A virtual assistant can offer a range of skills to clients and the seasoned among us may be very accustomed to remote interviews. For those new to the remote work model, conducting a remote interview with prospective clients and employers may feel a bit unusual. Here are 12 tips to help you feel more comfortable and prepared, and help you present your best self.
A common mistake people make is equating the word “remote” with “casual”. While you don’t need to pull out the Chanel or Armani suits or worry about polishing your shoes, you should dress conservatively and professionally, and be very well-groomed. Please don’t focus only on the top. Dress head to toe in professional attire that is one step up from what the culture and role itself require. That said, don’t overdress. If your client is a construction company, don’t dress for Wall Street. Upscale business casual would be fine. If upscale business casual is the norm, kick it up a notch.
Particularly for those who work from home on a regular basis, it’s important to have an undistracted space during your interview. Schedule your interview at a time when you can assure this will be the case. Don’t schedule smack dab in the middle of when the kids are coming home from school.
Know how your lighting will look ahead of time. It’s important for your interviewer to be able to see you clearly. In-person interviews rely quite a bit on body language. Remote interviews rely quite a bit on facial expressions, so…
Especially your “resting” face. Take a quick peek at your own panel in the video call to make sure your mouth isn’t turned down and that you don’t look smug. Do you look happy, engaged, or concerned? Don’t look at yourself too often but do a quick eye flash over to yourself every few minutes.
Accentuate non-verbal responses, like a head-nod or a smile with a short verbal cue, like, “right”, or “that’s great.” Unlike in person, a subtle non-verbal response could be easily missed on a video call.
Download any necessary software well in advance — not at interview time. Make sure you give yourself a few extra minutes to get into the meeting (which can take some time to load on some platforms). Activate your mic and camera. Minimize any potential for lost time for technical problems – especially on your side.
After saying hello, make sure to ask your interviewer if they can see and hear you clearly or if any adjustments need to be made to the volume.
Keep one headphone off/out of one ear so that you can self regulate your own voice and not speak too loud. This is especially important if you are using a headset. If you are using the built-in mic on your computer, speak in a natural tone, and make adjustments as needed if you are not audible enough.
Make sure your background is neat and professional. The fewer distractions, the better. You might not think a neatly stacked bookshelf behind you is a problem. This can disrupt focus. Remove as many visual stimuli as possible. And whatever you do, do not use a greenscreen or similar digital backdrop. If you move around, it will become very obvious you are using a digital background. Reduce any chances of the attention being diverted from you for any reason.
Internet lag times are the number one cause of overtalking. Give an extra second or two of space after the person has finished speaking to begin your response. It’s not a perfect science, but this will help, and demonstrates that you are considerate.
While most people understand that you will be looking at them, which means looking slightly down at your screen, look into the camera on occasion, too. Let them see your full face and that direct eye contact, which they would normally get in person.
To whatever extent you can, look up company information, media coverage, social media — use your resources to learn as much as you can ahead of time. This will help you to ask good questions that relate to the position but also to the culture.
Answer questions clearly and thoroughly but remember, this is not a social event. While a little schmooze time is expected at any interview, a video interview may need to cut to the chase a little faster. Follow your interviewer’s lead. Some companies stack interviews back to back, and some have set time limits on their calls. Plan on being on the call for an hour, even if the interview ends at 20 minutes.
In the closeout, always offer to be available for any additional questions or a follow-up call.
Always say thank you and provide at least one affirmation about your enthusiasm. If you do not feel like it’s a fit, simply say with a warm smile that you really appreciated speaking with them and look forward to hearing from them.
Within an hour of your call, send a thank you email and express some things about the role and company that excite you. If you are not really feeling a match, a simpler thank you will suffice, but try to find at least one good attribute that attracts you to the role to include. Always say you look forward to hearing from them about the next steps.
Sometimes, an interview can feel static or cold, but the employer actually really likes you, so never cut yourself off from an opportunity. Stay warm and enthusiastic throughout the process. Even if this role or company does not turn out to be a match, you never know who can be a referral source for you in the future.