by: Sarah Donaldson
Interviewing candidates virtually is becoming an increasingly popular strategy during early stages of the search process. Indeed, there are many benefits to using the virtual format (see The Pros and Cons of Virtual Interviewing Methods) at the beginning of a search while sorting through a large talent pool. Here at ECA Partners, our Project Managers typically spend much of their day in virtual interviews, and we’ve seen it all. Many candidates might believe that virtual meetings are more casual compared to in-person interviews. However, there are a few key details that candidates should keep in mind before logging in. Below are our recommendations to candidates to ensure that they stand out during the preliminary stages of the interview process.
- Update your LinkedIn Profile: LinkedIn is commonly the first place recruiters and hiring managers will go to get a sense of your background and experience. Therefore, it is important to make sure your profile is up-to-date, and it would be beneficial to highlight relevant aspects of your experience that would make you a particularly strong fit for the role.
- Technology Preparation: Make sure that the computer (or phone or tablet) is working and connected to a strong internet network. Further, candidates should use high-quality sound, video, and lighting equipment, so that hiring managers can clearly see and hear you. With a shaky internet connection and inadequate lighting, it is difficult for decision-makers to identify facial cues and get a true sense of who you are. Therefore, we recommend checking for any technology or lighting issues well before the scheduled interview time, and logging in about five minutes early so last-minute details can be adjusted.
- Background Preparation: Remember that in virtual meetings, hiring managers can potentially see into the home. So, incorporating a virtual or neutral background is a must. You wouldn’t want interviewers to see a cluttered home or any gruesome movie posters! Further, it is important to find a quiet, secluded space as other people (or pets) can also be distracting for both parties. These distracting backgrounds could subtly influence the interviewer’s evaluation of you and therefore impact your chances of moving on to the next stage (see Leveraging Psychology to Nail the Job Interview to discover more about subtle perception biases).
- Dress Professionally: While many candidates interview virtually showing just their upper body, it is best to wear professional attire from top to bottom, as you never know when you might need to suddenly stand up or reach for something (and give the interviewer a view of your pajama pants!). Dressing well will not only make you seem more professional overall, but will also signal to the interviewer that you are taking the interview seriously.
- Prepare Dialogue: Compared to in-person meetings, hiring managers are unable to read many body language cues (other than facial expressions) in virtual meetings. Therefore, the content of your speech becomes more important in projecting your interest and fit for the role. We recommend reviewing your strengths and weaknesses before the call, and having professional wording ready so you can demonstrate confidence and avoid using phrases like “um” or “like.” Preparing specific examples of your previous work experience is also good practice in highlighting the strengths you will bring to the role.
Thus, while many virtual interviews may seem more casual, some specialized preparation is necessary to help you make a good impression. Recent trends suggest that virtual interviews (particularly during the preliminary stages of a search) are here to stay, as hiring managers are increasingly restricting in-person interviews to only the top few candidates. Incorporating these habits in preparation for a virtual interview may help you stand out among the rest of the talent pool.
Sarah Donaldson is a Project Manager at ECA Partners. She can be reached at [email protected]