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How to Navigate and Excel at a Job Interview on Zoom

Job interviews are already stressful, but now you have to adapt to them online? Here's how you can prepare for a virtual interview.

Getting a call to schedule a job interview can be a moment of equal elation and intimidation. Securing an interview is cause for celebration—but then you have to begin the work of preparing for it. An interview is a pivotal moment in your job or internship search. It allows you to get to know an organization to see if it’s somewhere that fits your career goals, and it also enables the organization to see if you’re a good fit for the position. Plus, you’ll get an opportunity to practice your interviewing skills, something that is valuable at any stage of your career.

But much of today’s workplace life has moved online for the time being—including job interviews. An in-person interview already required intentional research and forethought, but an additional dimension is added for a video interview. While the internet is replete with hilarious video conference fails, it’s the subtle issues that can sabotage us. Here are four tips to get beyond the unique technological and mental barriers that a virtual job interview presents.

Set the stage

Even though your interview may not be in an office, you want to leave a professional impression. Dress in business professional attire just like you would for an in-person interview. Also consider your background. Avoid any messy or informal settings—an office or dining room is preferable to a bedroom or kitchen. In addition to the visual environment, listen to the sounds in your space and find a setting that is free from interruptions like lawnmowers outside, barking dogs, or housemates wandering through.

Related: What to Do Before, During, and After Your First Job Interview

Test-run your technology

Enlist a friend or colleague to help you practice placing and receiving calls using the platform your interview will be held on. How does your image look? Can they hear you clearly? You should also have a phone number on hand for the person you’re interviewing with in case you encounter technological challenges. And just as you would allow plenty of time for transportation and parking for an in-person interview, make sure you sit down at your computer early so you feel calm and collected and have all your technology in place.

Stay calm

As we’ve all discovered by now, online communication can be awkward. Even if you can see the other person via video, it doesn’t allow for many of the non-verbal cues that make interactions smooth. Be aware of that from the outset and be prepared to stay unflappable throughout—a genuine smile goes a long way to keep things relaxed and engaged.

Create connections

It can be easy to get caught up in the technical hurdles or lose track of the people who are interviewing you while navigating the interface. Be warm. Ask them how they are. Do the virtual equivalent of looking them in the eye by looking directly at the camera (not at your own reflection). Genuinely thank them for their time at the close of the interview. Allow for the space to have as personal an interaction as possible, even if it’s mediated by technology.

Related: How to Use Your College Network to Land a Job

One of the foundational pieces of advice I give about interviews is to view them not as a test to pass but an opportunity to explore. Your goal is not to survive each question but to get to know the company as they get to know you. Approached with that mindset, no interview—even a virtual one—is ever wasted. Good luck!

Check out more job and interview advice in our Internships and Careers section.

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career prep careers internships and careers job interviews jobs virtual interviews

About Cheryl Hyatt

Cheryl Hyatt is a founding partner at Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search. She specializes in leadership, management, higher education, and hiring practices.


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