Things to know before your first virtual job interview

Glassdoor's Sarah Stoddard discusses ways to shine in your virtual interview. Preparation is everything, she says.

Virtual job interviews don't have to be scary

TechRepublic's Karen Roby spoke with Glassdoor's Sarah Stoddard about how to successfully interview for a job via video. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Karen Roby: You know, we're all working from home, of course, and this has become our reality talking through Zoom, and it doesn't matter where you are in the world, this has been an adjustment for so many of us. One of the difficult things is paying attention to some rules of thumb when it comes to being in front of a camera like this, especially for a job interview. I mean, this really changes things.

Sarah Stoddard: It's been a major adjustment for everybody, to say the least, and job interviews are already a little bit tense and stressful, so if you've never done one in a virtual setting, all of the little things to know might feel overwhelming, but there are some things that you can do to really set yourself up for success, to do an interview virtually.

SEE: 5 programming languages network architects should learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Karen Roby: Some of the things that seem like they should be obvious to people really aren't obvious to everyone because this is such a new thing for so many of us. Let's start first with the aesthetics and the things that people are seeing and, you know, eye contact and things like that, and then we'll get more into when you're actually in an interview and some of the things to remember.

Sarah Stoddard: Especially if you're doing this for the first time, like I said, it can feel a little overwhelming, you're not sure where to start, and so start with the basics. Check your internet connection, that's the first thing, especially if you're doing an interview over Zoom or Google Hangouts, you want to make sure that they can actually hear you and see you clearly.

Then you want to make sure that you're comfortable with the video technology. A lot of us have become very familiar with Zoom over the last year, connecting with friends and family while we're all social distancing, but if you haven't used it before, download the software and play around with it. Interviews, you know, there's a lot you're already thinking about, and you don't want to be concerned if they can't hear you or they can't see you.

SEE: Top American tech jobs for 2021 (TechRepublic) 

You want to choose a spot in your home with good lighting, so sit next to a window or set up some lamps in front of you so that way the interviewer can see you clearly, and minimal distractions is the key. Find a bedroom, a clear dark closet, a living room that has minimal distractions in the background and let the people know that you live with, that you're doing an interview in that space. Be like, "Hey roommate, significant other, family member, I'm doing an interview in the living room from Noon to 2, if you could keep the distractions and noise to a minimum, that would be great." Again, so you can recreate a professional experience and environment from your own home.

Karen Roby: I know you mentioned if you haven't worked on Zoom before, or Hangouts, to download it first. I know people who have practiced with friends: Set up a meeting, pretend that they're having a meeting, to see how they do. Maybe record it, go back and watch yourself. When you're sitting across from someone versus through a screen, talk a little bit about the differences there, you know, what to keep in mind, do you treat it just like you do in an in-person interview?

Sarah Stoddard: For the most part, yes, you do treat it as if it was an in-person interview. Because you want to try to find those moments of connection in your conversation because that will help you stand out, especially if these people are interviewing potentially dozens of people.

SEE: Tech jobs end the year strong (TechRfepublic)

One way to create that more personable connection is to elevate your camera to your eye level. And that can almost recreate having that face-to-face contact with the person on the other side of the Zoom call. And so that's one of the ways that you can sort of create those more personable experiences, in addition to that small talk, finding those moments of commonality, you know, if you've searched the interviewer in advance and you noticed, hey, you went to the same university, you can have a small conversation about that, too. So, find those moments where you can almost recreate meeting them in person, but in a virtual environment.

Karen Roby: I love that you said to make sure you try to prop up the camera, because there's nothing worse than looking up people's noses. Again, this is just not the norm for everyone. So it's great advice to pass on. Sarah, you know, we're almost a year into this, which is hard to believe, and there's so many changes that we've all been experiencing. For those who are trying to maybe change careers or just coming out of school and are doing this interview process, this is something that they really need to research and look into before just jumping on a call.

Sarah Stoddard: This is the part where it most emulates an in-person experience. You want to make sure that you research the company in advance, know what the company does, understand the role that you are actually applying for, do some research online into the people that you're interviewing with, search them up on LinkedIn, again, to find those commonalities. That way you can ask them custom questions, too, about their background and how it applies to the role that they're doing now.

And then make sure, like I said, ask questions throughout the interview. If there's a question that they ask and you're not sure how to respond, you can ask a clarifying question. And then at the end, typically an interviewer will ask, "OK, anything else you want to ask?" Have, I would say, at least one, if not three questions ready to go, even if you have used them in the past to show that you are engaged in the conversation. It can be, what do you love most about working at this company? Or, why do you stay in this role? What's the company culture like? Again, to show that genuine interest in the role and the company that you're applying for.

Karen Roby: Great advice, Sarah. And one thing too, don't forget the thank you notes, right?

Sarah Stoddard: Yes, don't forget them. You can have somewhat of a template, especially if you're meeting with several people, but don't copy/paste the same message for everybody. They will forward those notes to each other, just to say, "Hey, by the way, I heard from this person, they really stood out to me." You can have somewhat of a template, but customize them a little bit. Call out something from your specific conversation that stood out. You know, call something out from their experience that you were really impressed by or a project that they worked on. You were like, "Wow, I would love to be involved in something like that." Just to show that extra little attention to what seems like a small detail, but if those people are interviewing so many people, you want to find those little moments to help yourself stand out from the crowd.

Karen Roby: Customizing just takes a little bit more time, but definitely worth it. Again, some great advice for us to pass on here to our viewers and those who are reading our articles here on TechRepublic. We certainly appreciate you, Sarah, being with us, and of course we wish all the best to all of you that are out there that are trying to find new jobs or switching careers, and definitely make sure you do your research, and look things up before you just jump on a call.

Sarah Stoddard: Exactly. Research and preparation are vital when it comes to doing an interview and approaching your job search. So putting in that extra time in advance can really help you stand out.

Also see

20210127-glassdoor-karen.jpg

TechRepublic's Karen Roby spoke with Glassdoor's Sarah Stoddard about how to successfully interview for a job via video.

Image: Mackenzie Burke