Virtual job interviews let you apply for positions from the comfort of your home. But that doesn’t eliminate the stress of the interview process, and you still need to prepare before you enter the virtual room.
Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet have made it easier for employers to conduct remote virtual interviews. And with no commute time, they’re generally more convenient for companies and job seekers alike.
But the remote interview process also brings new challenges. Although plenty of traditional job-hunting advice holds up, this new context calls interview etiquette into question. You don’t have to worry about your handshake, but you do have to think of Zoom etiquette guidelines.
Types of virtual interviews
Research from Robert Half shows 28% of new US job postings in January 2023 were remote, so it’s no surprise virtual interviews are on the rise. You likely won’t visit an office to interview for an at-home position. But in-person or hybrid jobs might also ask you to attend virtual interviews to aid scheduling and ease the hiring process.
Before you start getting ready and prepping answers for specific interview questions, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. Here are common types of interviews you should familiarize yourself with:
Two-way video interview
This is the format you’re most likely picturing when you think of a virtual interview. Live on-camera interviews most closely resemble a conventional in-person conversation, letting you connect with the interviewer via face-to-face communication.
One or more people will ask you common interview questions, and you’ll have the chance to inquire about the company culture and other aspects of the job. Be prepared to demonstrate soft skills and describe prior experiences.
One-way video interview
As the name implies, a one-way interview is all about you. Typically, an employer using a one-way format will pose pre-selected questions, which you’ll answer via an asynchronous video response. Since there won’t be an interviewer present, this eliminates the need for a synchronous meeting, offering greater flexibility. It’s a popular choice for remote positions and high-volume hiring processes.
One-way video job interviews come in various formats. Some limit the length of your responses, and they may or may not allow re-recording, so make sure you know whether you’ll have a second chance to answer before hitting “record.”
These aren’t necessarily virtual, but phone interviews are often part of the remote hiring process. Before conducting more in-depth assessments, many employers will use phone screening interviews to lay out the specifics of the position and ensure you’re a good fit.
If you suffer from phone anxiety, this may be a daunting prospect, but it’s really a cause for celebration. A phone call from a prospective employer is a good sign that your application stuck out to them.
Another asynchronous interview option — one that’s sometimes only a portion of the process — written assessments ask you for text-based responses. Questions may be multiple choice, short answer, or extended responses that relate to the position you’re applying for. It isn’t a quiz, but it’s a chance to tell a potential employer about you and show your skills and experience through writing. Like a working interview, the goal is to gauge the real work you can do.
Before starting, brush up on how to introduce yourself professionally without sounding like a robot. If you already know how to write a cover letter that shows off your skills, you’re off to an excellent start.
6 virtual interview tips to help you get the job
Although it’s tempting to treat a remote interview more casually than an in-person evaluation, good preparation is even more important. The remote process lets employers meet with job candidates from all locations and walks of life, so you’ll have to up your game to stand out against a diverse candidate pool.
In addition to all the usual advice on preparing for an interview, consider these remote-specific tips:
1. Check your tech
Before researching the company and practicing interview questions, ensure your computer is primed and ready for a virtual interview. Confirm your camera is functional and clean, your microphone produces high-quality audio, and the employer’s teleconferencing platform works on your computer. You should also check your WiFi speed.
If you’ve never used the employer’s preferred platform before, familiarize yourself with it first. Make sure you know where the mute button is and how to tell when it’s activated. You can handle all these concerns by running a practice call with a friend or family member.
2. Know your angles
Even the best camera can’t compensate for poor lighting and awkward framing. Your webcam should be roughly level with your eyes so you aren’t craning your neck up or down to keep your head in the frame.
Lighting should be bright enough to clearly see your face, but not so intense that it washes you out. Try testing your framing beforehand so you don’t have to fiddle with it during the call.
3. Perform a “background check”
A potential employer might check your criminal history and credentials, but they might also assess the physical background of your video stream during the interview.
A survey from the Harvard Business Review found that 60% of people have preferences about the background of a speaker on a video call. Rated on metrics of authenticity, expertise, innovation, and trustworthiness, respondents generally preferred an actual room to a solid-color wall. In all cases, a virtual scenic background was dead last.
This isn’t to say you should display your entire bedroom behind you. The best background option is to present a contained space with minimal clutter and thoughtful decoration, like a bookshelf or a wall of framed artwork.
4. Eliminate distractions
Your background isn’t the only thing that might distract from what you have to say. Before the interview begins, make sure nothing will disturb your focus for the duration of the call. Turn off notifications and tell the people you live with to keep the noise down. And while testing your camera and sound, you should also keep an ear out for loud fans or other ambient room noise that may drown you out.
In addition to reducing distractions, create an environment that improves your focus and concentration. Even if an interviewer can’t see it on video, a cluttered desk can make it difficult to clear your mind. Tidy up, make space for notes or a pen and paper, and find a discreet fidget toy if it helps you concentrate.
5. Dress for success
You might be sitting comfortably at home, but that doesn’t mean you should wear pajamas to the interview. Keep your clothing business casual to balance authenticity and professionalism while you make a good first impression. And that includes your bottom half. You never know if you’ll have to stand up unexpectedly, and a professional ensemble from head to toe can help you build confidence even if an interviewer doesn’t see the whole thing.
6. Practice nonverbal communication
A video interview creates social barriers that can make it hard to form a memorable connection. It’s difficult to maintain eye contact and interpret nonverbal communication over a video call, which may lower trust and likability between conversation partners.
There are several ways to overcome this barrier. Try to look directly into the camera while you talk. This will simulate eye contact and help the interviewer connect with you as you answer their questions. Practice using the body language they can see as much as possible. This means exercising good posture, nodding your head, and using types of gestures that fit into the frame.
3 common virtual interview questions
Virtual interviews likely include many of the same interview questions as an in-person assessment, but it’s still vital that you prepare confident answers ahead of time. Video calls often make people more self-conscious, making you more likely to get thrown off your game. Practicing beforehand means you won’t scramble for answers during the interview.
By the time a potential employer reaches out for a video interview, you might have already done a phone screening or filled out a written questionnaire. In a second interview, questions will be more open-ended and dive deeper into your compatibility with the company’s culture. Prepare to talk about a 5 year plan and think of good anecdotes for “tell me about a time” interview questions.
Although there are no “right” answers to interview questions, practicing your answers can help you prepare responses that are honest and feel true to you. Here are common questions you might hear during a remote interview and tips to inspire your answers:
1. Why are you considering leaving your current job?
This is often a sensitive topic, so try to keep your answer positive. Focus on the new opportunities you’re pursuing rather than the grievances you may have with your employer. Remember, the interviewer wants to know about you — not your negative experience — so frame your reason for leaving a job as an opportunity for fulfillment in a new role.
2. What are some of your most outstanding achievements?
This is a chance to impress your interviewer and demonstrate your value. It can be hard to formulate personal achievement examples without feeling like you’re selling yourself, but the trick is to keep them specific. Talk about a measurable effect you had on a project or your greatest accomplishment at a previous job, then relate it back to the position’s requirements.
3. Why do you think you are a suitable candidate for this position?
The interviewer has seen your resume, but now they want to know what sets you ahead of the pack. Here’s where researching your future employer in advance can really pay off.
The company’s website likely includes information about company culture, such as the organization’s core values, mission statement, and organizational leadership. Use what you’ve learned to relate your personal values to the company’s. And if you’re struggling to think of a place where you align, it’s a sign that the company might not be a good fit for you.
Put your best (virtual) foot forward
Like any recruiting experience, virtual interviews can be intimidating. But with the right preparation, you can dissolve your nerves and approach your phone or video interview with confidence.
Organize your space beforehand, practice interview questions, and research the company in depth. Who knows — the desk you’re sitting at during the interview could become your new work-from-home setup.