Apr 09, 2020

How to Ace Your Virtual Interview

By Tuck Career Services

As many companies move to a remote operation in the wake of COVID-19, it’s no surprise that job interviews are also now being conducted virtually.

But virtual interviews are nothing new! Hosting interviews using phone or video platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook BlueJeans, or a proprietary platform has become commonplace—especially as companies seek to save money on travel costs.

Now is a great a time as any to open up your laptop and practice your interview skills on camera. Most of the preparation should be similar to an in-person interview, however, there are some key things to keep in mind as you prepare for this style of interview. Here are some tips from our Career Services team.

Dress the part

Dress the same way you would for an in-person interview. It may be tempting to wear pajama pants with a dress shirt—avoid the temptation! Dressing casually can result in a person’s voice and demeanor to also sound casual, and your interview performance will suffer. By wearing professional attire, your brain goes into interview mode. Besides, you may have to stand up to get something or use the whiteboard, or the camera might move. No matter how fancy your pajama pants look, nobody needs to see them during an interview. As for clothing, avoid striped patterns since those can flicker on the receiving end. (It’s called the Moiré Effect if you were wondering.)

Body language

During video calls, look at your video camera instead of at the computer screen. This way, interviewers will feel like they are making eye contact with you, rather than seeing you looking up or down. This may feel strange at first so practice in advance of your interview. (If the app allows you to move a small preview video of your interviewer around your screen, put it right next to your camera. This way, even if you look at the interviewer on your screen, it may look like you are looking right into the camera.) Maintain good posture and smile through your interview (yes, even phone interviews; this makes you sound more enthusiastic). Avoid fast movements and hand gestures.

Setting the stage

It is important to set up the room in a professional manner prior to the interview.

Background: Keep a clean background so that the interviewer’s focus is on you and they are not distracted by what’s behind you. Check the frame before logging in to make sure there’s nothing odd showing in the background.

Lighting: Have enough light in the room so the video is clear. You could open window blinds and turn on the lights. Ideally do not have light right behind you, and lights from above should be off-set with a light right into your face (like a spotlight you see in movies). Otherwise shadows might show.

Internet connection and cell reception: When possible, connect to the internet with an Ethernet Cable; don’t rely on Wi-Fi or cell data.  Before a phone call, check your cell reception and use a landline if necessary.

Camera: Place the camera at eye level and a few feet away from you, so that your face doesn't take up the whole frame—think of news anchor framing. You may need to pile your laptop on top of books or use an external camera to accomplish this.

Minimize distractions

Close out of all internet browsers. Turn off Outlook alerts, Facebook alerts, etc. that pop up on your screen even when the apps are closed. You want to just focus on the conversation and who you are speaking with. Turn off all electronics. Put your phone on ‘do not disturb.’

Virtual advantage

Use your virtual or phone interview to your advantage. You can write notes and tape them on the wall in front you, or place Post-it notes along the side of your computer screen. Avoid rustling through papers on your desk—the microphone will pick that sound up.

Case interviews

If you have to answer case questions during your virtual interview, it is ok to use a piece of paper and write your thoughts and structure on it. Keep in mind that the interviewer will probably not be able to follow what you are writing down on the paper, though. And the video quality might not be good enough to follow your work on a whiteboard or if you hold your piece of paper up.

Be aware of this fact and walk your interviewer slowly through your thought process and what is written on the piece of paper. 

Do a trial run

Before a video call, test it out ahead of time. The last thing you want the day of your interview is to realize your webcam is not working or you forgot your login details.

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for your virtual interview, the rest of the interview prep process will be the same as for in person interviews.

Tuck Career Services is committed to providing a personal, connected, and transformative experience for students as they take the next step in their career. Our career advisers are industry experts—many of whom have worked at the same leading organizations our students seek to join. The generous size of our advising team ensures we have the time and ability to get to know each student individually and to work with them side by side. Get to know our team.