Job interviews have always been difficult for virtual assistants of all experience levels. As they include a first impression and could put you on the spot to prove yourself immediately. Here are some tips to help a VA with an online interview.
1. DO A TEST RUN WITH YOUR COMPUTER
With online interviews especially, you need to feel comfortable using whichever method your prospective company prefers (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.). Once you’re comfortable with the program you’ll be using, it’s a good idea to test your internet connection as well as your audio to make sure everything works properly.Find a friend or family member you can use that platform to connect with. For platforms like Zoom and Skype, they are pretty user-friendly, but it helps to feel familiar with the interface before you get on with the business owner and realize you are trying to respond and are still muted.
2. PICK THE CORRECT AREA FOR LIGHTING
Make sure it isn’t too dark but also stay away from overhead lights during the interview if you can. If possible, try to settle down near a window with your face towards the light. You always want to put your best foot (or in this case, face) forward!Make sure you have natural (window) light is best because it gives the best (most accurate) color. And turn off any overhead lights if you are able to sit by a window because they will add a yellow or blue tint. Also, the light on your face will highlight your eyes and facial features.
Have a good spot to conduct your online meeting the day before to make sure you’re not rushing around before the interview. Make sure you have a stable table for your laptop. You may need to use a box to lift the laptop up so that it gets from just below your shoulders to just above your head for a perfectly framed interview shot. If you are using a tablet or smartphone, use a device tripod to hold it steady.
3. DO NOT USE VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS
Backgrounds are distracting and unprofessional for a first-time meeting. In fact, you want to choose the most professional area of your home for the interview—feel free to stage it just for the interview!
Remove any mess and avoid odd things in the background like a bed or kitchen. It may seem obvious, but sometimes people just don’t really think about the first impression their home is making.
Books can make you look smart, tactful home décor can give the appearance of being put together and artsy pieces in the background can make you look cultured. A blank wall is even acceptable because it keeps the focus on you.
4. MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO DISTRACTIONS
Make sure you have complete silence around you for your interview nothing must interfere with your conversation, including your cell phone and email notifications on your computer. It is rude to be interrupted during an interview unless you have an emergency situation that the company owner is already going to be aware of.
Make sure no one else is around when you are completing your interview, including pets. If you can not ensure people aren’t going to interrupt you, it might be best to either take your interview to another location or make sure your roommates (or family) can plan to be gone for the day.
5. BE PUNCTUAL AND LOG ON EARLY AND TEST SETUP
This is IMPORTANT. Being on time is really being about 10 minutes early. For a virtual, first-time interview, you may want to make sure you are ready to go 15-20 minutes early. If this sounds like a lot, just remember: In a normal interview, you would probably be getting ready, driving, parking, and finding the right room before the interview.
In this situation, setting up the computer and logging in is essentially the parking part of your interview process. Make sure everything works and then you can hang out until about 5-10 minutes before the scheduled time.
6. SIT CORRECTLY AND DRESS PROFESSIONALLY
Even though you are meeting your interviewer not in person, make sure to dress for success and sit up straight. First impressions matter and your appearance can really make or break yours.
Don’t forget to smile! Whether you are talking to an actual person or recording your answers, smile the way you would during an in-person interview. Wear clothes that are flattering and fit the job you are interviewing for. When in doubt, dress up rather than dress down.
Sitting up and smiling makes you look more professional and engaged. Good posture makes you feel more confident, puts you in a better mood, and communicates openness.
7. BE CALM (DON'T BE NERVOUS)
Always practice your main talking points if you’re nervous and remember to slow down—it can be easy to talk over people on online calls. You may need to be slightly louder and more emphatic than you would be in person since the screen is going to reduce a little bit of the impact you would have in person.
8. LOOK INTO YOUR INTERVIEWER'S EYES
In the online video interview, eye contact is important—even though it isn’t true eye contact.
Instead of looking at the person on the screen, look directly into the webcam and stay engaged. It can be tricky to look at the camera when you see a person on the screen. But, looking at the screen will make you look like you are staring down (since screens are usually below cameras).
If you’ve taken a selfie before, then you probably know the deal. But, somehow, video is harder.
9. ALWAYS LISTEN CAREFULLY
Always listen carefully, it’s easy to miss something important during an interview. It’s also sometimes very difficult to interrupt without an embarrassing mess of overlapping sound bytes.
Avoid strange situations by writing down keywords or short reminder phrases if you want to remember a point or circle back to ask a question. Try not to let your note-taking interfere with the flow of the interview. If you do miss something that was said, make sure you ask.
10. USE CORRECT BODY LANGUAGE
Using engaged body language during the interview is going to help you answer with confidence and energy. Even if the call is just over the phone, the right posture will help you sound more friendly, open, and sure of yourself.
On the flip side, slouching can cause you to feel tired and want to be done. Crossing your arms or your legs will look like you aren’t fully engaged and can actually cause a kind of mental block that makes it hard to really take in the information. Also make sure you don't wave your arms around while explaining this can be distracting, if you are used to using your hands to explain try sitting on your hands to stop any distractions.
11. DON'T DEPEND ON NOTES
Take a few notes of your own during the interview, don’t write down a list of things you want to say. Too many notes will be awkward and make the interview seem forced.
You do not need to rush into answers. Give yourself a second or two to breathe before answering the questions. Not only will the short pause give you a second to organize your thoughts, it will ensure you aren’t cutting in on top of the interviewer. Remember, when you are nervous, you are more likely to go faster than when you are comfortable, so slow it down!
12. BE YOURSELF DON'T BE SOMEONE YOU ARE NOT
You want to be as genuine and authentic during an interview as possible. This is your opportunity to express yourself off paper. Your resume already got your foot in the door, now you get to show who you are as an individual.
Being overly stiff is a pretty common response to nerves. Try to loosen up your mindset and take cues from your interviewer. When you choose your outfit for the meeting, for example, try to dress professionally without squashing your personal style.
13. MAKE A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Nerves may make you naturally focus on yourself. Knowing that is probably going to be the case, make sure you pay special attention to the interviewer. Try to pick up on cues from him or her—making a personal connection over interests, hobbies or even the weather can help you start building that professional relationship.
14. WRITE DOWN QUESTIONS BEFOREHAND TO USE
Prepare by doing some research on the company and industry. Try to think of five good questions that aren’t about salary or benefits (you can have those, too, but they are too easy. They don’t let the interviewer know you’ve done your homework and you're serious about the job.)
You want to think up five in case some of them are naturally answered along the way. Most interviewers ask at the end if you have questions and having two or three questions to ask will show you’ve put thought into this.
15. MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW UP
By emailing the interviewer back after a few hours it will show your interest and dedication which can go a long way in convincing a hiring manager you are the right person for the job. While you don’t want to be aggressive, desperate, or obnoxious, you don’t want to come off as passive, apathetic, or lackadaisical either!
Before the interview is over, ask when they will likely get back to you. If they don’t get back to you by the named day, try waiting another day or two before reaching out.
Always follow up with a brief thank you a few days after the interview. Reassert how interested you are in the position and how much you appreciated their time.