UC Answers: How do I nail a virtual interview?

Director of UC’s Bearcat Promise Career Studio shares tips on how to stand out and stay professional

Ellie Bridges helps students plan for life after graduation as director of the University of Cincinnati’s Bearcat Promise Career Studio, a program that prepares students throughout the entire career development process, including searching, applying and interviewing for co-ops, internships and jobs. It offers one-on-one career coaching to assist students with their specific needs, resume and cover letter reviews and mock interviews.

“For many UC students, their goal is to pursue employment after graduation,” Bridges says. “Our team helps by providing strategies and advice on how to conduct a job search and effectively interview.”

With a prevalence of more virtual interviews than ever before, Bridges offers tips on how to make a great impression even through a screen.

What is your top piece of advice for people interviewing for a job virtually?

Prepare like you would for an in-person interview. This means you need to research the company and position, practice your responses to commonly asked interview questions aloud and develop a list of questions to ask the interviewer. By taking these steps, you’ll be prepared for the interview and will feel more comfortable.

Do I have to dress up for a virtual interview?

It’s important to dress the same for a virtual interview as you would for a face-to-face interview. And, yes, that means dressing professionally from head to toe. Not only will this make you appear professional, it will also make you feel more confident and will ensure you are fully prepared if something unexpected happens and your entire outfit is captured on camera.

What's the ideal setting in my home for a virtual interview?

The best place to interview is a space that is quiet, well lit and free of distractions. So, if possible, choose a room with a blank wall or one without clutter or distracting decorations. Additionally, make sure you are well lit by putting a lamp, window or other light source behind your computer.

Should I use a custom background for video interviews?

You may. If you choose to do so, stick with the professionally oriented backgrounds, like an office setting, rather than a beach scene or a mountain of Lego building blocks.

How do I avoid technical problems?

To reduce the chance of technical issues, test out your setup the day before your interview. For best results, have a friend video chat with you using the same platform, internet connection and device that you will for your interview. Make sure your camera and microphone are working and that you know how to mute and unmute your microphone.

In addition, on the day of the interview consider calling in five to ten minutes early to make sure all your equipment is working properly and to test for connectivity issues.

What is the best way to respond if there are technical problems during the interview?

Remain calm. Most recruiters and hiring managers understand that technical issues happen. If the issue is small, do your best to ignore it. If the issue is clearly impacting the interview, acknowledge it and switch to plan B. This may mean switching to audio only, dialing in to the interview or, as a last resort, requesting to reschedule. In all scenarios, it is critical that you remain professional in how you handle the situation.

How do I make an impression when I'm not in the room with an interviewer?

When you interview in-person, your enthusiasm, body language, handshake and small talk all help you make a strong impression with the employer. When communicating virtually, it's just as important to make this connection.

Try greeting your interviewer with a “digital handshake” by saying hello, looking into the camera, giving a small head nod and a smile. This conveys warmth and openness. Additionally, be prepared to make small talk by asking how your interviewer’s experience has been with virtual interviews or by finding another neutral topic to discuss. Finally, throughout the interview, sit up straight, smile, look at the camera when you are speaking and at the screen when others are speaking.

Do you have any tips for people who haven't interviewed for a job in a while?

Interviewers typically ask two types of questions: behavioral and situational interview questions. Situational questions present hypothetical situations that ask candidates how they would respond; behavioral interview questions focus on past experiences.  One strategy to answer behavioral interview questions with clear and concise responses is to use the STAR technique: Situation (what similar event have you faced), Task (what you decided to do), Action (the action you took), Result (what was the end result).

What is your advice for follow-up after an interview?

Send a follow-up email within 24 hours after the interview. Take a moment to thank the interviewer for their time, reiterate your interest in the position and let them know you are available if they have any additional questions.

If you interviewed with several people, reach out to the recruiter or person you have been working with to get a list of your interviewers’ email addresses. Send customized emails to individuals rather than sending the same message to multiple people.

Are there any resources to assist those preparing for interviews or a new job hunt?

UC students and alumni have access to nearly 7,500 co-op, internship and job opportunities in Handshake, UC’s career platform. These opportunities are located across the United States and the world.

The university offers free career coaching for current students and alumni. Career coaches help people explore academic majors and career opportunities, discuss job search and networking strategies, help conduct mock interview practice and more. Appointments may be requested via Handshake.


Featured image at top of Ellie Bridges/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

UC Career Studio job search resources

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