An interview can be intimidating and it’s not always clear what employers are looking for. With an increasing number today being held virtually, they can feel even less personal and even more nerve wracking.
The key is to practice and perfect. Prepare well and you can dramatically increase your chances of landing the role.
The first step is to think about what a successful interview looks like. Important impressions you need to get across include:
Social: You should demonstrate that you would fit in.
Professional: Your presentation must be sharp, efficient and diplomatic.
Human: You need to present yourself as genuine and earnest.
Details matter: From your outfit to your posture, everything is information.
In addition to your suitability for the role and fit within the organisation, an interviewer will also be looking carefully at the following:
Appearance: Are you professional, stylish and meticulous?
Tact: Do you understand appropriate professional etiquette and language?
Body language: Do you project success and command respect?
Confidence: Do you feel qualified for the job and able to handle the responsibilities?
You would be forgiven for thinking a lot of these traits would be easier to exhibit at a traditional face to face meeting in an office environment. But remember, preparation, preparation, preparation. This will help ensure you portray just how perfect you are for the job – whether that be in the office or on Zoom.
Here are a few extra tips to help a virtual interview go smoothly
- Test your technology. Whatever platform you are using, ensure the camera, microphone and internet connection all work. You may need to download an app, so do this the day before and have a play around to get used to it.
- Check your environment. A quiet place with no distractions is really important. Try and have a plain wall or a neutral background. A simple earpiece with a built-in microphone will give better sound quality.
- Dress for the occasion: It is an interview for a job so treat it that way. You may find some companies are more casual. Check their website to get a feel for whether it is very formal or a little relaxed.
- Don’t have the camera too low: Try and have it close to face height and talk directly to it.
- Have a Plan B: If technology fails, which it can, having a contact number for the interviewer and vice versa could save having to re-arrange the meeting.
Virtual or face to face, it is vital to arrive on time or even early. At the outset, take time for pleasantries and social chit chat. This can be an important ice breaker, help you both feel more at ease and establish common ground.
A top tip here is to check the LinkedIn and company profile of the person interviewing you ahead of time. Look for common points of interest. For example, if you are both keen runners, this would be a great talking point.
And talking of social media, it is a fact potential employers will look at your profiles. When they find yours, make sure they don’t see any comments or content that may represent you negatively.
So, you’ve passed the chit chat, now what? Here are some questions to expect:
What do you know about our company? Research the company and look for information that is not commonly known – for example, knowing a company is listed on the stock market is expected, but knowing the current share price demonstrates you have done your research. Looking into the history, the company vision, products, proposition and key people will be 20 minutes well invested.
Tell me about yourself? Don’t wing this one; have an answer prepared. Link your background and experience to the position you are applying for – for example, if you are a member of a networking group, a professional association or you are a school governor, this is a good time to mention it.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Examples of strengths may be taking initiative, focusing on the task in hand or creativity. Weaknesses could include public speaking, self-criticism and presentation skills. We all have them. However, you need to appear humble and willing to learn. Be prepared to explain and justify your answer.
At the end of the interview, they should ask whether you have any questions. It looks great to have several ready. You would never leave a sales or management meeting without having a clear understanding of what has been agreed and what the next steps are. It’s the same with an interview. Here’s some ideas:
What does it take to be successful here? This is one of my favourite questions and you would be surprised how little it gets asked. The job interviewer won’t want to see you fail (if you get the job, of course). You just picked up your first unofficial mentor.
Do you have any concerns about me? This may highlight something you have omitted to mention or did not cover sufficiently. It’s probably the best chance you will have to address concerns that may otherwise have led to a rejection letter.
What is the next step in your recruitment process? This will clarify the process and time frames.
Will you be putting me through to the next stage? Don’t be afraid to ask this. If you are interviewing for a position incorporating sales or influencing in particular, this can be very effective and can demonstrate relevant skills for your new role.
Within 48 hours of the interview, send a short thank you email.
Prepare ahead of time, present yourself with confidence, and you can’t go wrong.
By Graham Hughes