Virtual Selection Interviews

The number of staff around the globe working from home has increased each day as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions on travel and social distancing regulations have combined to force recruiters and managers to conduct a greater proportion of their selection interviews online.

Much of the content of an online interview will mirror an “in person” interview but the use of video changes a great deal. Preparation remains a key to success …

Your research

Your preliminary research before the online interview remains as important as ever. Check the role profile or job description carefully to determine whether a competency based or behavioural event interview is likely. Find out about the organisation, the reason for the vacancy arising, whether you will be expected to work remotely, how the job will be different as a result of current global conditions, who the interview panelists will be and prepare some scenario-based answers to questions using the STAR method, if appropriate.

The STAR interview question response method allows you to provide concrete examples or proof that you possess the experience and skills for the job at hand. 

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Using this approach, you first set the scene, outlining the situation. Then you describe your task or purpose. Thirdly, you outline the action you took, what you actually did. Finally, you highlight the result.

This answer framework is particularly helpful in responding to competency-focused questions, which typically start out with phrases such as, “Describe a time when…” and “Share an example of a situation where….”

Your space

You will want your personal space, the background to your interview, to be clean, uncluttered and business like. A plain neutral wall is good and a background of appropriate shelved books can be helpful in certain circumstances. Zoom allows you to combine lighting, a green screen and an artificial background and that may be useful if applying for certain, more creative, roles. Select clothing that does not feature checks or stripes and that contrasts with your background colour scheme.

Check and recheck your camera positioning. A laptop with built in camera can produce an unflattering angle that is best avoided in a selection interview. A separate, stable camera, with integral microphone, positioned at eye level generally works much better.

You will not be offered a tea or coffee during a virtual interview so should always anticipate the need for a sip of water and have a glass (not a bottle) of water on your desk. A short, stable glass is better than a tall, thin one as a taller glass can be knocked over far too easily. Keep fluids away from computers, microphones and cameras.

The most natural looking interviewees use an off-screen microphone. This may be part of your camera set up and is to be preferred to a headset. If you must use a headset ensure that the integral microphone does not transmit your breathing as this can be very off putting.

Managing your opportunity

With video interviews you can grab the opportunity to position notes in front of you, beyond the camera, and on the wall. Your interviewer does not need to know they are there if you arrange your space effectively.

You are likely to have the opportunity to practice your engagement with the camera before your interview.

You will want to become comfortable looking directly at the camera and to avoid speaking to your notes or to anything else in your room. Looking away, briefly, as you think about your response to a question is natural and engaging but your gaze should thoughtfully return to the camera as you talk. Good eye contact, through the camera “window” remains as important as ever.

Try to speak “through the camera” to the other human being. Allow your facial expression to complement and underline the meaning you are seeking to convey. The hint of a smile can soften your expression and is very engaging.

Always make eye contact with your interviewer when they are speaking to you.

In your enthusiasm to engage try to avoid “over talking”. Get into a conversational pattern by allowing your interviewer to talk first: they invited you to the meeting and will want to set it up for you. If you hold back initially, you should find a natural pattern of listening and responding develops between you.

Check that you have set your microphone volume to a pleasant audible level and that you are not broadcasting breathing noises. These can be of putting and slightly sinister and may arise if a headset is poorly positioned.

To ensure that your interview opportunity isn’t wasted, disconnect any device that does not need to be online throughout the period of the interview. This will stop them ringing or buzzing during the meeting and maximise the bandwidth you will be needing for the video interview. Turn off any pop ups you normally have running in the background on your computer for the same reason.

Let other people in your house know what you are doing when you are being interviewed, ask them to answer the door to callers and respond to the telephone calls that will, almost certainly, come in during your meeting.

Turn off or remove any telephone that you have in your space before starting the interview.

Close the door of your space but only after you have put an appropriate sign on the outside of the door!

Work out, in advance, how you will respond to a power cut.

Arrival time

You should practice arriving on time for a call beforehand. Clearly, you don’t want to be late but, online, you may not want to be overly early either. It is not uncommon for an interviewer to use their personal online meeting room for all their interviews. Whilst this isn’t particularly good practice on their part, you do not want to crash into another candidate’s interview, so be very careful about “arriving” early.

Set up a couple of test meetings, with a friend, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the technology, to work out how long the connection and arrival process takes. Use your experience to gauge your arrival arrangements.

Prepare for dialogue

Too often candidates make little valuable use of the interview opportunity to ask their own questions. Your research should equip you with pertinent questions that demonstrate engaged, intelligent interest in the organisation and the role itself. Don’t be afraid to ask about the organisation’s hiring timeline and whether the role will be located remotely until the pandemic has passed – or forever.

Aim to express your questions so that they convey real interest in the role. You can underline your interest and engagement in the process by gently leaning forward in your chair at times during the conversation. Avoid over doing this as it can come across as aggressive.