Tips for Hosting a Great Virtual Interview

You’re now being asked to host virtual interviews. Like so many other skills you’ve developed and fine-tuned, hosting a successful virtual interview is a talent you can cultivate. Investing time to prepare, doing your homework and following these steps will lead to a positive experience for your candidates and provide an opportunity to maximize this effective interview setting:

1. Test drive the technology.
Your comfort level with the platform will dictate so much of the interview’s success. Spend some time with the platform’s tutorial or getting started guide. Learn the tricks and take advantage of the tools it offers. Screen share? White board? Both could be useful in an interview if you can share something simple with the candidate. Seeing your ease of utilizing technology will look favorable for the whole company. Don’t overlook the easy part: update your software to the latest version and make sure your peripheral equipment is in good working order.

2. Set your stage.
Choose a quiet area with minimal distractions and a simple background. If you work in a shared workspace, move to a private conference room. If your office has glass walls, angle the camera so your candidate isn’t distracted by the world on the other side. Pay attention to your space. Do you need to erase proprietary or confidential information from the whiteboard behind you? You want what the candidate sees to reflect positively upon the company’s culture.

3. Control your environment.
For both your benefit, and to not distract the candidate, clear your desk AND your desktop of distractions. Turn off or mute notifications from your phone and computer, perhaps even disable email and chats. These pop-ups aren’t just impolite, they’re very disrupting and can easily derail a conversation. Create a businesslike atmosphere (or one that reflects your company culture), by dressing appropriately. Dressing as you would in the office conveys your commitment to professionalism and shows that you take the interview process seriously even when conducting interviews remotely.

4. Pay attention to your verbal AND non-verbal communication.
Treat your virtual interview as if you were meeting in person. Be professional, including your body language. Many people use small, verbal responses or acknowledgements in conversation without even realizing it. But on a video call, even an “ok” or “uh-huh” can be picked up by the mic and cause audio interference and might even distract the candidate. Instead, nod or smile to indicate agreement.

Also, do your best to talk to the camera, not your computer screen, so you can mimic real eye contact as much as possible. Speaking of your eyes, candidates will see your eyes wander if you’re multi-tasking, so avoid the temptation by closing out of all other programs and documents.

5. Have a back-up plan.
Having a Plan B is always a good idea where technology is concerned. Even the most consistent internet connections can lag and the most popular platforms can crash. Make sure you have the candidate’s phone number and email address handy in case your tech fails and you need to quickly reach out to them.

6. Of course, some of the same in-person “rules” apply to virtual interviews.
Set clear expectations on timing and next steps. Give the candidate time to both consider and provide their answers to your questions. Make sure the candidates feel respected, seen and heard. Discuss subjects they may otherwise have seen if the interview was in person, like company culture or office set-up. Following up and following through will always be important.

Clearly though, virtual interviews require a different set of skills and considerations. Do not assume you can wait until the last minute to prepare. This model is here to stay – it’s an inexpensive and risk-free opportunity to connect with more candidates, more frequently. And that means we need to embrace them.


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