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Virtual Interviews

Virtual Reality? Navigating the Job Interview in a Brave New World

As I write this in the Autumn months of 2020, it’s fair to say that the world has changed, and continues to change significantly, with restrictions and new ways of working – some may call it “The New Normal” – hmm?

Over the last year many of us have participated in “Virtual Meetings and/or Events” held online utilising software such as MS Teams, GoTo Meeting, Zoom etc. and it’s probably fair to say we’ve probably all seen varying levels of success – also a fair few bloopers along the way.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a job interview, to be held online utilising one of the video portals.  It was quite surreal.  Lots of the things that you may have been taught or insights that you may have gained cannot be applied in a virtual world, also there are some things to be gained by using this environment.  Having been through this process I thought I’d share a few of the insights for you to consider before you enter into this world as either interviewer or interviewee.

Intel Preparation

Aside from the normal interview preparation that one would complete, such as researching the organisation etc.  the virtual world may give you some added insights, especially about who is interviewing you!  You’ll have to receive an invite for the meeting via email, chances are the whole panel are on that same invite!  Make time to look-up the names online – any intelligence gleaned on who is conducting the interview is useful.

Environment

The old expression of “You’ve only one chance to make a good first impression” applies to the virtual world.  Some top tips:

  • Prepare your environment (1) – consider sticking a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your front door – an Amazon Delivery and the dogs going nuts won’t help your cause!
  • Prepare your environment (2) – what’s in the video background?  Seems obvious but remember you are not walking into their office; they are interviewing you in your home (or wherever you may be!)  The pile of laundry may not make the best backdrop nor does a noisy cafe!  
  • Prepare your environment (3) – remove anything that has potential to make a noise – phones etc.  Close the windows if the neighbour has decided today is the day to mow the lawn!
  • Prepare your environment (4) – Lighting.  Make sure that you can be seen, consider if the sun shining through that window turns you into a silhouette.

Technology

  • Internet Stability – ask anyone who shares your WiFi to minimise use during the interview time – losing connection due to someone starting Netflix may mess up your chances – better still, hardwire to your router!
  • Test and Test – Test the link to the meeting works well ahead of the time.  Test your video and microphone. 
  • Contact Details – ensure you have the meeting organiser contact details and don’t rely on email.  Have a phone number to hand just in case of a last-minute internet outage!
  • How do I look and sound? – If able, try talking into camera and assess how you come across.  Remember, this is how the interviewer will see and hear you.  You can practise this with a smart phone.

Feeling The Part

  • Attire – wear something that is “interview appropriate”.  Even though you may be sitting in your kitchen and they may only see your top-half, if you look and feel “suited and booted” for an interview you will naturally come across as more professional.  However tempting, don’t go “Top-half only” – should you need to stand, a shirt and tie top-half complemented by Scooby-Doo PJ bottoms won’t give the right impression!
  • Glass of Water – ensure you have something to wet your whistle – croaking up halfway through isn’t helpful – it’s still a pressured environment

The Interview

  • Arrive on Time – Sounds obvious, but make sure you are connected and ready to go in plenty of time.  My advice is to connect and stay muted until such time that the interviewers invite you into the “Virtual Room” then unmute
  • Interview Protocols – there’s no handshake, there’s no invitation to sit-down.  Follow the interviewer’s lead on how the interview will be conducted.  Remember, he/she/they are viewing you and you are on display at all times whilst connected.
  • Notes – an advantage of online is that you can have copious number of notes surrounding you which will be unseen by a panel – consider placing them on a wall behind the screen and slightly above, visible to you, unseen by them.  Why behind and above the screen?  Well, the camera is normally located at the top of the device, therefore if looking at notes you will still be looking at camera rather than looking down on a desk, thus keeping eye contact.
  • Eye Contact and Body Language – This is a tricky one with online.  In a normal face-to-face situation, you can move your eye contact to address each person on a panel – in the virtual world much more difficult, so just talk to camera – remember they view you potentially on a big screen in a meeting room.  Remember much of your messaging is in how you say it not just what you say.  Practise expressing yourself on video but beware of hand gestures – a standard webcam will make your hands HUGE if moved towards a camera – try it!!

And Finally

The virtual environment is here to stay.  More and more work will be conducted online and so will meetings, interviews, workshops and assessments.  Nothing beats practise.  Most of all good luck and please feel free to add to this list.

Blog By Chris Hyde of Chameleogenics