Don’t Let Tech Issues Hinder Your Virtual Interview

“I’m moving to a new state next month and have been applying for jobs there in advance. One place invited me to do a virtual interview using my computer and webcam—this is a first for me. Any tips on how to make sure it goes well?” Sarah from Providence, RI

Many companies are conducting virtual interviews to save on travel costs, reach a broader talent pool and even get a better feel for candidates than they would over the phone. In some ways, you should approach a virtual interview in the same way that you would approach an in-person interview—research the company and role, dress and conduct yourself professionally and be yourself so both you and the interviewer can determine whether or not you are a good fit for the job.

That said, virtual technology adds a new dimension, so there are additional preparations to take and techniques for during the interview to ensure that technology does not get in your way.

Get with the program: Give yourself plenty of time to install and test the software you will be using. Be sure your username and profile picture send the appropriate image, as you never know when the interviewer might come across these.

Set the scene: Place your webcam at the right height and distance to frame your head and shoulders. As for background, your best option is to have a blank wall behind you, but if that’s not possible, aim for a neutral, professional, clean environment—perhaps bookshelves or framed artwork. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t have it displayed in your office, it shouldn’t be visible during your interview.

Prepare for your close-up: Consider using a headset so the interviewer can focus on you and not background noise. Practice looking at the camera, not the screen to give the illusion of eye contact. Go the extra mile in expressing enthusiasm in your body language and voice to overcome the distance. Lastly, do not use the screen as a mirror. If you need to, place a sticky note over your image before the call starts so you won’t check yourself out during the interview. Keep in mind that the interviewer may record the session to refer to later.

Dress the part: Stay away from patterns or accessories that may be distracting on camera or any colors that wash you out. Women may wish to wear a little extra makeup—but don’t go overboard. Lastly, dress professionally from head to toe. You never know when you may need to stand up, and you would hate for your interviewer to see yoga pants, running shorts or worse!

Take a test drive: Enlist an honest friend or family member to do a virtual dry run with you. Prepare everything, including your outfit, as if you were doing the actual interview. During this dress rehearsal, your “interviewer” should rate your appearance, lighting and background, audio quality, speed of connectivity and your interaction via webcam. Do this early enough so you can make changes if need be.

Set the mood: On the day of the interview, make sure you will not be interrupted by pets, children or other people who live with you. Your best option is to conduct the interview in a quiet room with a closed door. Arrange for child care so that your children do not come to find you, and consider asking everyone to go out during your call or stay in another part of the home.

Support your case: Print out your résumé, cover letter and any other documents that you may wish to reference during the interview. Having these open in other windows and easily accessible via your chat program will enable you to quickly share them with your interviewer as well.

Present your best self: Be extra engaging since your interviewer can be easily distracted when you aren’t in the same room. Speak clearly and at a good tempo. Do your best to eliminate “ums” from your responses. Explain succinctly, but with enough detail, why your qualifications, experience and skills make you deserving of a second interview. If the interviewer asks you to type something, re-read it before hitting “send” to avoid typos or mistakes.

Just roll with it: If you encounter glitches, just keep moving along. Don’t spend too much time troubleshooting, but prove to the interviewer that you are adaptable and can handle any challenges that come your way.