December 7, 2012
How to ace a virtual job interview
Moments before a recent job interview with a tech company, Anna White sat in a small room in the prospective employer’s satellite office in Irvine, Calif., facing a desk. A phone rang, and the dark screen of a large monitor on the desk lit up with the faces of her interviewers, some 1,000 miles away in Seattle.
White, whose name has been changed, was being interviewed via TelePresence, a teleconferencing product.
“It was a great experience,” says White, who likes that she didn’t have to hop on a plane to leave her then home in California or raise suspicions with her current employer by leaving town.
Prepare for your close-up
• Place a test call with a family member or friend before your interview to check sound and video quality. Check your Internet connection to ensure sufficient speed.
• Place the camera and screen so that your entire upper body is in the shot. That way, you’re not looking down or up, and it’s easy to make eye contact.
• Sit facing flattering, even light (such as from a window), and check your image to make sure you’re not in cave-like darkness or too-bright light.
• Sit up straight in your chair; don’t fall into computer-user slouch.
• Avoid large bracelets or earrings, which can make too much noise and also act as a distraction.
Less expensive and time-consuming, video interviewing is one of the biggest trends in hiring and recruiting, says Josh Warborg, Seattle district president of Robert Half International.
Changing technology has allowed the practice to flourish. Warborg often interviews via Apple’s FaceTime app on an iPhone or iPad, or over Skype. More than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies use TelePresence, according to Cisco.
The virtual-interview experience made such a good impression on White that she turned the tables and used Skype to interview au pairs after her employer in California allowed her to move to Seattle with her family and telecommute. With Skype, she could see the candidates, introduce them to the children and evaluate any non-verbal cues.
Warborg says the most common challenge in video interviewing is a poor or untested Internet connection. Ensure that everything is working on both ends before you attempt to dial into an interview, he says, and have the hiring manager’s number handy should technical difficulties complicate your Q&A session.
Interviews can also go downhill if the interviewee acts “like a deer in headlights,” Warborg says — frozen, startled and overwhelmed by the technology. “There’s no handshake to start off,” he says, so interviewees need to substitute a warm smile and verbal excitement about the job opportunity.
White wasn’t intimidated by speaking on camera; she has used Skype for long-distance chats with European relatives. TelePresence offered a uniquely clear image, she says: “It felt like a face-to-face interview.”
Use the screen-within-the-screen to check your appearance, Warborg suggests. “The fact that you can see yourself is a unique trait of the virtual interview,” he says. “See if you’re smiling; see what your posture looks like and make adjustments. Ask, ‘Is this a person I would want to hire, who seems well-adjusted and has a positive attitude, who is dressed appropriately?’ ”
Don’t forget that with Skype and FaceTime, you’re essentially inviting someone into your home for a workplace interview. “It’s a unique window into someone’s personal life,” Warborg says.
A cluttered kitchen may be fine for day-to-day life, but you don’t want a potential boss to see your dirty dishes. Sit in front of a wall plain enough to look like it belongs in a corporate lobby, Warborg suggests. If you must, drape a white sheet behind you. Your professionalism should stand out, not your hobbies, beliefs or personal life.
And, yes, wear pants. “If you’re doing the interview on your iPhone and you drop your phone, the interviewer will see that you have flip-flops and Bermuda shorts on,” Warborg says. “Prepare for the worst.”
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