How to Nail the Virtual Interview: Tips for the Modern Job Seeker

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Rachel Off Duty: How to Nail the Virtual Interview

So, you secured the interview, and you got the invite from your prospective employer. Congrats! The hardest part – breaking through the noise of hundreds of other job applications – is behind you.

But, the virtual interview is not an excuse to not bring your A-game.

As virtual interviews become more common, it is essential to know how to prepare for them and how to make a lasting impression!

If it’s been a while since you last interviewed for a job, or if you’re brand new to corporate life, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of navigating a virtual interview.

But don’t let that stop you!

With the right preparation and mindset, you can nail your digital interview and stand out as a top candidate in a virtual job search. Let’s dive in.

First, What is a Virtual Interview Anyway?

A virtual job interview, otherwise known as a digital interview or a remote job interview, is an interview that takes place over video conferencing software such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. As digital technology improves and more industries opt for distributed workforces, virtual interviews are becoming increasingly common.

If you’re applying for an in-person role, a virtual interview is often the first step for screening potential candidates. Or, if you’re applying for a remote or hybrid role, a virtual interview is conducted similarly to an in-person interview and acts as an integral part of the company’s communication culture. 

For some, virtual interviews can feel less daunting because you don’t have to worry about the usual factors like traffic, wardrobe, or meeting face-to-face. For others, virtual interviews can feel even more intimidating because you don’t get to rely on body language, and you risk circumstances out of your control like a spotty wifi connection or technical issue. 

Generally speaking, virtual interviews are no harder than in-person interviews, and the most important thing in any interview is to be yourself. But, virtual interviews do have their own nuances that you should familiarize yourself with and prepare for ahead of time.

Below, read on for my tips on how to prepare for an online interview.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Virtual Interview

Before the Interview

Rachel Off Duty: How to Nail the Virtual Interview

Test Your Equipment to Ensure It Is Working Correctly

Use a wifi testing tool like Speedtest to check the internet speed wherever you plan to be taking your virtual interview. While in theory, you should be fine with a speed as slow as 5-10 Mbps up/down, I personally feel safer around 30 mbps+. Whether or not you’re on a personal network or a shared network will also factor in, so make sure you are choosing an environment that you can rely on.

Next, check your video display. Place your camera at eye level and check to make sure the video is clear and not lagging. Your face should be well-lit, without any harsh shadows. 

Test your microphone by recording a short audio clip and playing it back to ensure it’s clear with no background noise. Or, better yet, call a friend or family member and ask them how you sound. Sometimes, using the mic on a pair of quality headphones can be better for audio clarity than the mic built into your laptop. 

Lastly, confirm that the software you’ll use for the interview is updated and properly installed. Familiarize yourself with its features and how to use them. One time, I didn’t realize until minutes before a call that we would be using Microsoft Teams, and I didn’t have the app downloaded onto my computer, nor did I have any idea how to get my video to work. The call ended up being my interviewer and my black box. Don’t make my same mistake!

Pro Tip: Make sure your laptop is fully charged in case the power goes out. Additionally, be prepared to use your cell phone as a wireless hotspot if the internet goes down, too. 

Choose a Quiet Location With Good Lighting and Minimal Distractions

Rachel Off Duty: Tips for a Successful Virtual Interview

When choosing a location for your virtual job interview, make sure it’s quiet and free of distractions.

Listen for any noise and avoid areas with heavy street traffic if possible. If you work from a shared space, book a meeting room or phone booth ahead of time. If you work from home, tell your spouse, family, or roommates about your interview so they can prepare accordingly.

Good lighting is also important for effective non-verbal communication with the interviewer. Position yourself to face the light source, like a window, for optimal lighting. Use natural light whenever possible but avoid harsh direct sunlight. If natural light isn’t sufficient, use a desk lamp or ring light directed towards your face. 

Avoid backlighting, as it can cast shadows on your face and make you hard to see. Test your setup beforehand to ensure you’re well-lit and visible.

Dress as You Would for an In-Person Interview

Even in a virtual interview, dressing appropriately from head to toe (that’s right, no yoga pants!) will help you feel confident and prepared.

It’s tempting to wear pajama bottoms or even no pants at all, but imagine the horror if you need to stand up unexpectedly and your pajama shorts make a surprise appearance on camera!

Something about wearing an outfit we feel confident in instantly makes us feel like we’re in boss mode. The virtual interview is no exception.

Research the Company and the Position You Are Applying For

Before your interview, research the company’s mission, vision, values, and recent developments to demonstrate your interest. Check out their website, recent articles, press releases, and LinkedIn posts to understand their products, services, and current happenings. This knowledge will help you show how you can contribute to their success.

Also, even if you’ve seen them before, study up on the job requirements and responsibilities and match them with relevant examples of your work during the interview.

Network With Current and Former Employees

Networking can provide valuable insights into the company culture and expectations.

LinkedIn is an excellent platform for this. You can contact current or former employees, politely asking if they can share some insights about their experience at the company. Be professional and respectful of their time, and thank them for any information they provide.

Attending industry events or company-held webinars can also offer opportunities to connect with employees. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the company, not to ask for favors or an endorsement. If someone offers to refer you in the process, it’s a bonus, but don’t expect it outright!

Triple-Check Your Emails From the Recruiter

When preparing for a job interview, pay close attention to any specific guidelines or requests from the recruiter or hiring manager. This shows your respect for the process and attention to detail. 

For example, if they request a specific video conferencing software, or ask you to prepare some ‘homework’ ahead of time, follow their instructions and do your due diligence. Failure to follow the little details can lead to a less-than-stellar first impression. 

Prepare Your Questions for the Interviewers

Preparing questions for your interviewers is a crucial step that shows your interest in the company and role. Your questions should demonstrate genuine curiosity and a deep understanding of the job, team dynamics, culture, growth opportunities, and future plans. 

Avoid generic questions and focus on specifics that tie into your potential role or the interviewer’s experiences. An interview is a two-way conversation, so your questions can leave as much of an impression as your answers.

During the Interview

Rachel Off Duty: Tips for a Successful Virtual Interview

Position Your Camera Strategically

The position of your camera can significantly influence how you’re perceived during a virtual interview.

To project confidence, place the camera at eye level if you can. This helps you maintain a neutral posture, preventing you from straining upwards or looking downwards, which can appear unprofessional.

A laptop stand or a stack of books can aid in achieving the desired camera height.

Additionally, ensure you’re centered in the frame and that there’s enough light in the room to illuminate your face entirely.

Be Prepared to Answer Common Interview Questions

One advantage of the virtual interview? The easy cheat sheets!

Post-it notes on your desk or Google Docs pulled up on your laptop can be beneficial as memory joggers during your preparation.

Write down key talking points such as your strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, and other important information. Place these notes in a visible area where you can glance at them regularly without distracting you from being present during the conversation.

These should serve as reminders, not scripts. The goal is to spark your memory and enable you to speak naturally and confidently about these topics rather than regurgitate rehearsed sentences.

Demonstrate Your Remote Work Competencies

You may be very well prepared to speak about your qualifications for the job or industry you’re applying for. But during a virtual interview for a remote job, you may be asked about your remote working abilities, too.

Be prepared to discuss how you manage your time, stay organized, and communicate with team members in a virtual environment. 

Share the remote work tools and platforms you use for project management, video conferencing, and collaborative work. Highlight any experiences you have in overcoming unique remote work challenges and thriving, such as managing different time zones or working independently. 

This is your chance to showcase your adaptability and resilience, which are crucial traits for successful remote work.

Use Body Language to Convey Active Listening

Even in an online interview for a job, your body language can communicate a lot.

To show that you’re actively listening, maintain eye contact with the camera or the person speaking as much as possible. Nodding your head occasionally can indicate that you understand and are engaged with what’s being said. If you find it hard not to look at yourself, minimize or close the window so you can focus solely on the interviewer(s).

Additionally, leaning slightly towards the screen can show your interest and eagerness. Just ensure that all your actions appear natural and not exaggerated – subtlety is key.

Last but not least, be sure to call out if your setup makes you look like you’re not engaged. When I’m on calls and taking notes, it often looks like I’m focused elsewhere because I have my video conferencing app open on my left screen, and my notes open on my right. To mitigate any concerns I might not be paying attention, I always let the person I’m speaking to know that I’m taking notes of important information from our discussion. Better safe than sorry! 

Communicate Any Technical Issues Politely

If your interviewer’s audio cuts out or you mishear a question, it’s essential to address the issue politely.

You could say, “I’m sorry, but your audio seemed to cut out for a moment. Could you please repeat the question?” or “I apologize, but I didn’t quite catch that last part. Could you please repeat it?”

On the flip side, if you anticipate any technical issues on your end, it’s absolutely okay to let the interviewer know. Inform them of a wifi concern or of the construction happening next door. Further, give them a backup plan or ask for one so you can continue your conversation if interrupted. A cell number or quick access to the Zoom call from your phone will usually do the trick.

Address Interviewer(s) by Name When Speaking

As someone who works in sales, trust me – one of the easiest ways to establish rapport, build persuasion, and ensure people are listening to you during virtual calls is by remembering, and using, their names!

There’s something psychological at play here too – hearing your own name makes you feel represented and seen, and subsequently, gets you to pay closer attention. Don’t overdo it, but do use your interviewer’s name from time to time when asking questions, especially when thanking them at the end of the call. If there are multiple interviewers, use their names in tandem with asking customized questions for each person.

After the Interview

Follow Up With a Thank You Email to the Interviewer

Just like you would with an in-person interview, make sure you follow up with a thank you note after your virtual interview! Having been on both sides of the table, I believe that the sooner you say thank you, the better the impact. Try to follow up within the first 24 hours, especially if you have follow-up comments or questions so that you remain top of mind.

In your post-interview follow-up, consider the following key points:

  • Express Gratitude: Begin your message by thanking your interviewer(s) for their time and the opportunity to learn more about the role and the company.
  • Reiterate Interest: Reinforce your enthusiasm for the role. You will want to express how you remain convinced you’re an excellent fit for the position.
  • Highlight Key Discussion Points: Recapitulate key aspects of the conversation that stood out to you. This will show that you were attentive and engaged during the interview.
  • Address Any Outstanding Queries: If there are any questions or points you feel should have been addressed better during the interview, the follow-up is your chance to clarify.
  • Offer Availability for Further Discussion: Close the message by offering your availability for further questions or discussions. This shows your proactive nature and eagerness to move forward.

Here is an example interview thank you email you might customize and send after your virtual interview:

“Dear [Interviewer’s Name],

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today! I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, and I am even more excited about the prospect of joining your team. My skills in [mention skills] will significantly contribute to [specific project or role-related task]. Should you have any more questions, please feel free to reach out.

I look forward to our next steps.


[Your Name]”

Remember, your follow-up is a courtesy and another opportunity to showcase your qualifications and enthusiasm for the role. Don’t skip this step!

High-Impact Ways to Stand Out in a Virtual Job Search

Aside from nailing your virtual interview, there are other things you can do to help impress your prospective employers and increase your odds of standing out.

Develop an Online Presence

Creating a personal website or online portfolio can easily showcase your skills, experience, and personality to potential employers. Sharing industry-related content through blog posts, videos, or online discussions can also establish you as a thought leader in your field. 

Ensure your LinkedIn is also up-to-date with your job history, bio, and any recommendations you’ve received from peers. If your other social media platforms are public and searchable, ensure your content is safe enough to be viewed by a future boss. 

Remember, employers may check your online presence before making hiring decisions, so check in on the impression yours might make ahead of time. When in doubt, Google yourself and see what comes up!

Network Like a Pro

When searching for new job opportunities, expand your network and attend virtual career fairs, webinars, and industry events both on and offline. Ask for informational interviews when you can. And, don’t be afraid to reach out to your connections for referrals or recommendations, as many companies offer referral bonuses. Avoid asking for a referral from people you aren’t personally connected with though, unless they offer. 

Going above and beyond to seek out these conversations with prospective coworkers gives you valuable insight into company culture and the hiring process. Keep up the effort and you’ll be on your way to finding your dream job!

Need help with how to network or where to start? Queue up my 5 Tips for Starting to Network next. I even have tips on how to organize your own networking group!

Rachel Off Duty: Tips for a Successful Virtual Interview

Customize Your Applications

No matter what, never forget to customize your applications when applying for a new job! Take the time to tailor each application to the specific role, company, and culture you are applying to. 

This shows your attention to detail and genuine interest in the role. Use keywords from the job description and highlight relevant experience and skills that make you a strong fit for the position.

Be Proactive

Finally, be proactive in your job search. If there is a company you are interested in working for, reach out to them directly through email or LinkedIn to express your interest and inquire about opportunities, even if the job opening you’re hoping for doesn’t yet exist. Ask if you can be kept in mind or when they anticipate a new headcount might be opening up. 

Navigating a virtual interview might seem daunting, but with careful planning, active networking, and continuous learning, you can turn this into an opportunity to land your dream job.

Hope these virtual interview tips help you land your next big role! What other questions do you have about preparing for a virtual interview? Let me know in the comments below!

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Rachel Off Duty: How to Nail the Virtual Interview
Rachel Off Duty: How to Nail the Virtual Interview

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

Recent Adventures:
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