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The remote job market is hot. When applying to a role, your first step may be figuring out how to stand out when applying for a remote job. But what happens when you get an email to schedule that first virtual interview?

The majority of interviews now take place online, especially for remote roles. However, virtual interviews require a different approach than traditional in-person interviews.

Interviewing virtually is a skill set in and of itself. If you are a person that prides themselves on making a good strong impression face-to-face, you will need to find ways to adapt when you are confined to a 4:3 screen. Here’s how to prepare for virtual interviews so you can get that dream remote job. 

What is a virtual interview?

If you are searching for a remote job, you can expect to follow a similar interviewing process to the one outlined below. 

Some companies have multiple stages of interviews that progress from a phone interview to video interviews with different members of the hiring team; others may use the video interview as an opportunity to screen before an in-person meeting. 

For companies that only incorporate virtual interviews, it is important to think strategically about how you as a candidate are presenting yourself in each step of the process. It’s also important to understand the level of the interview, whether you’re speaking with a hiring manager or recruiter.

For example, your initial phone screening with the recruiter may be very different than the video interview with the CEO or final decision maker in the company. The conversation with the recruiter may be more conversational and friendly while the interview with the CEO may be more formal and require more preparation and company research.  

How to prepare for a virtual interview

Research the company

With remote positions, recruiters and hiring managers typically receive a higher volume of applicants and thus have more interviews. An easy way to stand out from the crowd and make a great first impression is simply doing your research on the company. Like any interview, look up the mission and values of the company you are interviewing for, and consider how you can fit into, and add, to that culture. 

Show that you’re interested and invested in the company by reviewing their website, especially the Careers and About sections. Ensure you have a basic understanding of what the company does by checking out their homepage and Product pages. Although this is a quick and easy task, it shows the interviewer that you’re serious about the role.

You may also want to look up any news developments or products that the company is developing. Showing that you have done your homework and are aware of what’s going on shows your engagement and interest in the role. 

Prepare for questions

Considering you are applying for a remote role, take time to prepare for questions that showcase how you work in a virtual environment. 

Know what to expect and prepare for when you begin interviewing for remote roles. First, go to the Glassdoor page of the company you are interviewing for and see what people have posted about the interviewing process. There, you can find questions that you may be asked. Some companies have specific questions that they always ask candidates. 

Take Google’s interview process for example. With 3 million applicants and only a 0.2% acceptance rate, Google recruiters process an overwhelming amount of applications each year. Candidates can stand out by preparing to answer some of the most common questions they ask, such as:

  • What are you most passionate about outside of work?
  • Tell me about a time when you stepped up as a leader even though you weren’t officially in a leadership role.
  • What’s the most valuable feedback you’ve ever received?
  • Tell me about a time where you and a manager were in conflict. How did you ultimately resolve the problem?
  • Which of the company values do you relate to the most?

Try different methods when answering interview questions

As you begin preparing based on common interview questions, consider different ways to structure your answers. 

You may just expect typical skills-based questions. However, there are also case, experience, and behavioral questions. Based on the type of question you are asked, you may want to try a different way of answering.

The tailoring method can be used for any of these questions. To use this method, you need to consider how you’d answer, “What can you do for us?” in the context of the question. For example, let’s say the interviewer asks how you work under pressure. You may choose to speak to a stressful event you led a team through and relate it to a situation the company you’re interviewing at may go through. 

For this method, think of specific success stories you have that highlight qualities required for the role. How can you tailor your experience and skills to this specific role so you seem like the best possible fit? 

Another method is STAR, an acronym for situation, task, action, and results. It’s a strong way to answer behavioral questions because it lays out exactly what happened and how you solved it. The STAR method is particularly great for those that tend to ramble, as it can keep you focused and mindful of the time.

Whatever method you choose to deploy, make sure you tailor your experiences and prepare for questions that speak to your remote experience: how you stay focused, manage your own work, and connect with others while being in a virtual environment.  

Preparing your space for a virtual interview 

Even before you answer any questions on a video call, your interviewer will start to develop an opinion of you. Start off strong and make a great first impression. 

What to wear to a virtual interview 

Have you ever heard of “Zoom interview” attire? While a funny concept, there is truth to the phrase. 

Since you’ll likely be sitting and your top half will only be visible, don’t worry so much about what kind of pants you wear (though you may still want to wear something that makes you feel confident and professional in case you need to stand up). 

Before deciding on a shirt, consider the kind of background you have. Are you using a virtual background? If so, stay away from any green as it may make you blend into the background. Try a crisp, professional shirt that isn’t too busy. Make sure your face is visible and you can be seen clearly. 

Where to take your call 

We know the pitfalls of working from home at this point. Maybe you don’t have a designated office space in your house. Perhaps you have kids at home that choose interesting times to pop in and talk to you. Either way, finding a designated, quiet space to conduct your video interview in is a necessity. 

Imagine starting your interview and have your would-be boss comment on your laundry airing in the background. You may not have noticed before you started…but they certainly did! 

Once you ensure that you have a quiet space, take a look at your background. Open up Zoom and start a meeting with yourself. What can you see in the frame? What’s visible? Are you centered on your screen? 

While you may be able to spruce up your background, you may also consider adding a blurring effect to your screen or using a virtual background. Press the upward arrow in the top right corner of the “Stop Video” button, and select “Blur My Background”. You may also choose to explore the background options available by selecting “Choose Virtual Background”.

If you decide to choose a virtual background, consider something that isn’t too busy so the focus remains on yourself. The blurred effect is usually more natural and preferable. 

Tips for the end of a virtual interview

A way to show further investment is by asking questions at the end. It is a good idea to think of questions beforehand that you may want to ask your interviewer. Is there a certain opportunity you are searching for? Are you curious about the team’s culture? What would the first 30, 60, 90 days look like in this specific role?

As with any interview, make sure to write a thank you note or email to the people you spoke with. If you cannot locate their emails, you can always follow up with your recruiter or main point of contact in order to get those contacts. Another way you may contact your interviewers is through an InMail on LinkedIn. 

Interviews can be daunting, but the best way to feel confident is to prepare in advance. If you can interview well in-person, these skills can absolutely be translated to a video environment. Just remember to stay professional and practice the same type of etiquette that you would in-person. 

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