This year has seen a significant increase in interviews being conducted virtually due to the contact restrictions necessary because of COVID-19. It is predicted that this form of interviewing will continue to be favoured even after we can resume traditional face-to-face meetings. We’ve discussed how to prepare for a virtual interview in another post, now we will focus on some of the unique opportunities this type of interviewing offers candidate.
Control over your environment
One of the simplest advantages of the virtual interview is that you have control over the environment that you occupy for the duration of your interview. You can prepare it in a way that is comfortable for you, get the lighting just right and have resources around you that are out of the line of site of the interviewer.
Take advantage of the autonomy you have, by not being in the actual room with your interviewers, by having detailed notes on all your skills and previous experience that correlate with the requirements in the job specification you are interviewing for. You can prepare notes of real-life scenarios from your current and past roles (professional or extra-curricular) typed in detail with keywords highlighted so that you can easily refer to them during the interview as necessary. Be careful not to read back rehearsed answers to interview questions though, as this will appear very unprofessional. Your notes are there as a tool to trigger your memory and order your thoughts as you respond to questions. If you can, have them visible on a different device to the one you are doing the meeting on, or print your notes.
You can have someone whom you trust to sit in on the interview but off-camera. They can assist you with holding up or opening the documents you need to refer to, signal to you whether you need to add more details to your responses or when you are wandering off the point. Think of this person as a director (as in TV or film), who is helping you put your best presentation forward and keep you grounded in the flow of the interview. This approach may be useful to someone who is new to the job market and needs some coaching and guidance to get through the interview in a professional and confident manner. Often when candidates don’t have much experience, they tend to be extremely nervous during interviews and don’t provide sufficient or the most significant responses to questions.
Take advantage of the digital tools available
With a virtual interview, you have the benefit of having a number of tools at your disposal that you otherwise would not. You can share presentations, graphs, reports, videos, and images to illustrate or accentuate your skills and experience. This may not be practical or applicable to all careers, but some examples of how it may be useful include:
You are applying for funding to do post-graduate studies in Film and Media and you are meeting with different bursars to show why you are an excellent candidate. Having a 3 short sound and video clips of topical discussions you hosted as a campus DJ, conference facilitator, and event MC to share during your interview would be very useful. You would of course have evidence of your experience in your portfolio of work that the bursars review outside of the interview, but having a few small samples during the interviews is also useful. While one can share these in a face-to-face interview setting, the seamlessness of already being on a digital platform and sharing digital files has better execution in a virtual interview.
You are applying for a mid-weight Project Manager role at a company and currently you are working as a Project Coordinator. You can prepare graphs to show how the work you do, or innovations you have introduced have improved the efficiency, deadlines and economy on projects. If you are working in a product-based environment, you can show images of the end results of your projects for example new construction developments, FMCG products developed by your team, retail interior, books, etc. Putting all this information into a well designed presentation will show your capabilities as a project manager and your technological proficiencies.
Ask if the interview can be recorded and shared with you, so that you can review how you performed and make improvements where you pick up that you didn’t respond to the best of your ability. When we see ourselves on video (or hear ourselves in an audio recording), it is quite different to what we imagine we look and sound like. Seeing a playback of yourself in an interview will give you an objective view of how you look and sound to others. Based on that you can work on areas of improvement. For example using speech fillers too often (uhm, like, er) can be very distracting in a formal setting such as an interview. If you find that you were doing this frequently during your interview, but had not noticed it while you were talking, you can be mindful of that going forward so that you can stop yourself while your doing it. Reviewing yourself in this way will help for your future interviews, virtual or in person. Another benefit of having a recording of your interview is that you can examine how employers ask questions, what information they prioritise and whether there were questions they had to ask you in multiple ways to get the desired response. Note that not all companies will agree to this as they may discuss sensitive or confidential information during the interview.
Less stress in getting to and being at the interview
Getting to an interview generates a lot of stress, as does actually being in the room with a number of strangers asking you questions. All the tension of finding the interview location, carrying in files or documents, meeting a host of people before you actually get into the interview room, walking into an unfamiliar space to meet people who are there to judge your skills and competencies – all these non-core stresses are eliminated. In fact, you now have the benefit of being very familiar with the physical environment where you will be conducting your meeting. You will have the chance to set it up to your preferences so that you can be viewed in the best way. Additionally, you will not forget the names of your interviewers (due to nerves) because they will be identified on the screen.
Having access to your digital assets such as files, documents, reports, and presentations during your interview can help you come across as well prepared without your interviewers having to see all the resources you are referring to. You have the opportunity to customize mini-presentations for your interview, that are focused on how your skills and experience align to the requirements of the new role and presenting them in a more continuous way than would be possible in a face-to-face meeting at the company’s office. With a virtual interview, your role is closer to a co-creator rather than a guest.