Virtual Interviews

I delivered a workshop this week on ‘virtual effectiveness’ and online interviewing.  It was an interactive session with amazing input from those attending. On reviewing the feedback I thought it might be useful to share the insights from the session – some practical tips that might assist anyone attending a virtual interview now or in the near future.  I began the session with a brainstorming session – I asked the question “when it comes to online interviews – what is different?…. and what is the same?”  The ideas that were brought forward were illuminating, to say the least.  The group was innovative and optimistic in their views about online/virtual interviews. It was highlighted that online or virtual interviews present some new and unforeseen opportunities for both interviewer and interviewee.  I was extremely impressed by the ideas that came forward for instance:

  • The interviewer is more likely to do a mini check in to ensure that the technologies are compatible – this is a valuable opportunity for the interviewee to create a first impression and to connect informally with a representative from the company – this is a genuine plus.
  • The interviewer and the interviewee may be both new to this format which has the potential to create a ‘we’re all in this together mentality’ creating a more equal relationship and better potential for the interviewee to relax.
  • Virtual interviews eliminate the need to travel to the location which minimises the nerves and anxiety that might occur if we encounter a traffic jam or a roadblock on the way to the interview.
  • Reduced anxiety in those moments spent sitting outside the door of the interview location waiting to be called in.
  • The interviewee has plenty of space and opportunity to have prompt notes nearby and out of the sight of the interviewer – a second screen is also an option here.
  • The interviewee can practice (and videotape) the interview in the actual location where they will be attending the real interview.  Reviewing their performance on camera can be a big plus to achieving a successful result.

Some disadvantages of Virtual Interviews include:

  • The absence of ‘rituals’ – the standardised features of interviews that we have become accustomed to including, the handshake, the meet & greet, the glass of water, etc.  In a way these predictable milestones act as a ‘comfort blanket’ and their absence may induce anxiety for some people.
  • Body language is a big one – since we place as much as 55% emphasis on reading a person’s body language – virtual communication will present significant challenges to both interviewer and interviewee.  It is essential to amplify our communication to offset the negative impact of not being able to fully connect in the virtual setting.
  • Anxiety: For some candidates, the travel to the location may diffuse their anxiety – walking from your kitchen to an office or a bedroom is quite a different experience. 
  • Location: Ensuring that you have the perfect location for the interview may be challenging in a virtual setting – lighting, sound, backdrop & the potential for interruptions are worth considering.
  • Concern that technology will fail – this could be a distracting factor for both interviewer and interviewee. Even with the best of intention and checks – technology can still fail and let us down when it matters most.  It is worth having a plan B to ensure that you are ready to manage any technical challenges that might occur.
  • Not being good at technology: this is something that many will encounter whether you are interviewing ore being interviewed.  The only thing that will fix this is practice, practice, practice…

Overall it would seem that there is a good deal of advantages of virtual interviewing but there are almost as many disadvantages.  If you are planning an interview now or in the future it is worth considering which items from the list above will be an advantage but more importantly, select the ones that are likely to trip you up and get busy developing a new skill set that will ensure your success. 

Here are some helpful tips that I shared in my recent workshop;

  • Get acquainted with  online platforms for interviewing: Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc
  • Check your LinkedIn profile or sign up for an account – you will be able to research the company and maybe even the interviewer – a great asset in the current context
  • Research the challenges of remote working – this will help you to broaden your conversation with the interview panel  
  • Carry out a SWOT analysis on your interview location – Identify potential derailers for instance:  shared spaces/internet issues /backdrop/ interruptions
  • Practice online interviewing and do a dry run – record yourself!
  • Explore self-care & relaxation methods to reduce anxiety

In my work as a career coach, I have had to ‘shift gears’ so that I can guide my clients in the right direction. The immersion in virtual meetings and other forms of virtual collaboration is helping to bridge the gap between old ways of doing things and new virtual and sometimes daunting methods.  One thing I am convinced of based on numerous conversations with employers is that when COVID-19 becomes a distant memory some of the ‘new ways’ will become the norm.  I’m not suggesting that virtual interviewing will be used exclusively but I believe that a higher percentage of people will opt for this method going forward mainly for convenience.  Now that employers have experienced first-hand how much time can be saved by conducting virtual meetings, virtual training, and virtual interviewing – it stands to reason that it may well be a very attractive prospect going forward.  

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