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Best Practices for Virtual Interviewing

Mindful of the new era of social distancing and COVID-19, the prospect of virtual interviewing can be very daunting for individuals amid career transition. While engaging online can initially feel impersonal and to one’s disadvantage, there are benefits for candidates approaching a virtual interview, such as the following:

  • Some candidates feel more at ease and less nervous during a virtual interview as they are in the comfort of their chosen environment.
  • You can save time, energy, and interview more as you do not have to travel to an off-site location.
  • A virtual interview allows greater flexibility for both candidates and hiring managers, making interview scheduling much easier.

However, virtual interviews present their own set of challenges—from using new technology, to knowing how to present and reflecting enthusiasm for a position through the computer screen. Preparing and presenting the best version of yourself for your virtual interview matters more now than ever. Whether you are preparing for a virtual interview via Zoom, Webex, FaceTime, or another form of videoconferencing, here are a few best practices for those engaging in a virtual interview:
Check your tech.  Once you have accepted your invite to a virtual interview, test your technology as soon as possible, ensuring you are set up for success. Take some time to make certain your webcam and microphone are functioning properly and check your internet connectivity. It will be easier to fix any problems ahead of your scheduled interview, rather than trying to fix them moments before the interview is scheduled to begin. On the day of your interview, check your equipment and internet connection again. Be sure to pause any downloads or major data syncs until after your interview to minimize any disruptions. Also, be sure to close any programs on your computer and switch off any notifications. We would even advise asking a friend to do a test with you ahead of time, ensuring a seamless connection.
Dress accordingly.  Treat video interviews with the same seriousness as interviews being conducted in-person. Dress professionally. If uncertain how to dress, visit their website to understand the culture of the company or contact the recruiter for advice.
Interview location.  Choosing your virtual interview spot.  This is an opportunity for you to speak and engage from an environment where you feel most comfortable. When deciding where to take your virtual interview, try to choose somewhere that has good lighting and preferably with a blank wall behind you to ensure that you, and not your surroundings, are the focal point of the conversation. Once you have chosen your location, try to minimize distractions as much as possible. Choose a well-lit room for the video interview. Tip: facing the window provides the best lighting or place a light below you, such as an LED Ring light that can be purchased from Amazon. Again, test the video ahead of time to preview the appearance. Keep the background as minimalist as possible and remove any distractions from the environment. Planning ahead of time will allow you to avoid interruptions from any pets or other “visitors” prior to the conversation.
Framing and eye contact.  It might be tempting to glance over at your own face on the screen while you talk, or momentarily look at your phone while your interviewer is taking notes. But you will need to demonstrate your communication and active listening abilities, and that requires eye contact. Try to stay engaged with the conversation and look at the person you are speaking to. It is not as easy during a video call when you are staring into a screen, but eye contact is more important than ever when you are only seen from the midsection up. Frame yourself well. Generally, a mid-shot of the body, at arm’s length from the screen, is good practice. Remember, always maintain eye contact with the interviewer when either responding or listening.
Posture and body language.  Even though you cannot shake a hiring manager’s hand during a virtual interview, it is still important to consider your body language. The most common ways of displaying confidence during a virtual interview are to sit up straight, smile and make eye contact. Making eye contact during a virtual interview can be tricky as your instinct will be to look at the image on the screen. However, this may appear to the hiring manager as though you are looking away from the screen. Instead, try keeping your webcam at eye level and keep your focus on the camera during the virtual interview. This will help show the hiring manager that you are engaged in the conversation taking place. 80% of our communication is non-verbal, so people must show hand movement and body language. Albeit, movement should be in moderation. Keep the gesturing at a minimum.
Practice, Practice, Practice.  Even though you can have some notes sitting in front of you during a virtual interview, unlike a face-to-face interview, it is still important to practice your answers. Try to keep your responses natural in tone, instead of sounding like you are reading from a script. It may be a good idea to record yourself answering a couple of questions to practice how you present on camera. This will also give you the opportunity to test all of your equipment. Another option is to ask that same friend you tested the technology on, to host a mock virtual interview, allowing you to practice your responses. Please do not find yourself looking down and reading from a script when asked about your experiences.
Glass of water.  Have one nearby in case you need it.
Projecting enthusiasm.  Employers consistently cite lack of enthusiasm as a reason not to hire. The best way to convey enthusiasm is to smile. While smiling through every minute of the virtual interview may not be appropriate, do smile frequently. You cannot shake hands in a virtual interview, so smiling also becomes the substitute way to express warmth and friendliness.
Do not: Have your cellphone on and nearby; have roaming or noisy pets; disruptive visitors; cross your arms or unnecessarily communicate with your hands or arms; swivel in your chair; and do charge your device you plan to use for the virtual interview.
Many things have changed with the new era of social distancing and COVID-19, and that includes the interviewing process. Although challenging, you can highlight all your abilities just as effectively in a virtual interview as you could do in-person. The key is to practice, practice and practice – and eventually those nerves will recede, and your comfort will increase. We hope you found this list to be helpful as you prepare for your virtual interview. Good luck and wishing you great success!
Download our printable version of the Best Practices for Virtual Interviewing HERE.

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Janice Reals Ellig

Chief Executive Officer

As the head of the Ellig Group, Janice is dedicated to increasing the placement of women and diverse candidates on corporate boards and in C-suites by 2025. Janice joined the legacy firm in 2000 and became Co-Chief Executive Officer in its transition to Chadick Ellig in 2007; she assumed sole ownership of the company as the Ellig Group in 2017 with a new focus on Reimagining Search. Prior to her career in executive search, Janice spent 20 years in corporate America at Pfizer, Citi and Ambac Financial Group, an IPO from Citibank, where she was responsible for Marketing, Human Resources, and Administration.

Heralded by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of “The World’s Most Influential Headhunters,” Janice is often consulted for her expertise and her commitment to gender parity, inclusion, and diversity. She frequently appears at speaking engagements and as a media guest, and she has penned multiple articles for outlets such as Directors & Boards, Directorship, Corporate Director, The Huffington Post, and Forbes.com. Janice also co-authored two books: Driving The Career Highway and What Every Successful Woman Knows, acknowledged by Bloomberg Businessweek as “the best of its genre.”

A tirelessly active member of the industry and champion of her causes, Janice is Founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative and its signature event, Breakfast of Corporate Champions. Since 2011, Janice continues to spearhead this event to honor companies committed to board diversity and to encourage CEOs to sponsor board-ready women for the Women’s Forum database. (LINK: www.womensforumny.org).

Janice is personally committed to several NFP organizations: Board Director of the National YMCA and Past Chair of the YMCA Board of Greater New York; Trustee of the Actors Fund and Committee For Economic Development (CED); Incoming Chair, University of Iowa Foundation; Women’s Forum of New York Past President and Chair of the Corporate Board Initiative; member of the Steering Committee, US 30% Club and The Economic Club of New York.

In recognition for her many philanthropic activities, Janice received the University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 and the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) Eleanor Raynolds Award for Volunteerism in 2008. Named one of the “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews, she was also a recipient of the Channel 21 Award In Excellence for her contribution to “Excellence in the Economic Development for Women.”

“Listening to our clients’ needs, learning their business and understanding their culture is how we present the best talent and provide  a competitive advantage. We place candidates with the character, competencies, commitment, (intellectual) curiosity and courage to make a difference. Our goal is always to go beyond the expected and deliver valuable advice, measurable results and great talent!”

– Janice Reals Ellig

  • Champion of gender parity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Industry expert, speaker, and author
  • Founder of the Women’s Forum of New York’s Corporate Board Initiative
  • Committed board and committee member and philanthropist

T: (212) 688-8671 ext. 226
E: Janice@ElligGroup.com