Three Tips for Acing Your Virtual Job Interview

Thu, Aug 9, 2012

Internship Interview

Nothing can be more stressful than preparing for a job interview. Under the best circumstances, you’re staring down the barrel of thirty pressure-filled minutes trying to sell yourself to a complete stranger while simultaneously seeming modest and affable. Your interviewer is going to ask you loaded questions like, “What would you say is your greatest weakness?” and “How would your past assistants describe your demeanor?” It’s enough to make even the most self-assured professional feel a pang of anxiety.

The digital revolution has ushered in some significant changes to the interview protocol including the dreaded virtual interview. Unlike a typical phone interview, during a virtual interview job candidates are often asked to contact their interviewers using video chat applications like Skype and Facetime. You may not be physically in front of your interrogator, but appearances still matter. So what are the standards and concerns unique to this emerging ritual? What do you need to do to prepare to be grilled over the web? You’ve worked so hard to earn this opportunity. Don’t let superficial mistakes hurt your chances of employment.

The following are three critical tips for acing your next virtual interview.

1) Dress for success

You’ve heard the age-old maxim that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed? Well, it’s as true in the digital age as it ever was. Just because you’re being interviewed from the comfort of your own home, don’t think you can dress like you’re watching Sunday morning football. Wear the same outfit you would wear if you were walking into that office and shaking hands with the CEO. Remember, the interviewer can see you on his desktop just as clearly as you can see him. Fair or not, if you’re wearing any manner of unprofessional attire it’s going to reflect poorly.

2) Set the stage

You don’t have to redecorate your apartment or home and line your bookshelves with heady reading to make the right impression, but choose your setting wisely. Where you live tells an interviewer a great deal about what kind of candidate you are. If you participate in the interview from a beat-up living room couch surrounded by empty pizza boxes, cigarette butts and porn, it won’t matter how expensive your suit is – the interviewer is going to conclude that you are a slob.

If you have a home office, take the interview in there. At the very least, set up your computer on a desk with some kind of inoffensive backdrop. This last tip should go without saying, but be sure to move anything illegal out of the camera’s frame.

3) Look at the camera and say cheese

If you’re inexperienced with video chat applications, take note of where your computer’s camera is located. If you’re not looking directly at the camera during the interview, your image on the interviewer’s desktop is going to make it look like you’re staring off into space. Think Michelle Bachmann’s response to President Obama’s State of The Union. It’s distracting.

Also, don’t forget to smile. Some virtual interviewers get so caught up with the image on their screen that they end up making some pretty awkward expressions. You don’t need a wall full of business intelligence degrees to understand that a smile can go a long way towards ingratiating yourself with the interviewer.

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