Beyond the Basics: 5 Tips to Help You Shine in a Virtual Interview

by Natalie Turner 02/25/2021

When it comes to landing a new job, it’s important to stand out. This has always been true, but social distancing and virtual meetings have made it more difficult than ever to make a positive impression. In a virtual interview, you have to put in the extra effort to show who you are and what you can do in order to put yourself above the growing list of top contenders. In addition, many companies have adopted a “work from anywhere” model as a result of the pandemic, which means more competition for all of us.

Savvy job seekers out there likely have the logistics nailed down: You’ve done your tech checks, mock video interviews, you’re dressed right, and you’re prepared to speak to your experience and job background. But at this point, that’s par for the course in a virtual interview. So what can really take you above and beyond?

We’re breaking down 5 key tips for job seekers looking to set themselves apart from the competition and land the job they want:

1.   Do your homework before the big day

Interview prep goes way beyond reviewing the job description. Without a face-to-face interview, candidates need to do everything they can to research and understand the job and more importantly, who they are interviewing with to connect with them on a more personal level. Once your interview is confirmed, make sure you know the names and LinkedIn profiles of every person you are speaking with.

Look at their profiles and experiences and find any common ground or questions you can leverage during the interview. Do you have a similar interest or expertise in common? A similar industry? Don’t worry about going off-script. The Harvard Business Review reported that those who broke away from speaking to their resume and took time to connect with the interviewer off-topic were more likely to get offered a position overall.

2.   Share your story and what makes you different

Recruiters prep themselves for an interview based on the information you provide – your resume and cover letter. So when you hear “tell us a little bit about yourself,” use it as a prime opportunity to speak to what’s not on your resume. Your “story” should highlight what separates you from competitors. Spend some time before your interview outlining not just your skills, but your interests and hobbies. Think about yourself through a holistic lens. The combination of your personal and professional traits makes you a unique candidate. Maybe writing isn’t part of your everyday job, but it’s something you enjoy doing on the side. Or you’re a marketing professional with a keen eye for graphic design. Every candidate is unique; by putting your passions front and center, you are demonstrating that you have something special to offer as well – something your competition might not have that can give you an extra boost.

3.   Improve your communication and language skills

71% of recruiters rank communication skills as the most desirable asset in job candidates. However, engaging in a virtual setting has made it more difficult for recruiters to read candidates, as they don’t have the same access to your body language, range of expressions, and additional cues. Recruiters have no choice but to focus more on your language skills as a way of vetting how you will fit in a specific position and organization. Making sure your delivery is on point – whether that’s slowing down your speech, working on removing filler words such as like or um, or adding inflection when needed – can make you stand out as a candidate in a big way. If you don’t always feel comfortable speaking during an interview (and many of us don’t), then use the freedoms of being virtual to your benefit. Find out what makes you more comfortable, whether that’s having water handy or notes up on your screen. You can even ask a friend to do a mock virtual interview with you to get feedback on your presence and responses.

4.   Ace the follow-up

Sending a “thank you” note might seem like a no-brainer, yet only 1 in 20 candidates send one after an interview. However, close to 80% of hiring managers feel that thank you notes are helpful when deciding between candidates. Put yourself ahead of the pack by crafting a thoughtful note no later than 24 hours after your interview to keep your presence fresh on the hiring manager’s mind. Also, emailing each person that interviewed you – not just the recruiter/hiring manager – is a powerful way to show that your conversation with them was meaningful to you. It also demonstrates your initiative and willingness to go one step further than the average candidate.

One additional thing that can take you over the top: ask a thoughtful question about the job position, culture, or work environment. This helps solidify your level of engagement in the interviewer’s mind and keeps the door open to continue the conversation and build the relationship.

5.   When in doubt, flip the script

These days, there’s an abundance of virtual meetings and interviews taking place in any given week. If you’re feeling more tired during the day, you’re not alone. Studies show that “Zoom fatigue” is a real condition that may have an effect on your interview. The solution? Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Say to the interviewer, “If I was in your position, I would love a candidate who has key skills in _____.” This is a great way to change up your responses and break up the monotony. Bonus points for finding unique ways to tie it back to the position!

Talking about your achievements and what you bring to the table is a good portion of any interview, but remember, this is a hiring manager’s opportunity to learn what kind of teammate and employee you will be. Avoid the humblebrag, as studies show it can backfire. When asked in an interview, “What’s your greatest weakness?” it might be tempting to say something like, “I’m overly eager to please my customers,” but this doesn’t give insight into an actual weakness or potential area of growth. Candidates who are more likely to land the job are the ones who come off as authentic and sincere in their responses, while also showing a desire to grow. Showing your genuine side and a little vulnerability about your areas of opportunity can give you the added edge you need.

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In this new world of Zoom calls, virtual interviews, and remote learning, we’re here to provide you the insights you need to take the 2021 job hunt in stride. Ready to take your career to the next level? Reach out to get started now!