Virtual interviewing has become a common but challenging process to navigate for students and young professionals. Our entire education is built around reaching the pivotal in-person interview where you sit in a room with someone who may change your life forever. That physical moment no longer exists.
When I decided to start pursuing a marketing agency job last Winter, every interview was done over the phone or through Zoom. I quickly learned that virtual interviews are a completely different ballgame; your ability to grab attention now depends entirely on how well you can connect through a screen.
I’m not going to tell you to “prep your tech” or “look professional”. Everyone should know that. Instead, I will provide you with a few of the smaller details that can make any candidate command attention and radiate confidence during a virtual interview.
Establish A Speaking Style Early
You no longer have the advantage of body posture, eye contact, or hand gestures. If you’re an animated speaker such as myself, this can make virtual interviews difficult.
However, you can still inject an interview with some style by establishing a speaking rhythm. The person interviewing you has probably spoken to dozens of individuals before you and may speak to dozens more after. Everyone is going to be nervous, and this often leads to a lot of “um’s” and quick or awkward speaking patterns.
Focus on taking control of the conversation pace by including thoughtful pauses when answering questions. The ultimate goal is to display a compelling, calm, and confident tone that will remain throughout the entire interview. You want it to feel more like an evaluation of a potential employer than your audition.
In virtual or phone interviews, speaking style is a subtle but crucial way for employers to make instinctive judgments about your personality and fit within their culture.
Be Strategic About Your Setting
Quarantine has made living spaces equal parts office, fitness studio, and leisure area. While you may feel that this is a disadvantage when interviewing I think you can leverage it as your “home court”.
I conducted phone interviews in my car, in my old office during lunch, and in my disorganized room — most of them were pretty average. The best interviews I had were done in spaces that I felt comfortable in. This included my living room, home office, and kitchen table. Call it a coincidence, but these locations were also where I had done all of my writing.
It’s important to find a space that is disconnected from the stress or anxieties of your life to solely focus on the task at hand. Instead of sitting at your cluttered desk where you have spent hours applying to jobs and reaching out to recruiters who aren’t responding, try going somewhere that evokes a sense of accomplishment.
Do Something You Excel At Before Interviewing
This was a practice one of my professors once talked about, and it was wildly beneficial for remote interviews.
If you’re a great artist, paint before picking up the phone.
If you’re an athlete, go on a run in the morning.
If you love to write, complete a mindflow session in your journal.
Essentially, you are prepping your mind to be in a state of controlled positive energy. Completing an activity or task that you’re really good at before interviewing will raise self-awareness, relax nerves, and help you develop a confident demeanor. Before completing an interview for the job I eventually accepted, I spent about 45 minutes working on a Medium article instead of anxiously prepping. This put me in the right headspace to articulate my experiences and background through a creative lens.
Trust me, it works.
Focus On Skills, Not Titles
“So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your background.”
Que education, list of jobs, and a few tasks for each position.
Guess what? They already know all of that.
Did you do anything to further your position? Probably not.
Honestly, employers are vetting your resume more than usual as they can’t meet you in person. Instead of giving the classic carbon copy answer, discuss a set of skills that will be beneficial to the role. Everyone has a few flashy titles or internships in their back pocket. But how many are willing to talk about the obstacles they have faced or failures they endured?
For example, I could say “In 2019 I was the Content Marketing Supervisor and I helped launch our companies healthcare division through branding, marketing, and communications efforts”.
Or I could say, “As the Content Marketing Supervisor in 2019, I faced the biggest challenge of my career; I was asked to help launch our companies healthcare division in an industry I had never worked in before. This opportunity came with plenty of hard lessons, but it taught me how to work on extremely tight deadlines, conduct in-depth research, and engage with partners and clients.”
Which person would you rather have on your team?
The second answer says nothing about my marketing prowess. It shows that I am willing to take on big tasks under pressure, can learn on the fly, and will work through problems rather than around them.
Just remember, everyone is adjusting to our increasingly virtual world.
Recruiters feel Zoom fatigue just like you.
Managers are worried about their jobs just like you.
To make an impression that lasts, you need to showcase an honest, transparent, authentic personality. Speak in facts, not fiction.
Human beings are attracted to others who exude passion. Prove why you deserve this job more than anyone else by commanding attention with your transparency. The world needs real people now more than ever, and businesses are starting to focus on good corporate citizenship and building a respectable brand from the inside out.
Give them a reason to add you to their culture by being yourself — everyone else is already taken.