How to get hired from a virtual job interview, according to the experts

With lockdown restrictions set to get even tougher and home working now the new norm, virtual job interviews via Zoom are definitely here to stay for the time being.

While not having to work out where to go or how to get to a job interview on time via the Tube certainly takes some of the stress out of the process, Zoom interviews are no less nerve-wracking.

‘While to some this may seem like an easier option than walking into a face to face interview, we know that for most of us, setting up the technology and knowing what to wear and how to engage with others online can be a daunting prospect,’ says John Watkins, Director of Employability at The University of Law.

‘Virtual interviews are becoming the norm in many professional settings. Over the last two months they are also becoming increasingly short notice – I supported a student last week whose application was acknowledged with an invitation to a zoom interview only three hours later.’

But, it’s not all bad. There are some advantages to having a job interview over Zoom and there are certainly still plenty of ways to impress and prove that you are the right candidate for the job.

Below, business coach and author Sheryl Miller shares her top Zoom interview tips to help you ace any virtual job interview.

Zoom interview tips from the experts

Test the tech

Business coach Sheryl Miller says that ensuring the interview gets off to a smooth start with no technical glitches is essential: ‘Firstly, get the basics right. Do a tester of the tech prior to the interview. Download the Zoom app and check that microphones, headsets and general technology is working. Apportion 15 minutes to doing this ahead of the interview so that technical glitches can be addressed and the interview can kick off seamlessly from the outset.’

Get the light right

Sheryl also suggests sorting out your lighting to make sure a prospective employer can see you clearly throughout the interview: ‘Choose to conduct the interview in a location with good natural light; ideally at a desk that is facing a window. If that’s impossible to forge, a strategically placed bedside lamp behind your laptop will provide bright yet soft illumination.’

Keep your background basic

‘Minimalism is best,’ Sheryl says, when it comes to what should be in the background of your Zoom call.

However, there are some potential advantages to setting up your camera in a space where there is more than a white wall to be seen: ‘That said, what can be discerned from a  Zoom background adds further dimensions to the interviewer’s perceptions of you as a worthy candidate (as well as your appearance, conversation and mannerisms).

‘As well-stacked floor to ceiling bookcase system could indicate that you’re a learned person; well-read and intellectual, whereas pristine boxes of collectible Star Wars figures displayed on a dedicated shelf will show your rather niche hobbies or interests that may endear or divide. Keep things simple and the background less busy – the focus should be on you; not your worldly possessions.’

Target your small talk

‘I’d say that Zoom talks are killing the art of small talk, yet it’s such an important part of making people (both interviewer and interviewee) feel at ease,’ Sheryl says.

‘Simple things like: where are you based? What’s the weather like out there? How are you getting on these days, despite the restrictions / are you keeping safe and well? can facilitate and prime the flow of more intense discussions. If you’re not a natural conversationalist, I’d say prepare these brief questions and jot them down on a post-it note. And, of course, prep questions you want to ask, from a professional capacity, ahead of the call.’

Make the Zoom call set-up work to your advantage

While having a Zoom interview might not be the ideal scenario for a job interview, Sheryl explains that it has advantages too: ‘One of the advantages of Zoom interviews is that you can have your notes or key documents at hand to prompt you to cover important things that support your statements.

‘You could even have a hard copy of the CV next to you, with key areas highlighted so that you’re reminded to back up your claims of achievements with examples and solid narratives.’

 Mind your Zoom mannerisms

‘There may be a temptation to stare into the camera too much and overcompensate, given the disjointedness of eye and camera contact in the online space,’ Sheryl explains.

‘Just be as natural as possible; body relaxed but not slumped (try breathing deeply in and out before the call) and rove the gaze naturally as needed, as if you were engaged in a physical face-to-face interaction with the interviewer.’

Still dress to impress

‘I’d argue that Zoom is killing the shirt and tie formalities (with good reason) and I think that enables people to dress more authentically to their personalities. That said, for interviews, the safest bet is to opt for smart / casual attire,’ Sheryl said.

‘You can’t go far wrong with a shirt or top that has a collar. But in these cold months, a polo neck can look smart. You can show elements of your personality through the right accessories too – perhaps a statement necklace, ring or earrings can bring colour and uniqueness of tastes out.’

Sheryl Miller is a business coach and author of Smashing Stereotypes: How To Get Ahead When You’re The Only _____ In The Room.

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