyday occurrence.

As well as the obvious time and cost savings, for the recruiter, the ability to record the meeting or interview and review it again later provides a substantial benefit. Similarly, the potential to save time and money as well as make the interview process more convenient undoubtedly presents important advantages for candidates.  

Yet, whether it’s someone interviewing for a university place, a graduate looking to get a foothold on the job ladder or even an experienced professional looking for their next big break, for first-timers, the unfamiliar format of the virtual interview may well seem a little daunting.

So what, if anything, should candidates do to prepare and increase their chances of a second-round interview – or a job offer?

Get set up

First tip for virtual interviews: Make sure the software is installed and working ahead of the meeting. You should also test your internet connectivity, microphone and camera. If possible, prepare your environment by positioning your computer and webcam so there’s either a blank wall behind you or some professional-looking shelves or files. If you’re at home, switch off your phone and the TV and let others in the house know you shouldn’t be disturbed.

Look the part

While it may feel strange to don your best suit or smart dress for a video call, do it anyway. If you don’t look the part, the interviewer will be unlikely to take you seriously. In a nutshell, the same rules on appearance apply as they would in any other professional face-to-face scenario.   

Do your homework

It’s just as important to prepare for a virtual interview as a physical one. As well as ‘selling’ your own strengths and experience to the interviewer, a good candidate will ask relevant questions and be clued-up about the prospective organisation. Work out how and why you would be a good fit for them and think about some industry-specific questions ahead of time.

Carry out a trial run

Asking a friend or family member to play the role of interviewer in a practice scenario can pay dividends, for several reasons. Firstly, it will serve to test out your internet connection and enable you to identify and rectify any technology issues ahead of time.

Secondly, as long as your ‘interviewer’ commits to being honest, you can find out what distracting verbal ‘ticks’ or unconscious body language you’re most guilty of, as well as working out how well you deal with ‘killer’ questions.

Afterwards, ask them to suggest the areas in which you could most benefit from improving (for e.g. maintaining eye contact, sitting-up straight, not rushing to provide an answer, etc.). Although it might feel a little odd, to try looking at the camera rather than the screen as this will help create the illusion of eye contact.

Depending on the software, it should also be possible to critique your own performance by reviewing the recording afterwards. Overall, as well as serving to identify areas for improvement, the experience should help to allay your nerves and make you more familiar with the virtual meeting format ahead of the interview.

Act professional 

Unlike most physical meetings, in virtual encounters, the interviewer is likely to want to get straight to business, so there’s even more reason to try and avoid nervous chatter.

Organisations that are currently rolling out the virtual interview process may well be doing so to help them narrow down a large pool of candidates. So while it might seem tempting to tell the interviewer this is your first virtual interview or talk about how strange you find the experience, this is unlikely to score you any points.

Similarly, you should also apply the same care and consideration to written answers: For example, if you’re asked to type in an answer during the session, quickly review it for typos, spelling and grammatical errors before hitting send.

As with any encounter, so long as you’re properly prepared and try your best, you shouldn’t have any cause for regret later – even if you don’t get the outcome you wanted.

Andrew Millard is senior director of marketing, EMEA, Online Services Division, Citrix

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