As this summer comes to a close (way too fast for my liking) and many students are beginning to think about job opportunities and internships, I am reminded more and more how different it can be to try and navigate virtual interviews. Many in-person internships and observation opportunities have been cancelled, while others have transitioned into more of an online format. Because many interviews are now taking place virtually, I thought I would help give you guys some tips so you can put your best foot forward in preparing.
1.Make your setting professional
Really evoke your inner 2015 beauty Youtuber here. Make sure your lighting is good (you don’t need a ring light, don’t worry), turn your phone onto silent, and close any doors and windows near you to help minimize distractions. Try to keep your background neutral, and if you choose to have your interview at home, make sure to notify the people you live with and ask them to be considerate while you conduct your interview (that means no dad barging in to ask if you want cookies every 10 minutes). Try to get any pets in a safe and secure place while you do your interview so you can be fully present with your interviewer.
This is no different than any other interview. As tempting as it may be to wear a dress shirt on top and sweatpants on the bottom, try to reach a happy medium. You never know what might be in the frame of the computer camera, and you definitely don’t want to be caught wearing sweats during your interview. If you don’t have slacks or a blazer, you can opt for something more business casual like a neutral shirt, jeans, and chunky heeled boots. Try to avoid wearing intense patterns or anything bright, sparkly. As great as they probably look on you, it is important to keep the focus of the interview on you, not your bomb fashion style.
Affordable brands: Target, H&M, Zara, Topshop
3. Do a test run
One of the best (if not, slightly embarrassing) tips is to do a mock interview in front of one of your friends or family members. They can ask you the tough questions you may not have even thought to prepare for and give you a better feel for how the interview may go. If you choose to do this over Skype or Zoom, it also gives you the chance to make sure your internet connection is stable and that the sound quality is good. No one wants to be in the middle of an important interview and have their audio cut in and out. If there is a specific video-conferencing software that the interview requires, download it ahead of time and familiarize yourself with its interface. Being tech savvy will generate a positive first impression, which can highlight your interest in the job and your problem solving ability.
Here are some practice questions that are commonly asked in interviews that you may want to rehearse:
Describe a time in which you had many competing priorities. How did you prioritize and complete them?
Tell me about a time you had to collaborate with a colleague who was difficult to work with?
What would you do if you were working on a project that was almost at completion but the goals or priorities changed?
4. Be mindful of your body language
If there’s one thing that I learned in Professor Rapp’s COMM103 class, it’s how important body language and vocal inflections are. I used to think it was so silly to film ourselves doing speeches, but in hindsight, it helped me realize how unconsciously I do certain gestures that may be overly repetitive or come off as aggressive (sometimes being a person who talks with your hands is truly a curse). Since you can’t give the ~firm handshake~ that is always lauded as the first impression, body language is essential to communicate virtually! Make sure you sit up in a poised, confident manner, and frame yourself so that your entire face and shoulders are seen. This can portray how engaged you are. Make eye contact in a way that you look straight at the camera, not just at the image in front of you. Although it can feel awkward to look at a little black dot instead of someone’s face, research has shown that looking directly into the camera can reinforce your points and stimulate recall of what was said in the interview! Try to speak slowly and with deliberation. I always tend to speak way too fast and ramble, so whenever I go into an interview, I take a few minutes to breathe slowly and relax in order to put myself into the right mindset beforehand.
5. Do your research
This is the not-so-secret secret to gaining an advantage over other applicants. While it shows that you’ve done your due diligence, you can also talk about how that specific company’s values directly align with your own, and how you might be able to fill the gaps that they have. What experiences do you have that you can bring to the table that they can benefit from? Watch some of their videos on their website, read their mission statement, and check out their social media if they have one. This will show that you’re interested in their company in particular and how you might fit into their company culture. I remember in preparing for interviews for my first job, I did the most in researching the company values and my manager would later tell me that she was really impressed by how informed I was about the company. When you show your passion and knowledge about their organization, it shows employers that you can be a good person to represent them.
A video interview, whether you’re a veteran or novice, is an interactive experience that will require you to adapt your mindset, behaviour and approach. If it is your first time getting ready for a virtual interview - just like me, teach yourself to adapt! Adaptability is a coveted soft skill, along with problem-solving and excellent communication, that you can demonstrate with a seamless video interview by using some of the tips I talked about.
Go kill it, and fill me in on how your interviews go!