Virtual job interviews are changing the hiring game, fast becoming the first round in the formal interview process for today’s job candidates. This trend is seen through its dramatic rise in the military transition and recruitment world, where it is anticipated that most every organization holding on-location hiring conferences will switch to virtual conferences within the next few years. The practice is thriving across industries.

What is driving the trend? 

Technology enables it but the reasons and benefits propelling virtual interviews are having a profound impact on professionals making career moves, on hiring companies, and on recruiters who vet candidates before presenting them to clients. Virtual meetings eliminate time and costs from hiring and job search processes. Candidates are able to explore employers and opportunities while maintaining a comfortable work-life balance and upholding their current roles. Employers are able to meet more candidates and fill roles faster with minimal disruptions to their work days.
For all involved, gathering around the table is a matter of powering on the desktop or laptop.

Are virtual interviews better than in-person interviews?

Virtual interviews in many ways provide the same experience as in-person meetings. During the interview, which typically lasts 45 minutes to an hour, a candidate’s presence, personality, experience and understanding of the job become evident. The employer’s approach, manner, and visible and verbal queues are also on full display.
That said, there is one big difference between virtual and in-person interviews. Since virtual interviews are most often a candidate’s first exposure to a company, these events readily determine which candidates are chosen to move forward in the interview process. Success favors virtually astute candidates.

Following are some tips on how to put your best self forward – virtually.

1) Find out who is participating

It’s wise to know in advance with whom you will be interviewing. Will it be a one-on-one interview or will your screen bring you face-to-face with a panel of people? Find out the names and titles of everyone who may be involved, and their roles in the company. Then research those people. This will help you in two ways. You will be somewhat familiar with the people on your screen. You will also be able to anticipate questions and prepare answers for people whose divisions or departments may be impacted by your potential role in the company.

2) Make sure the technology works 

Most employers have preferred web conferencing platforms. Once your interview is scheduled, the employer or their recruiting firm will provide your log-in link, credentials and phone number. Check immediately to ensure your computer or device can access the platform. You may need to download an application. It’s important that your own system software is up to date, that your computer is not set to fall sleep after 30 minutes, and your Internet connection is reliable. A broadband connection and a power source connection are recommended. It’s also good to have a back-up device – maybe your cell phone or tablet with a wireless connection. Even with the best preparation, connections drop, sound cuts out and other technical issues can disrupt an interview, so have the phone number handy in case you need to call the employer.

3) Do a dry run and record it

You will perform better if you know what the other party sees and hears on their side of the interview. Do a mock virtual interview with a friend, record it, and see where you can improve. It’s critical to look directly at the camera of your computer or device – not the person on your screen. This ensures you are making eye contact. Be conscious of your body language, your posture and voice. Sit straight, keep your arms and hands relaxed, and speak in a calm and professional manner. It’s also imperative to keep your answers on point. If you choose to sit behind a desk, you want to project a balanced presence, so make sure the back of the chair doesn’t tower over your head. Ideally, you should be no more than 20 inches from your screen. Is the lighting adequate on your face? Is your desk organized? What’s on the credenza and wall behind your desk? Are your voice and diction clear? All of these factors matter.

4) Treat it like an in-person interview

You have researched the company and the role, and you’re mentally prepared. What else should you treat the same as going to an in-person interview? Wear professional attire, just as you would dress if you were walking through the company’s physical doors. Also, project a business-like atmosphere by choosing a well-lit room with natural light, or situate a lamp behind your computer to cast good light on your face. Eliminate sources of noise and distraction by turning off phone ringers, music and televisions. If you are interviewing from home, let other residents and children know you should not be disturbed, and place pets in a separate area.

5) Let your personality show 

In addition to required skills and experience, today’s employers are looking for good cultural fits when hiring new people, especially candidates who will assume major responsibility and lead others. Your personality and character traits are of significant value and may be the biggest deciding factors that move you to the next round of interviews. Employers know they can train someone on any skill. They also know they can’t train a good personality. Let yours shine.

6) Have supports handy

Keeping a glass of water close by is smart. Same with a box of Kleenex in case you need to sneeze. It happens! Keep these (and a trash can) out of camera view but within arm’s reach. If you need to reach for either during an interview, a simple, “Excuse me for a moment,” is in order. A plain yellow pad and pen will allow you to jot down anything the employer might ask of you for follow up. That said, be sparing in your note-taking. Keep your eyes on the camera so the employer knows you’re paying attention. Do not use the writing pad or any other paper for a cheat sheet, and don’t play with the pen. Watch your audience. Stay fully engaged.

Acing a virtual interview means being informed, familiar with the forum, professional and prepared. I hope these tips provided some valuable insights, and I wish you the very best for your upcoming interviews and job search.

Based in Washington, DC, Kate Keefer manages Lucas Group Military Hiring Conferences and assists the Military Transition Division in vetting highly skilled candidates for mid-tier to Fortune 500 companies nationwide.