By Morgan Miller, AgCareers.com
Interviews online have become more and more normalized in the last several years. Especially in times like the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual capabilities have proved invaluable to both job seekers and employers everywhere. The differences between being on a computer screen and the other side of a desk, however, are hard to ignore. It is more important than ever to be well-versed in proper virtual interviewing etiquette to make a good impression despite the lack of physical closeness many people prefer.
Body language can be a main factor that can make or break an interview. It is relatively common knowledge that eye contact in an interview (or just in casual conversation) is a sign of engagement and respect. The importance of eye contact does not change based on the circumstances of the interview. Make sure you are looking at the camera on your computer screen rather than the video of the person you are talking to. It is very unnatural to look at a tiny little box when the face of a person is also in front of you, but it is necessary. If you are not familiar with virtual video calls, practice eye placement before the interview. It takes a lot of practice to retrain your brain in this way, but it is a key factor in having a successful interview.
According to Tori Coleman, Program Coordinator for Texas Tech University Career Center, a clean and appropriate background is essential. An employer will be none too impressed with your piles of laundry and unmade bed. If your room is clean, but you still feel what is behind you is too cluttered and distracting, many applications allow you to choose a virtual background. The use of a virtual background may improve your confidence and lessen the stress of the interview. Many applications have a blur option or plain white background; these should be your go-to. Stay away from the milky ways, beaches, and Minecraft farms when it comes to selecting a background for a professional setting.
Technology is an incredible tool, but sometimes it creates complications at the worst moments. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the application you are using for the video call as well as the device you plan to run it on. Start with the basics by checking your battery, internet connection, microphone, and speakers. If you’ve never run the application before, try testing it with a friend or family member. It is easy to embarrass yourself if you don’t know how to turn on your sound or end the call properly. Avoid additional anxiety and take the time to learn the technology before you jump into an important call.
A virtual interview should be treated just like an in-person one in every aspect. Employers will notice what you are wearing. Traditional attire for an interview ranges from business casual to business professional depending on the position. This could be a solid-colored button-down shirt, blue or black blazer, color compatible pencil skirt, and matching heels. Despite the temptation to not dress up from the waist down during a virtual interview, wearing basketball shorts with a tie is not recommended. You never know what might cause you to need to stand up during an interview. Beyond just the possibility of humiliation, however, dressing for success is a mindset. If you dress like a slob, you will feel like a slob, and that will impact your self-confidence and ability to perform during the interview.
When preparing for a virtual interview, take advantage of the opportunity to keep notes of key points next to you during the interview. You are not encouraged to write full-length sentences, but it may ease your worry to have a few talking points readily available.
Virtual interviews are something you can practice for. Practice interview questions with a friend to calm your nerves. Practice eye contact in a setting that is less tense. Practice staying still. If you move around too much throughout the interview, it will be especially distracting for the interviewer. Feel free to move your hands when you talk, but practice keeping them out of the camera, or you’ll appear to have overly large hands. Virtual interviews offer a unique opportunity to prepare in every aspect. The more prepared you are, the less pressure you will feel during the real thing.
The world is constantly evolving and changing to meet the needs of job seekers and employers alike. It is important to be flexible when it comes to the hiring process. Knowing how to secure a job in-person and online will make your life far less difficult. Remember that while virtual interviews feel different, many of the same rules apply. An interview is your opportunity to show your personality, professionalism, and strengths. Know the importance of preparing for a virtual interview. Don’t let a computer screen come between you and your dream job.