Given the current state of the world, it’s not surprising that more and more employers are scheduling virtual interviews. In addition to social distancing reasons, companies might use online interviews to screen large numbers of candidates. Digital interviews also allow employers to make sure they’re not being biased in their hiring process.

If you’ve got a virtual interview scheduled you might feel relieved. After all, you don’t have to drive anywhere (woot!). Plus, you can do the interview in the comfort of your own home (double woot!).

However, online interviews have their drawbacks too. For example, instead of traffic, you’ve got to deal with technology. Rather than staring awkwardly at a roomful of strangers, you’ll be staring even more awkwardly at yourself on the computer screen.

The good news is, if you spend time preparing and learning basic online interview tips you will set yourself up for success!

You can start your preparation now by checking out these top tips for acing a virtual interview in 2020:

Top Virtual Interview Tip #1: Set the scene

Having an unmade bed or pile of dirty clothes in the background of your video interview might not show you in the most professional (or organized) light. You might need to turn your monitor or lap top at a certain angle so that your backdrop is clean and neat.

If you’ve got kids, ideally you don’t want the kids at home when you’re interviewing or recording your interview. Given the quarantine situation, however, I’m sure most interviewers will be much more tolerant if your kids are around.

I recently had a phone screen interview and my son was home sick (this was pre-COVID). This couldn’t really be helped. But in the middle of the interview he screamed “mommy I pooped!” Luckily, the hiring manager laughed and said she understood. I was totally mortified.

Another part of what I call “setting the scene” is also making sure your technology is working. This includes internet connection, web / video camera, and volume. Employers want to hire technically savvy folks, not someone who is going to be asking “can you hear me now?” every few minutes during the call.

Lastly and most importantly, record yourself on whichever device you’ll be using for your interview. This way you can see if you’re wearing anything too distracting or if the lighting is bad, for example. This is also a great way to practice answering interview questions (I’ll talk more about that later).

See related: Biggest Interview Mistakes for Moms Returning to Work

Top Virtual Interview Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice

Interviewing is an acquired skill. No matter how many interviews you’ve been on or how much job experience you’ve got, there’s always room for improvement.

There’s two main types of virtual interviews: one-way and two-way. In a one-way online interview, the employer or recruiter will typically email you a list of questions and you’ll record your answers and send back a video file.

Two-way virtual interviews, however, are conducted live or in real time using some type of video conferencing software like Skype or Zoom.

The one-way virtual interview is nice because you know the questions ahead of time and you can practice and tailor your answers. But this can also trip people up because you’ve got SO much time to go over your answers. It’s easy to start overthinking things.

In the two-way virtual interview you will most likely not get the questions in advance.

Either way,  preparation is key. Some of the most common interview questions you will get asked include the following:

  • Tell me about yourself (or walk me through your resume).
  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • What are your biggest strengths? Weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with failure. How did you respond?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Why did you leave your last job?

One of the best ways to practice answering interview questions is to give yourself a framework in which to structure your answers. If you are someone who is prone to verbal diarrhea (I myself am guilty of this!), this will help you stay focused and on track.

The acronym is called STAR and it stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

I’ll give you an example of an interview response using the STAR framework:

Interview question: How do you handle stress?

Answer using STAR:

Situation: When I was working at XYZ Company, I was given an unexpected project during my first week on the job. The turn-around time was two weeks.

Task: I was personally in charge of leading a group of four people in a website re-design project for the marketing department.

Action: The first thing I did was organize a meeting with my new team members. We discussed the parameters of the web redesign and I got each team member’s input. I also delegated a different portion of the project to different team members, depending upon their area of expertise and preferences.

Result: We completed the project ahead of schedule. Even though we had to go back and revise a couple pages, overall my manager was really impressed. Specifically, he liked the way I managed and delegated the project.

See related: Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume

Top Virtual Interview Tip #3: Be yourself

You want to appear professional, but not like a robot. When people get in front of a camera, they tend to freeze. But it’s important to remember that there are human beings on the other side. And these humans are judging you, but they also want to like you.

The interviewers are trying to find ways to connect with you. Not being face to face makes developing a connection harder for sure. That’s why you’ve got make an effort to let your personality shine through.

I’m not saying to sit there and do juggling tricks or crack jokes. But allow yourself to be human.

See related: Ultimate Guide to Writing a Cover Letter

In Conclusion

The main takeaway from Top Virtual Interview Tips 2020 is to be prepared. Prepare your environment (i.e. where you will be recording and / or conducting the interview), prepare your answers, and lastly, practice talking in front of the camera so that you sound professional, but also natural.

If you know a friend who also has an interview coming up and could use some online interview tips, please share this post!!