With many people based from home to avoid unnecessary physical interaction during the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual interviews increased in popularity. And this trend continued even after the pandemic. In fact — StandOut CV found a 57% increase in the use of video interviews from 2019 to 2023.
Online interviews can be just as nerve-racking as in-person ones, and making a good impression on a video call may even be considered trickier — especially if you've never done one before.
Here at Forward Role, we've been arranging video interviews between our clients and candidates for several years. That's why we've used our expertise to share top tips and things to avoid to help you prepare for and succeed in your virtual job interview.
What is a virtual job interview?
A virtual interview is a meeting that takes place remotely rather than in person. Although they can be conducted over the phone, companies often use video conferencing platforms — like Microsoft Teams and Zoom — so they can see and engage with potential candidates. They usually work the same way as a face-to-face interview, in which you answer questions about your skills and qualifications.
Today, lots of companies rely on virtual interviews to make hiring decisions, and according to StandOut CV, 45% of recruiters say they help reduce spending and speed up the interview process.
Top tips for succeeding in your virtual interview
To help set you up for success, we’ll walk you through our top tips for how to prepare, present yourself, and get the interview done.
Prepare answers to common interview questions
According to JDP, 40% of people feel most nervous about not being able to answer a difficult question during an interview. The good news is that preparation can really help calm your nerves and set you up for success.
And with a video interview, you have the advantage of having some notes close to hand, outside of the view of the interviewer. You may find it useful to write down the answers to commonly asked questions, including:
Tell me about yourself
Tell me about a time when you came across a work-related challenge and how you overcame it
What are you passionate about?
What is your biggest achievement?
What is your biggest strength and why?
What is your biggest weakness and why?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What do you know about the company?
Why do you want to work for this company?
This will help you to gather your thoughts and give you some inspiration if your mind goes blank during the interview. Having a printed copy of your CV can also jog your memory when asked questions like "tell me a bit about yourself" or "walk me through your resume."
However, just because an online interview allows you to refer to your answers, it doesn't mean you should totally rely on them. Your notes should be used as something you refer to before the interview to jog your memory. Looking down at them too often or reading from a script can appear unnatural and indicate to the interviewer that you are unprepared. Or even worse — that you are distracted by something else and lack interest in the role. Therefore, try only to use your notes if your mind goes blank.
Practising your answers by speaking them aloud or even recording yourself can help you remember what to say and build your confidence.
To learn more, take a look at our 5 common digital marketing interview questions and how to answer them or how to prepare for a job interview guide.
Prepare questions to ask the interviewer
In a video interview, conveying your energy and establishing a personal connection can be more challenging than an in-person meeting. But, preparing well-thought-out questions to ask your interviewer at the end of the call can be a game-changer. It not only allows you to delve deeper into the company and the position but also demonstrates your enthusiasm.
By asking thoughtful questions, you show that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in the opportunity, leaving a positive lasting impression on the interviewer. This engagement helps your enthusiasm shine through, even in a virtual setting where non-verbal cues may be limited.
To learn more, check out our 8 great questions to ask in an interview.
Research the company
Every interviewer will appreciate, as well as expect, you taking the time to look into their company, what they do, and what their core visions and values are. Preparing all of this beforehand will emphasise your eagerness to get the job, which can only be a positive.
Check your technology is working
It may sound obvious, but it’s vital that you know which platform your video interview is taking place on and that you’ve tested it well in advance of the scheduled time. Finding out 15 minutes before your interview that Skype is incompatible with your laptop or not giving yourself enough time to create a Zoom account will cause you unnecessary stress.
Ask a friend or family member to help you test that your camera and microphone both work and make sure that you’re based somewhere with a stable internet connection. If your WIFI at home is known for being a little slow, close down all other programmes and browsers to give it the best chance.
Remember to charge your device well in advance, and make sure you have a phone number for the interviewer to hand, just in case you lose connection.
Choose a suitable setting
If you're planning on being at home for your video interview, ensure you'll be free from any possible interruptions. Finding a quiet, well-lit location and telling anyone in your space that you have a video call will ensure limited distractions.
If possible, sit at a table as this will look most professional and avoid any settings that are too dark or too bright — a plain, neutral background is ideal!
As you won’t be going into the office, you may be wondering what to wear for your video interview. Even though you’re not meeting the interviewer face-to-face, you should still dress professionally.
Depending on the type of company, business casual may be more appropriate, but unless you’re told otherwise, dress smartly. Avoid wearing very bright colours or large prints, which may be distracting.
Dressing professionally will not only show you are excited about the role, but it can also help you feel more put together and confident. Just remember to dress smartly from head to toe in case you need to get up during the meeting to readjust your camera or shut the door behind you. Untidy pants could ruin your look!
Use positive body language
Positive body language is almost as important as the words you say — it’s one of the first things your interviewer will notice. Although video calls can limit the ability to communicate through body language, there are a few things you can do to give off a good impression.
Looking at the camera instead of the bottom of the screen and sitting upright at your desk will project confidence, helping the interviewer trust what you are saying. Smiling and nodding will also show you’re listening and present your enthusiasm for the job.
Calm your nerves
Whether they’re virtual or face-to-face, interviews can be daunting experiences. But the advantage of an online interview is that you get to do it from the comfort of your own home, which takes some of the stress out of it.
To manage your video interview anxiety, you can try a few techniques, like taking deep, slow breaths between speaking. This will help reduce your heart rate, making you feel calmer.
And if you feel stressed or overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a few seconds before answering any questions to gather your thoughts. This will help you give a concise answer.
When it comes to nailing your virtual job interview, effective communication is key. Preparing what you have to say and organising your thoughts in advance can boost your confidence and help you express your ideas clearly.
Another thing to remember is that there can often be a lag with virtual video calls. Wait a few seconds after they have finished talking to avoid interrupting your interviewer or awkwardly speaking over them. Plus, it’ll give you time to gather your thoughts and answer their question clearly.
And if you miss something they say, don’t be afraid to ask politely for them to repeat the question. This will avoid any confusing or unclear answers.
Similar to any interview process, sending a follow-up email within 24 hours of the virtual meeting will keep at the top of the hiring manager’s mind during the process. Thanking them for their time and asking them to let you know if they need any additional information will reinforce your interest in and enthusiasm for the job.
What to avoid during a virtual job interview
A messy background — If your interviewer can see any mess behind you during the video call, they may be distracted. They may also regard you as disorganised or that you fail to pay attention to details. To get your interview off to a good start, pick a spot to set up your computer where there is a plain background behind you — sitting in front of a white wall works well.
A dark room — A dark room will make it difficult for the interviewer to see your face clearly, making it tricky for them to get a sense of your character. Sit in a spot with good lighting; sitting near a window with natural light is best, but a lamp or ceiling light is fine if that isn’t possible.
Being interrupted — During online interviews, you could face distractions from family members, pets, or even the doorbell. This can make you, as well as the interviewer, lose focus. Fortunately, it can be easily avoided by letting the people you live with know that you have an important meeting. You could even put a note on your front door asking people not to knock during the interview.
Not preparing — Being unprepared can increase nerves and may result in unclear or wordy responses to questions. Going over your CV and achievements, making notes on common questions, and researching the company will set you up for success.
Joining the meeting late — Being late to your virtual interview may show your potential employer that you are unprepared. It could also make you flustered or more nervous if you join and your interviewer is waiting for you. Aim to join the call at least five minutes early to give yourself time to gather your thoughts.
Secure your dream job with Forward Role
Once you prepare for and understand how to present yourself during the process, you’ll be well on your way to success in your video interview.
If you manage to secure the role — congratulations! You can now prepare by reading our 10 top tips for starting a new job successfully or our guide to the UK’s biggest new job fears and how to overcome them.
Whether you're an employer seeking bright talent or an individual searching for your next job role, our expert team can connect you with top-quality candidates or market-leading digital and tech businesses. Just get in touch with our experts at Forward Role today.