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Making it to the interview round of anything can bring a real mixed bag of reactions: excitement, certainty, dread, insecurity, racing heart. And when an application process can make you feel uncertain about your qualifications and skills, you somehow have to figure out how to set that aside and bring a confident presence to that interview with you! To help you with that confidence, we've compiled some information and tips about our new normal: virtual interviews.
Virtual interviews have been around since before the COVID pandemic, but this past year has really put a spotlight on the necessity for a different kind of interview preparation. No matter whether you're applying for your dream job, an MBA program, or college, these tips are going to launch you in the right direction. Layer in our advice to your standard interview prep (practice answering interview questions ahead of time, read up on the company or school, prepare questions to ask the interviewer, have a notepad handy to jot notes as you go, make sure you have water to sip as needed), and we think you'll be able to bring a great performance.
Good luck, we're rooting for you!
Set the mood.
When you attend an in-person interview, you just have to think about what you look like and the words that come out of your mouth. You can’t control your environment because you’re the guest. However! When it comes to virtual interviews, you’re inviting the interviewer(s) into YOUR space. All of a sudden, you’re playing a hosting role. This means you get to think about what you look like and the words that come out of your mouth, but you also get to control even more factors. For example, you can choose which room you’re in, what chair you’re sitting in, what the lighting is like, what’s behind you… and you can choose according to what will set you up for success.
Make sure the room you're in is as quiet as possible with as few distractions as possible. Do your best to eliminate background noises and possible interruptions.
Make sure you're comfortable, but not SO comfortable that you look like you are lounging! If your interview is more than an hour or two, make sure you'll be comfortable for the full time.
Make sure you're clearly visible to those interviewing you! Natural, balanced light is ideal, and if you want to make sure you're covered, you can get a ring light for under $25 -- believe me, it's worth it! Here are some of our favorite options: great price, great versatility, great portability.
Pay attention to the aesthetic and deeper meaning of what's behind you. Blank walls can be pretty uninteresting, but you don't want something cluttered, busy, or distracting. If you choose to have things in your background, put some thought into it and choose things that convey the image you want to project in the interview. If you're tempted to use a virtual background, keep it professional and bear in mind that it can distort the image, especially if you move or gesture a lot.
Dress for success.
Even though the interview is virtual, make sure you’re dressing up as if you’re attending an in-person interview. This means outfit choice (and even shoes if they make you feel dressed for the outside world!), hair/makeup as personally chosen, and accessories to complete your look. The more you put into your outfit and feeling dressed for the part, the more that will translate with your confidence and apparent preparation. So even if the virtual interview ends up being voice only, you still get the psychological benefit of dressing the part!
Connect – in all the ways.
Make sure your internet connection is as strong and stable as possible to avoid interruptions to the interview. When speaking with the interviewer(s), connect as personably as you can even though it’s virtual. You can’t shake hands, but you can smile, make eye contact, and use interpersonal skills to your advantage nonetheless. Remember to silence your other technology while being interviewed so as not to break up the flow with a rogue text message alert!
Keep in mind that since the interview is not live, you may need to over-engage a bit to compensate for the lack of in-person energy. This might mean over-emote with your facial expressions or tilt your head to show listening or interest. Don't go so far as to be a caricature, but make sure your personality is showing through the screen. Having questions prepared to ask the interviewer is also a great way to show your curiosity and emphasize a personal connection.
Do a dry run.
Practice makes perfect, right? So if you can, do a dry run (either talking to yourself, or get a friend to pose as the interviewer on screen). Record yourself so that you can watch your "performance" and adjust as necessary. This will help you frame up the aesthetics of your look and your background and lighting, practice where to look so you're nailing the eye-contact with the other person (look into the camera rather than at their face on the screen!), and give you a sense of control for the real interview.
On Interview Day... and Beyond.
Make sure you're in the right headspace before you start the interview! Maybe take a run to get out the jitters, practice some questions out loud, and make sure you have water and a notepad on hand when you start. You've got this!
Once your interview has come and gone, make sure to remember to send out thank you emails to anyone involved. It's a classy touch and helps keep you top-of-mind as the decisions get made.
How JEM can help you.
Sometimes all the internet research in the world isn't enough to convince you that you've got everything handled. If you want some extra help to really nail your interview, JEM Achievement offers a Mock Interview Package that will allow you to do the dry runs for look and style as well as prepare your content answers. You'll get strategic feedback, pep talks, and so much more. If this sounds like something you need in your life, get in touch with us. We can't wait to meet you!