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Nailing the virtual job interview

Without the handshake and normal in-person body language of an interview, it can seem difficult to land a job.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Finding a new job can be extremely difficult, and doing it without in person interviews can be even more difficult. 

That's why 13 is ON YOUR SIDE with some tips on how to nail that virtual job interview. We talked with Neal Gilbert from Robert Half in Grand Rapids for his take. 

What can you do to show confidence and differentiate themselves during a virtual interview?

  • Eye contact – Besides what you say, maintaining eye contact may be one of the most important things you can do during a virtual interview. It’s equivalent to a virtual handshake. Resist the urge to look at your own photo and focus on the interviewer, or even looking directly at the camera will achieve the same result.
  • Facial expression – When you first log on to your virtual interview, it’s important to have a confident and genuine smile as you greet the hiring manager and kick off the interview. While the hiring manager is speaking, it’s important to look interested, focused, nod when appropriate and generally have a pleasant expression on your face. When you are wrapping up, smile confidently, just as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Posture – Being slouched or leaning too far back in your chair can make it seem that you’re disinterested in the opportunity or have a casual, cavalier attitude. Always sit in a desk chair with your back straight, feet on the ground and arms resting in your lap or on the desk.
  • Tone of voice – Without the body language cues of traditional in-person interviews, your tone of voice will take on new importance. You want to have a confident, enthusiastic and steady tone of voice. If you tend to get nervous in interviews, rehearse some of your responses before the call. Remember to breathe. Practice ahead of time with a friend or mentor to help relax your voice and speak naturally.
  • Attire – A professional, put-together outfit can make a strong impact on a hiring manager and solidify that first impression during a job interview. Look sharp, dress for success and you’ll be ready to land the job you want.
  • Distance from the camera – It’s natural to show interest during an interview by leaning in slightly, and that’s no different in a virtual interview. However, you don’t want to be too close to the camera, or the hiring manager will be turned off by your nose hairs. A good rule of thumb is to be an arm’s length from your screen and lean forward just a few inches to express your interest when the interviewer is speaking.
  • Background – It may be tempting to utilize a virtual background during your virtual interview, but we recommend refraining from this as it can look artificial and there can be technical issues with the background. Instead, opt for an area of your home that’s neat, clean and ideally has neutral décor. This way, the interviewer can focus their attention on you, rather than the piece of artwork or children’s toys behind you.
  • Eliminating distractions – The moment something begins happening in the background, the hiring manager is no longer listening to anything you’re saying. Plan ahead and consider pets, family members, roommates, delivery people, loud noises that may occur in your living space or anything else you may be able to take control of ahead of time and eliminate before it becomes an issue.

What are some tips for a successful virtual interview?

  • Test your technology.
  • Charge it up.
  • Dress for success.
  • Set the stage for a distraction-free video interview.
  •  Be a well-prepared early bird.
  • Maintain good eye contact and body language.
  • Project and pause.
  • Close the video interview by sharing your appreciation.

What are some attire dos and don’ts for a successful virtual interview?

DO dress in professional attire from head to toe, including your shoes.

DON’T try to wear professional attire (suit jacket, blouse, etc.) on top and opt for sweats or shorts on the bottom.

DO plan ahead for your interview outfit, carefully choosing something that you like, is comfortable and will make you feel good, as this will boost your confidence.

DON’T wear something that is wrinkled or stained.

DO try on your outfit in advance to make sure it fits properly and is comfortable when sitting down.

DON’T overlook your footwear.

DO make sure your hair is combed, neat and as you’d wear it if you were going for an in-person interview.

DO make sure your accessories are conservative and understated.

DON’T wear noisy bracelets or earrings that jangle and detract the interviewer.

DO opt for color in your clothing, but make sure it’s not too flashy or bright, as in neon colors.

DO make sure your fingernails are neat and clean.

DO stop and check yourself in a full-length mirror before you sit down for the video interview.


What are some virtual interview faux pas?

  • Glancing at your phone – or anywhere except directly into the camera
  • Failing to plan ahead for distractions
  • Failing to test your technology ahead of time
  • Being late to the interview
  • Having a messy, cluttered or unprofessional background
  • Wearing wrinkled clothing or shorts/sweats on your lower half
  • Failing to check placement of your face on the screen prior to logging on
  • Having a subdued or indifferent tone of voice
  • Too much gesturing or fidgeting in your chair
  • Shuffling papers on your desk
  • Failing to send a thank you note

Even if you aren't looking for a new job, there are still some things to keep in mind as we continue to work from home. 

  • Turn your camera/video on when possible
  • Mute your microphone
  • Maintain good eye contact and body language
  • No eating or gum chewing
  • Refrain from private behavior
  • Be mindful of background noise
  • Avoid multi-tasking

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