Ace your virtual interview

Ace your virtual interview with these best practices and tips

With the rise of digitalization and the onslaught of a pandemic, a surge in the request for virtual interviews has surfaced. If you are currently on the job hunt, you are highly likely to be called up to a virtual interview rather than a physical one. This is not something we can escape from given the circumstances now so take this time to properly prepare yourself in advance to ace your virtual interview.

This article will discuss some of the best practices you should observe to help you ace your virtual interview or presentation. This includes topics such as:

  • Elevating your presence in a virtual meeting
  • How to keep your audience engaged in a virtual presentation
  • Video communications best practices

As offices adopt work-from-home practices in full force, virtual interviews are becoming more routine. What worked well in a physical interview may not offer the same results through a computer screen.

Elevating your presence to ace your virtual interview

Focus on the camera

Direct eye contact is a vital way to emphasize your point. However, we all know that it is very difficult to stare or keep your attention at the camera the whole time throughout your presentation. However, in a virtual interview, what you need is to focus all your attention on the video camera to ensure that you bring your point across. You want to make that impact! Don’t divert your attention because of the expressions shown by the panel of interviewers. At the same time, only speaking into the camera will not make your presentation flow naturally but rather, seem a little awkward and uncomfortable.

It is human nature to turn our attention to the people talking or moving on the screen. However, this can be changed over time. With all things that require skill, practice is key. It is uncomfortable at the beginning, but as you clock in the practice of looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, you will get more comfortable with the action. Hence, a useful reminder is to not wait until the last minute before your presentation to practice.

Make full use of the engagement functions on the platform

The chat window and other engagement functions on the virtual communication platform are opportunities for you to elevate your presence, add dimension to your presentation and demonstrate your full attention. Don’t take the chat window as just a discussion platform. Here are some ways to make use of these untouched functions in your virtual interview:

  • Send links to the slides or reference materials in the chat for interviewers to easily refer to them.
  • Respond with reactions or questions such as the hand raise emoji on zoom if you want to speak but is afraid you might interrupt the interviewer speaking.
  • Create polls to encourage user engagement and learn of interview’s preferences.

These are some ways to engage your interviewers from behind the computer screen. When you pose questions or polls, it ensures a certain amount of participation and attendance. You are also able to track who is listening and participating via the comments in the chat or polls and allows you to direct questions to engage those paying less attention to your presentation.

Remove all distractions to ace your virtual interview

This point is especially salient in a virtual interview as this would be the least of your concerns in a physical meeting. When your interview is conducted physically, you have a live audience, hence removing the worry of talking while muted or excessive noise in your surroundings. On the contrary, when you conduct a meeting from the comforts of your own home, your pets could be running around, children screaming and shouting for attention, construction in your neighborhood, just to name a few distractions.

These distractions could easily be a pitfall of your virtual presentation or interview. You want to leave a strong impression because of the content you delivered and not for what went wrong.

Thus, here are some suggestions for you:

  • Mute whenever you are not speaking to shut out any unwanted or sudden noises.
  • Turn off your camera when you are doing something else or visually distracting.
  • Leave your children or pets in another room or distract them with something if you have a major presentation to conduct.

These are just some points that can be easily carried out. As for the point on supervising your children and pets, employers and colleagues understand that parenting and presenting cannot happen simultaneously. If it just a regular announcement meeting or brainstorming session, it should be fine if your children or pets decide to join in the fun. However, beware not divert your colleague’s full attention or it might serve as a distraction instead.

Keeping your audience engaged in a virtual interview

Leveraging your voice and embracing the pauses

Your voice is your instrument. You control what comes out in many ways such as tone, silence, pitch, volume, etc. A great presentation requires a good mix of these elements to reinforce your point.

A monotonous voice is magnified during a virtual presentation. This can be prevented by practicing speaking in front of the mirror to build up your confidence and recording yourself while speaking. When you record your speech, you can playback and identify your strengths and weaknesses. There are also various vocal box warm-ups that you can perform that will make a difference when you are speaking.

Silence is golden. Pausing at the right moments helps to amplify the effect of a message you are bringing across. It allows the audience to take a moment to digest what you have just said or explained. Pausing before the introduction of a big concept can also build anticipation. Speaking for too long or engaging in a monologue can discourage participation and encourage tune-outs. Therefore, introduce the concept of pausing.  

Starting and ending on time

Connectivity issues come hand in hand with working from home. A virtual interview is still an interview and is not a reason to be tardy. If there is a large panel of interviewees and some have yet to enter the room, this is a suggestion for you.

You should try to enter the room about 15-20 minutes before the interview starts and begin on time, hence our suggestion is to prepare two separate openings. A brief one to capture the attention and engage those who have joined the room on time, while your actual opening is to be used when everyone has joined the meeting. This brief introduction could be in the form of polls, or questions posed to the audience to keep them engaged. It is additional work, but gives off a professional image and shows that you are well prepared.

Ending on time is a given. No one wants to listen to a long presentation, and a person’s attention span will dwindle as time passes. Always remember to keep your content short and to the point. Keeping your virtual audience engaged is not a simple feat. Hence, end off on time and proceed with the Q&A segment. It is important to notice signs where your audience is tuning out and make necessary adjustments to keep you from talking to yourself.

Visually reinforcing key points

In a virtual interview, it is difficult for your audience to observe your hand gestures and body language. Therefore, it is important to reinforce your message and capture their attention with word pictures, simplified slides and purposeful movement. In order to prevent confusion on any points you have previously mentioned, it is a good practice to always prepare a summary slide with the key concepts you have covered before moving on.

In a virtual presentation, your words must carry more meaning and depict more as compared to a live presentation. An easy way to think of this is to envision creating pictures with your words.

For example:

  • It looks like a bar of chocolate.
  • feels as soft as cotton candy, as smooth as silk, etc.
  • “It weighs xx kg/pounds” VS “It is very heavy”

You want to avoid being too broad or general in your descriptions. A good way to spice up your speaking would be to include humor, personal stories, unique comparisons, metaphors, idioms, etc. There are many examples that you can draw upon from famous speakers all over the world such as John F. Kennedy’s “It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Purposeful movements such as slide changes or web tools to guide your audience’s eyes can work in your favor if used in moderation. Avoid jerky animations or rapid transitions because you never know what device your audience is tuning in with. The smaller the screen, the more time it will take to load the same graphic. Your animations could work fine on your computer, but they might appear out of sync on a mobile device. Hence, it would be good to keep your slide designs simple with limited animations.

Best practices in virtual interviews

Your video should be on throughout the interview unless your appearance or background is inappropriate or disturbing. It is important to ensure that you have tested your audio and video before entering the call as a professional form of conduct. A point to note is to adjust your camera such that your shoulders can be seen, and if you need better quality audio, plug in a headset.

It is good practice to find a spot at home with decent lighting. Avoid dim settings such that your face is hidden under the shadows or too bright. As your surroundings say a lot about you, make sure that there are no dirty laundry piles, unmade bed, etc. to give off the impression that you are not serious with this interview. If you are using a virtual background to hide your surroundings, it is important to ensure that it is professional looking background such as a solid color, or a HD image without any disturbing or distracting images.

Preparing for your presentation with the acronym “PREP” or the “Pros” vs “Cons” Method

“PREP” Method:

  • Point: Start your speech with a clear point of the subject.
  • Reason: Explain why you are speaking on the topic.
  • Example: Give a few examples to bring life to your story.
  • Point: End with a concluding point that wraps up your speech.

“Pros” vs “Cons” Method:

  • Start out by addressing the pros first then the cons.
  • Wrap up your points with your recommendations.
  • Works well in business meetings, conference calls, and in everyday settings.

To ace your virtual interview, go through these points every time you have a virtual interview upcoming and prepare ahead of time. Do not mimic someone in front of the camera. Portray yourself naturally to the best of your abilities helps the interviewers get a sense of your personality. This is important in determining if you are the right fit for the company and the role. It takes time to get comfortable speaking in front of a camera. Get practice to get your point across smoothly if you want to ace your virtual interview.

At Syzygy Careers, we are passionate about careers. Contact us today more information. Follow us on Linkedin and Youtube.

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