The virtual interview: what you need to know

With the impact of lockdown and the ban on all but ‘essential travel’, most organisations find themselves having to rely on video call / conferencing technology in order to meet candidates and carry out interviews. Although the current level of uncertainty has impacted many organisation’s appetite for making senior executive or non-executive appointments, many find themselves unable to delay business critical decisions around important appointments until lockdown is lifted.

While we are all used to using these technologies in our personal and professional lives, many will not have experience of being formally interviewed over video, nor experience deciding on whether to take on a new role without a face-to-face interaction. This has implications for how you can get to know an organisation and assess your own fit, and for how you present yourself over video and the best way to form a positive impression in that context.

5 tips to preparing for a virtual interview

With lockdown in place, home Wi-Fi can be under strain. You may want to discuss the timing of important calls with cohabitants to prevent Wi-Fi dropout, or if you have the option to connect your device directly to your router via an Ethernet cable, this is recommended. Test your connection ahead of time and ensure a back-up communication plan is in place of any issues, including making sure an interviewer has a phone number.

Once the video starts, there is some basic etiquette and advice you should consider:

  1. Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking to prevent issues with background noise or any echoes in the call, but obviously do not forget to unmute before speaking again.
  2. Ensure any extraneous noise is kept to a minimum to avoid interruptions. In some cases (building work, children, pets, etc.) it may not be possible to completely prevent interruption or noise, and so notifying the person you will be speaking to in advance is a good idea.
  3. Make sure your device is on a flat, still surface at a distance that allows the top half of your body to be visible, allowing for physical expression using your hands.
  4. Pay attention to the lighting to avoid glare or being overshadowed, and to the extent possible use a neutral backdrop to ensure you are the focus of the call.
  5. Remember to speak slowly. It’s not uncommon to speak more quickly than normal during an interview because of nerves, which over video can make it harder to understand and follow.

3 tips on getting to know an organisation during lockdown: 

Applying for a role and being interviewed is a two-way engagement, and should you be successful at the end of the process and offered a role, you will need to be confident in your own potential fit. The following advice is for what you can do as a candidate during lockdown to gain a good understanding of the organisation and your own personal fit:

  1. Try and access as much publicly available information as possible, such as annual reports, and use the organisation’s website to get a sense of how it presents itself and how it describes its own culture and values.
  2. Ask the search consultant involved for their view on the organisation’s culture. Organisations will trust the search partner to understand the organisation’s culture and values and identify candidates who fit. For candidates, they can be a helpful window into an organisation.
  3. Once you make the shortlist of candidates, you should ask for an informal one-to-one conversation with the individual who would be your line manager, or your chair if it’s a non-executive board role. A formal interview can be a poor place to judge personal chemistry, and assuming there is a time limit you will want to have another opportunity to ask questions. An informal conversation over video in advance of an interview is a good opportunity for this.



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