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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 33, 12 - 18 November 2022

Virtual Interviews Made Easy

Sangeeta Gadhok Magan

“I have an interview coming up soon. That too, a virtual one!" This thought alone can be frightening for many, but what exactly do you fear? It is obviously the fear of rejection that constantly continues to kill your confidence. Virtual or online interviews can be even more stressful because there is not only the fear of facing recruiters, but also an added fear of facing the camera.

The initial question that comes to our mind is 'How to prepare?' For most of us, in all our days spent in schools and colleges, we were so absorbed in academics that we never had the time to work on the other and equally important facet of our personality -soft skills. We were just worried about getting good grades and make a great resume because we believed that we needed to impress the recruiters with an impressive resume to get shortlisted for any job opportunity. And of course we have never had to face a camera before. So, in this article, I will share a few important tips on how to prepare well and sail through the interview process, rather than say the saddest words of anyone's life- 'I wish I had!' Because if you prepare well, there is nothing to fear! In most online interviews, in just 20 minutes you have to prove yourself in a group of 6-10 people. This is not a trivial task. At the outset, let us understand the difference between an offline and online recruitment process. The recruitment methods have undergone a sea change and although face to face interviews are preferred even today, online interviews are also gaining popularity. So we better start gearing up and become ready to face the camera and the recruiters in an online interview. While online or video interviewing limits the scope of the myriad tried-and-tested methods for making a good impression, there are many more ways to wow your potential employer over an online interaction. So, let's understand some important aspects:

Grooming Matters:  You cannot afford to slack; you need to be even more diligent and look as professional as you would in an offline interview. Because the standards remain the same. You cannot carry casual attire even if you are not in a face to face interview. Now that your face is the focus of the camera, it is crucial that you pay even more attention to your grooming. In fact, I would advise you to wear your formal shoes as well. Although these may not be visible in an online interview, our attire always has a psychological impact on our confidence.

Background Matters:  Would you like your prospective boss come to your unorganized or untidy room at your home? I am sure the answer is, 'No'. Then why should you let them see the same over a video call. An unmade bed, a cluttered couch … all of these connotes information about you to the interviewer, and none of it is good. The first impression counts and stays. Whether you like it or not, unconscious biases can creep into the decision making process. So, find a neat and clean place at your home where the background is not only uncluttered but also not flashy. A simple light coloured wall behind you is most impressive; a book shelf with neatly arranged books or just a plain wall would do wonders. A very crucial advice is that this is absolutely not the time for your favorite virtual background or any type of filter at all. Stay natural. Where the visual background matters, the background sound also is crucial. A very noisy fan or sound of music or television, sound of family or kids, or pets can be distracting for you as well as the recruiter. Silence your phone; you do not want your WhatsApp messages diverting your attention. Hence, the neat and clean place also needs to be a quiet one, so that you eliminate all distractions both for yourself as well as your prospective employer.

Lighting Matters: Lights, Camera, Action! Yes, light matters, you do not want to be interviewed looking like you're cowering in the dark. Light falling on your face as well as a well lit up background gives a positive feel about you. I am very sure, you want the recruiters to view you in the best light possible; both figuratively and literally. During your video call, always remember to light yourself from the front. Allow natural light to fall on your face if possible, for extra light, use table lamps. However, be careful with the positioning of the light, as wrong angles may cause a glare on your eyeglasses. Avoid the usage of florescent lights.

Non-Verbal Language Matters: Undoubtedly, the words you speak matter, but it has been researched and proven time and again that non-verbal language matters as well and at times matters more. In a face to face interview, the way you enter a room, the way you wish, the way you sit and talk, speaks more about you as a person. Similarly, even in an online interview, the way you sit in front of the camera, your facial expressions, and how you speak matters. In fact here the focus is much more on your facial expressions. How to maintain eye contact with your recruiters is a big question in an online process. The answer is very simple, in fact more simple than a face to face interview; look directly into your camera. Making eye contact, both in a face to face and in an online process, helps foster a sense of unpretentious connection and attentiveness; it can make all the difference when trying to hit it off with your interviewer. Also crucial is to stay focused and visibly engaged. The only way to show the recruiters that you are motivated and engaged is by practicing active listening. Do not sit with a 'freeze image' kind of a look. The look on an individual's face is often the first thing anyone will see and it is even more observed and analysed during an online interaction. A smile, frown, or grimace tells a lot about your mood, your confidence and how the subsequent conversation will go. Peter Drucker, AustrianAmerican author and educator, had it very rightly, "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." Therefore show some nodding of your head to give affirmations of understanding while the recruiters talk, and ask clarifying questions when necessary. These affirmations show you are actively listening and are engaged in the process, subsequently showcasing your enthusiasm in the process and the profile.

Paralanguage Matters: Also crucial is your paralanguage, most importantly your rate of speech and the modulation. A very high rate of speech can portray nervousness, so monitor your speech. Do not go too slow, the recruiter will be disinterested and do not go too fast, the recruiter may get irritated. The correct modulation of your speech shows you are confident, also showcases your enthusiasm. No one likes to hear a dead voice, a flat monotone. High energy level of candidates is always contagious and appreciated by the panellists. Your bigger challenge during the interview is keeping the conversation lively and going so that the recruiters are not bored listening to you.

Smile to Impress: Do not forget to smile! A smile is the weapon you have with you to ward off any negativity during an interview; it is also the best symbol of confidence. Not only does it create a good impression on the interviewer but it can also make you happy and feel positive during the interview. In today's job market, recruiters do not just look for qualifications anymore; they look for the right person with a level of energy who would match and gel with their workplace environment. However, do not fake a smile, whether you realize it or not, the fake detector is always on. An interviewer can tell if you are faking a smile, which will destroy all your efforts. The best way is to find out what makes you excited about the job profile so your enthusiasm and energy is genuine. You also do not have to have a smile on your face at all times during your interview. This may show a lack of understanding or focus. Only at appropriate times during the interview, you should flash a smile.

Technology Matters: Practice beforehand to become an expert on whatever platform is chosen for your interview (WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc). Leave nothing to chance; if you have not used a particular platform before, download the interface and practice the features by doing some mock calls with a family member or a friend. This will ensure you avoid any technology related breakdowns during the interview. Do a speed test of your Wi-Fi. Poor internet can mean poor communication. It is imperative to ensure your internet is working at an optimum speed; you may even need to ask your family members or roommates to log out while you are in your interview. Virtual interviews can go horribly wrong if you are forgetting you are muted while speaking and even worse is unmated when the recruiter is speaking or having some strange filter stuck on your face because you chose a virtual background.

Downsides of Online Interviews: Although a virtual interview process has quite a few upsides to it, like being in your comfort zone, rather than rushing through traffic snarls and making it to the venue in time, and many more, the virtual process also has downsides. Technical glitches can pose a major threat to your successfully nailing the interview. Adding to technical problems like, slow internet speed, there are many more glitches that you need to ensure do not happen or those that you can easily avoid. Other downsides include your inability to visit physical offices, meet potential teammates, observe and understand the company's culture. Last but not least, remote opportunities and virtual interviews have given access to more people, mean more competitors for you. For better or worse, virtual interviews and remote hiring are here to stay. While there are many unsurpassed advantages to this, there are many challenges as well. The process may be relatively new, however, you need to do your bit to ace the nuances of a virtual interview and nail it. Now that you have understood the vital aspects of the virtual interviews, in the next part of this series on 'Virtual Interviews Made Easy', I am going to discuss about Group Discussion and Personal Interview tips. Till then, keep reading; keep learning that will keep you shining! And as I always say to all, 'Carry your sunshine with you!'. You are sure to win hearts and your hard work will pay off! Remember there is no magic wand, only your persistent hard work can be the key to your success.

(The author is a Professor at IMS Ghaziabad. She is also a trainer, mentor, and writer. She can be reached at sangeeta 03m@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.