Preparing for Your Next Virtual Interview

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Dec 29, 2016
This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.

Searching for the right candidate is easier than ever given the rise of the virtual interview. Virtual interviews offer recruiters the opportunity to quickly reach a diverse applicant pool without the cost of time and travel, and have the added benefit of speaking face to face, something that’s missing in phone interviews. While there’s a lot of advice available for interviewees, few people discuss how recruiters and interviewers should prepare on the back end to ensure they get the best impression of the candidate. Here are a few simple and actionable steps you can take to prepare for your next virtual interview.

Use the Right Technology

Nothing puts a damper on an interview quite like technical difficulties. Taking a few minutes to check your tech setup will prevent an unfortunate mishap. Create a simple pre-interview checklist and verify that your equipment is set up and working before you dial in, preventing wasted time troubleshooting a camera or microphone while the applicant nervously waits. Here are few things to add to the list:

  • Test your microphone and speakers to confirm they are working properly. Instead of using the ambient microphone from your computer, invest in an external microphone that does a better job of picking up sound. This will make a huge difference in communication between you and the interviewee.
  • Turn on Skype or your video platform and check that the picture is coming through clearly. Do a quick test run with a coworker and work through any problems before the interview starts.
  • Maximize your lighting. Ideally, you should be facing a large window, as bright and natural light is most flattering. If this isn’t an option, use some sort of additional lighting element, whether it’s a desk lamp, or an external light that attaches to your computer monitor. Consider the importance of looking a person in the eyes when you talk. Your eyes should be illuminated enough that the other person can see their color, allowing you to make a personal connection. On a more basic level, the better the lighting, the better you look.
  • Adjust the camera to eye level. Imagine being interviewed by someone who is looking down on you. It’s intimidating, and can make the applicant feel uncomfortable. If need be, use a few books to prop up your laptop or desktop so that you’re looking into the camera at eye level.

Set the Stage

Depending on the type of company you work for or are recruiting for, convey a sense of the work environment to the potential employee. Think about the background the person will see during your conversation; it projects an image of the overall company atmosphere. Is it sleek and white, conveying a sense of professionalism? Old fashioned and corporate? Fun and young with loads of books and fun gadgets?

Next, close the door to the room where you will be conducting the interview and turn off your phone. These may seem like obvious tips, but you don’t want people rushing in and out of the room, or the sound of your phone breaking your train of thought and interrupting the candidate. Extend the same courtesies you expect from them.

Just as you expect the interviewee to show up in professional attire, so should you. Be prepared with appropriate hair, makeup, and wardrobe. The interviewee will be paying attention to your appearance to get a sense of you as a person and the company overall. Even gentlemen could do with a little bit of makeup, though it might sound funny. The candidate won’t notice this level of detail, but it will make a big difference in your overall appearance.

Pay Attention to Non-verbal Cues and Body Language

Perhaps the biggest advantage of conducting a virtual interview over a phone interview is the ability to watch for non-verbal cues and body language. Employing a few body language tricks can go a long way on your end, and when you pay attention to your own body language, you’ll be more in tune with the candidates’ as well.

Portray a sense of professionalism by sitting up straight and close to the camera — a maximum of 18-20 inches away. Relax and don’t cross your arms, as it looks protective and authoritarian. When you ask questions, open your arms and show the inside of your palms. This is a similar gesture to that of a handshake, where you offer up your palms, showing an openness and a non-threatening invitation to connect. While you listen, nod, keep eye contact and don’t forget to smile. The more comfortable the candidate feels, the more open and honest your conversation will be.

Pre-select Your Candidates

Since you don’t have to fly all over the country to interview people, you’ll have time to interview more applicants. But that doesn’t mean you should interview indiscriminately. It’s wise to sort out as many people upfront using a pre-interview. There are many companies that offer platforms for pre-interviews, but you can also simply ask a candidate to answer a few questions on tape and email the footage to you. This allows the person looking for a job to prepare and make a good first impression so that the virtual interview isn’t the first time you are “meeting” him or her, and lets you weed out any people who are unfit for the position.

Now that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to put your and the company’s best foot forward, you can focus all your attention on the candidate.

This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.
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