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Virtual interviewing doesn’t have to stop you from finding your dream role

March 31, 2020

Virtual interviews are quickly becoming the norm and candidates need to be prepared for it

Virtual interviews are becoming increasingly common as executives see the benefits of offering flexible options to connect with candidates during the talent recruitment process. As the COVID-19 situation grows around the world, in-person meetings have become impossible, but many companies need to continue hiring and have had to rapidly transition to 100% digital interviewing. This also means candidates need to adjust to a new way of interviewing as they seek a new role.

Amid the disruption to personal and professional lives here in Singapore, I was really honored when B Capital Group reached out to me earlier this year to schedule interviews for an open role on the Marketing team. There was just one unsurprising catch: The entire process was virtual. Fast forward to today, I have since joined B Capital Group as their Marketing Manager, via a completely virtual interview experience. Knowing others are, or will soon be, in the same seat I recently occupied, I wanted to share 5 nuggets of advice to prepare for a virtual interview.

Be punctual, period

Punctuality indicates your interest and commitment to the job offer and the company. Being late indicates that you do not pay attention to important details and do not value others’ time, especially that a virtual interview is being conducted at a location of your convenience. If there is any urgent matter which cropped up, you should reschedule the virtual interview in advance as a form of respect to your interviewer. I recommend blocking a 15-minute window before the call to prepare (such as set up and test all required equipment, silencing your phone, have your notes on hand) and get seated five minutes in advance. This will give you extra time to calm your nerves to start on time and avoid any delays.

Murphy’s Law could happen so be mentally prepared

Participating in a virtual interview requires using different virtual tools or platforms you might not be familiar with, which also opens the door for unintentional errors or connectivity challenges. Once a virtual interview is scheduled, test your internet connectivity, hardware and software as well as the microphone and camera to ensure that you will be able to proceed the interview smoothly. It will be difficult to rectify any issues just before or during the interview. On the day of the interview, test your equipment and internet connection again.

Is this plain bad luck or is it Murphy’s Law at work? Despite conducting all the technical checks prior to my virtual interview session, a technical glitch occurred and I could not speak with my interviewer via Zoom. Being mentally prepared for such a scenario, I immediately offered an alternative solution which was to call in via a different software.

Be strategic about where you have your interview and eliminate distractions

Unlike an in-person interview where you are usually ushered to an allocated room or at a public place like a cafe, determining where to take your virtual interview is of utmost importance. Find a room with optimal lighting and a blank wall so that you will be the focal point of the interview. Minimally, you should ensure that your surroundings that is captured within the video frame is tidied up. Eliminate all distractions such as silencing your mobile phone and closing your room door and nearby windows to minimize noises from your surroundings.

Be authentic and don’t expect to “google” answers on the spot

Similar to any in-person interview, you should not be “googling” for answers mid-interview, just because the computer is at your fingertips. It is disrespectful if you are observed to be typing and clicking away. You need to remain attentive and be prepared to answer any questions thrown your way. The key is to do your homework by researching the company in detail and taking down notes for references. It is also useful to having a copy of your resume and key talking points on your computer screen (or Post-It notes on/near your screen) for keeping thoughts organised without the need of shuffling through papers.

As it is harder to connect with energies over the phone, hiring managers will want to hear you speak authentically and from the heart. Instead of providing cliche model answers, highlight aspects of the job that excite you and provide examples / elaborations regarding your skills and characteristics. Such conversations will naturally bring out your enthusiasm and humanize the conversation.

Be conscious of your body language and dress your best

Dress professionally as you would for an in-person interview. Do not ever assume that your interviewer will not ask for you to go on video even if it is arranged as a call. In fact, for a more holistic experience, interviewers are increasingly requesting candidates to go on live video to simulate in-person interviews. While it is impossible to shake the interviewer’s hand or to express enthusiasm as easily via video, you can be mindful of your body language and communicate confidently by sitting upright and maintain the illusion of eye contact by looking at the camera — not on the image of the interviewer.

Ultimately, the key to acing virtual interviews (or any forms of interviews) boils down to having ample preparation and translating that to confidence. Although many of us are working (and interviewing) from home, there’s lots of opportunity to ace your interviews. I hope my pointers above will be useful for your own career journey to land in your dream job, just like I did.

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