Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to prepare for a virtual job interview

It's been my observation that there is an increase in virtual job interviews, and by that, I mean interviews using web conference technologies such as Skype. Companies cannot afford to fly candidates to a face-to-face interview. Yet, phone interviews lack the ability to see the candidate, and note the subliminal messages that body language give off. A number of people I've spoken to lately have been interviewed with Skype and webcam. The beauty of using these techniques is that it saves money, but also allows the interviewers to see candidates.

For candidates, virtual interviews bring their own challenges. Here are a few tips from my own experience to help you prepare for a virtual job interview.

1. Check that the technology works
  • Ask to have a quick run through with the technology before the interview, to make sure everything works both at your end, and at the interviewer's end.
  • If you have to give a presentation, make sure the interviewer has any resources that go with it in plenty of time, so that he can check that everything works, such as a PowerPoint presentation.
  • If you are using resources such as a PowerPoint presentation, use several means of getting the file to the interviewer eg via email and a web site such as SlideShare, so that you're doubly sure the interviewer has what he needs. 
  • Wear a headset because this improves the quality of the audio.
  • Be aware that sometimes web cam impacts on the quality of the internet connection. I suggest that you agree with the interviewer that if this is the case, have the webcam on at first when you do your introductions, and then turn it off.
  • Discuss with the interviewer what Plan B will be if the technology doesn't work on the day.
2.  Make sure your environment is right
  • Check the lighting, so that you can be seen by the interviewer. If you have the lighting behind you, your face will be dark and not seen easily.
  • Make sure you feel relaxed eg your computer is at the correct height; you have a comfortable chair; the room temperature is not too cold or hot; you have a glass of water by your side (but not too near the computer that you knock water all over the keyboard!)
3.  Practice  
  • Have a practice run with a friend, so you are comfortable with using the technology, and the "feel" of this mode of interview. If you're not used to working in this online environment, it can be a little off-putting. Practicing will give you a feel for working in a situation where you don't have the same messages you get when you're interviewed in a face-to-face situation. 
4. Dress appropriately
  • Don't fall into the trap of wearing pj bottoms because no-one can see them. Wear the same clothing that you'd wear in a F2F interview. This will help get you in the mood and remind you to behave professionally. 
5. Check how you look on camera
  • Web camera always shows up my wrinkles, so next time I have an interview I am going to wear a little make-up to hide the wrinkles and add colour to my face. 
  • Check that the clothes you plan to wear do not drain the colour from you on camera.
6. Get rid of any distractions
  • Get rid of anything that will interrupt or distract you during the interview. Put the cat out...send the baby to childcare...turn off all your phones...
  • Close down any unnecessary programs, websites or pop-ups that you won't be using, that may act as a distraction.  This is especially relevant to real-time communication programs such as Twitter, or chat programs such as gTalk.
  • Set your Skype status to "Invisible". This will stop your contacts will disturbing you, but you can continue to use Skype in a normal way. But remember to warn your interviewer that that is what you're doing, or else he will not be able to see you in his contacts list.
7. Think about the name of your Skype account
  • Use a professional name for your Skype account, which looks a lot better than using a name like "fluffysexkitten", unless you're being interviewed for a job as a stripper!
8. Look at the camera
  • When you're being interviewed, look at the camera all of the time. If you keep looking away, the interviewer won't be able to connect with you....and you might end up sending the message that you're easily distracted or bored.
  • It's easy to forget that someone is on the other end of the camera watching you, and fall into the trap of thinking you're on your own and no one can see you. So don't let your guard down and do something inappropriate, like picking your nose!

Have you ever attended a virtual interview, either as interviewer or interviewee? What was your experience? What tips would you pass on to job hunter?

How to handle a virtual job interview. Lindsay Olson. 2012. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/03/06/how-to-handle-a-virtual-job-interview

Job interviews: Tips for the virtual interview. Charles Purdy. 2011. http://www.monsterthinking.com/2011/04/18/job-interviews-tips-for-the-virtual-interview 

Image: 'The most expensive webcam of all times?'


Jo said...

Great tips Sarah! Especially those points about checking the tech out first, having alternative ways of sharing, reducing open apps and removing distractions. In my experience with regional/remote students the tech will go wrong at the most inconvenient point, links will go down, bandwidth will shrink and the phone will ring - right next to youor mic!

I use Skype with friends overseas though my interview preference would be Elluminate/BbC.

I spend so much time in Elluminate/BbC that I am now more comfortable there than f-2-f "chuckle". My idea of bliss would be a virtual interview for a virtual job (that I would get!)anywhere in the world where I could just stay here in WA and work virtually.

Sarah Stewart said...

I'm the same of you, Jo...sometimes think I'm more comfortable in online environment than F2F.

Having worked virtually, I think it depends on what the job is. I definitely found that teaching at Griffith just didn't work virtually...I missed out on too much of the every day stuff than gets sorted out F2F. But projects with confined outputs and processes work very well virtually....I've found.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice for any kind of virtual interview. Video interviews are only one kind, however. Many positions, such as telesales or customer service, use audio-only virtual interviews. In addition, some of these are "asynchronous" in nature - a question is asked of the applicant and s/he records her/his responses. This method helps to ensure interview consistency, especially for positions where OFCCP compliance is important.

All that said, virtual interviewing is definitely becoming more prevalent and candidates must prepare for and conduct their interviews differently than they would for the old-fashioned, F2F kind.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks anonymous. The other type of interview (although not a mode that would be used in my profession) is in a virtual world, such as Second Life, which brings about another load of questions and challenges.