Virtual interviews: 5 ways to make a great impression

Virtual interviews have become commonplace, so take time to spruce up your online repertoire if you really want to impress.
Written by Pallavi Kenkare, Associate Editor
martin-dm/ GETTY

Virtual interviews have become increasingly more common – if you've interviewed for a job in the past two years, the odds are that you've encountered an online interview scenario. Indeed, career options platform Zippia reports that about 60% of recruiters use video technology to interview remote candidates, and 81% predict that virtual recruitment will continue well after the end of the pandemic. 

Platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, HireVue, WebEx and Hireflix have made the video interviewing process straightforward and accessible. Still, confining your presence to an online stage is a difficult shift for candidates who are used to shining in in-person interviews. Here are a few tips to make sure your virtual interview is a success. 

1. Familiarize yourself with the technology

There's nothing worse than preparing for an interview, clicking on the video chat link and realizing you need to figure out how to download and use a new app – in a very limited amount of time. 

Take the time, a day prior to your interview, to test out the interview links and make sure that they work and won't lead to any last minute complications. As you do this, download any online applications, block any cookies, gain access to any browsers and upgrade to any new operating systems that you will need to use the links. 

Once your laptop is able to run the video chat platform, test out your interview set-up by making sure your webcam and microphone are functioning properly, and that you can access virtual backgrounds if needed. If your interview involves screen- sharing a document or presentation, do a few trial runs to ensure you're comfortable accessing and using the screen-share mode. 

2. Choose the right setting

You want to take your interview in a quiet, distraction-free environment. This way, you will have your interviewer's complete attention, and you optimize your chances of performing well. 

If you're taking your interview from your place of residence, think about noise levels. Is construction going on next door? Can you hear your neighbors' TV in the background? Will your dog start barking if the doorbell rings? Also, think about your wifi – if the signal is weak or patchy, consider booking a private room in a public library, or asking a friend with a comfortable office setup if you can borrow the space for a few hours. Interviews are enough pressure as it is – factors like noise and internet connection shouldn't contribute to your stress on the big day.

Lastly, make sure your background is neat and clean. This means uncluttered, professional and without any personal or revealing items – you may need to take down your poster of your favorite band, or picture collage of your college days. There are other, easier alternatives as well; most video interview platforms have the option to blur out your background, or to set a neutral one.

SEE: Your ultimate guide to preparing for a tech job interview

3. Prepare your desktop

An oft-overlooked advantage of virtual interviewing is access to your desktop. Though, in an ideal world, you'd be able to perfectly recite your interview answers from memory, that's not always the case – and your desktop can save you from a few awkward moments. 

Prior to your interview, you can pull up your resume, portfolio, the company's website or mission statement, the job posting or even a few bullet points of topics you want to hit on during your interview on your desktop for easy access as you speak. This way, you can quickly refer to any relevant documents without awkwardly shuffling around papers off-screen, or breaking eye-contact with your interviewer. We don't recommend reading directly from the documents you're accessing, as it will likely be obvious to your interviewer and may come off robotic, but having your information readily available will boost your confidence.

Remember to anticipate screen sharing scenarios, however – your interviewer may be surprised and confused to suddenly find themselves looking at your bulleted answers to 'My biggest weakness'.

SEE: How to perfectly answer the "tell me about yourself" interview question

4. Double check your schedule

Virtual interviews enable companies and candidates to connect across continents and time zones – which, though incredible, can occasionally create confusion. Make sure to double-check the date and time of the interview, and always add the timezone (EST, PST, etc.) and 'a.m.' or 'p.m.' to any discussion of time, in order to avoid possible miscommunication. After all, it can be difficult to come back from accidentally not showing up for an interview – first impressions are important, especially if you miss the chance to make your own. 

With online interviews, punctuality is key, as you lack the physical presence that usually constitutes a first impression. To make sure you're on time, copy and paste your interview links to an easily accessible spot on your desktop (many computers offer 'sticky note' functions for this purpose). This will negate the need to frantically search through your inbox for the interview link five minutes prior to your meeting, always a stressful experience.

SEE: 41 impressive questions to ask in a job interview

5. Practice virtual body language

Though many interviewers consider themselves an expert in body language during an in-person interview, virtual interviews can be a whole new ball game. After all, great posture, though definitely a confidence booster, may not impress an interviewer who can only see your head. 

During a virtual interview, make sure you maintain focus, make eye contact and pace your speaking. In virtual settings, even the smallest distractions can break your focus – and interviewers can tell when your eyes flit to a text notification in the corner of your screen. Take steps, such as disabling laptop notifications, to make sure that pesky messages don't interfere with your ability to virtually connect with your interviewer. 

Another way to help you perfect your online body language is to ask a friend to conduct a practice virtual interview with you and give you feedback. During this round, practice looking into the camera while speaking, and creating an engaging and warm presence through the screen. 

Take this opportunity to practice your speaking pace as well –  a common pitfall of virtual interviews is a time lag, which can throw a candidate's confidence and compel them to awkwardly chatter to fill the space. Practice finishing your answer calmly, clearly and cleanly, and don't be afraid of a seconds-long pause as your interviewer processes or catches up with your statement – it comes part and parcel with the virtual territory. 

Editorial standards