What are Some Tips for Virtual Interviewing?

Five ACS Career Consultants agree on one piece of advice... 'prepare' as if it is in person
Mary Engelman, ACS Career Consultant
Mary Engelman, ACS Career Consultant

"... Remain comfortable, relax, and be yourself."

Virtual interviewing requires new techniques. Prepare for an interview: research the company, prepare to answer questions, etc. Prepare the environment and limit distractions/interruptions. Dress appropriately; business formal attire shows confidence and professionalism.  Assure technology is working. During the interview remain comfortable, relax, and be yourself.  Talk to the computer/camera just like you are talking face-to-face. Practice-Practice-Practice to set yourself up for success.

Heinz Plaumann, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantum Qik Careers
Heinz Plaumann, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantum Qik Careers

"Take notes and have questions."

Remind yourself: It’s still an interview – people are making decisions about the impressions you leave behind!

For a video interview, dress as if it were “live.” Stand if possible – your voice carries better – and be animated. Don’t move too much off camera. Check your background – bookcases typically look better than kitchen counters. Tasteful, appropriate artwork is all right. Practice with your webcam, especially on how to make eye contact.  Give the feeling that it is “live.” Take notes and have questions.   

If it’s just audio, you may not need full interview dress but at least be dressy from waist-up as you’ll feel more professional. Take notes and have questions.

As with an in-person interview, always close with thanks and how/when to follow up. 

"... Ask a few questions – always ask a question!"

Virtual interviewing is nothing new; phone screening has been pretty standard as the first step in the interview process. Take it as seriously as an in person or on-site interview and dress professionally. Prepare by having your resume and other documents available, in an area free from noise, pets and other distractions, with a clean background for your camera. Prepare for the standard (and a few non-standard) questions with succinct answers.  Be ready to ask a few questions – always ask a question! – about the role, the company, etc.

Chris Bannochie, Senior Manager, Advanced & Energy Materials at Savannah River National Laboratory
Chris Bannochie, Senior Manager, Advanced & Energy Materials at Savannah River National Laboratory

"... Having notes is useful, but don’t read them..."

Some observations and tips I have acquired over the past couple months of interviewing:

  • We can see you during your presentation, so it is obvious when you are reading notes from the bottom of your PowerPoint slides.  Having notes is useful, but don’t read them because it makes your speech pattern uneven and makes you sound mechanical and unprepared.
  • Be conscious of your physical surroundings.  While I don’t recommend a virtual image background, it is probably also best to avoid having your bedroom as the background too.  Pick a neutral setting with nothing distracting going on behind you, or if on a porch, outside around you.
  • Prevent background sounds, especially from pets and children, if at all possible.
  • The laptop background picture of your husband cuddling your infant are precious to you but have something else up in the event you have to go search for a file on your laptop during the interview.

"Don’t try to describe your history of successes –instead answer the questions succinctly."

I believe that an experiment would show that no hiring decision has ever been made based solely on the facts. Instead it is a feeling that overcomes the interviewer. So, don’t try to describe your history of successes – this only confuses the interviewer. Instead answer the questions succinctly, and then wait for the next question. The interviewer will get the feeling that you are cooperative, patient and understanding. You will be perceived as a team player and a joy to work with. 

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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