10 ways to sell yourself as a virtual candidate

Covid-19 is likely to accelerate the progress of virtual hiring. From keeping it natural to finding the right spot for your interview, boost your chances of success with these 10 tips

The last few months have meant making changes to regular ways of working. Fortunately, for organisations who are able to allow their staff to work from home, recruitment and hiring efforts can continue virtually. This might mean that you’ll need to apply for a role, undertake an interview and even begin a new position, all without ever meeting anyone from the business in person.

Even if you’re not preparing for a new job at the moment, it’s likely that you’ll face a virtual interview, and perhaps even be onboarded remotely at some point in the future. After all, the technology to enable this has been available for a while and is getting better all the time. The cost and time savings for organisations are clear, and the Covid-19 situation is likely to accelerate the progress of virtual hiring. With that in mind, what is the best way to sell yourself in a virtual interview? Here are 10 tips for success.

1. Check your tech

The first, and most straightforward, step is to make sure that you have good, working technology to facilitate the interview. Try calling someone else and test your equipment to ensure you have a clear and uninterrupted connection. Consider investing in a good quality webcam if yours isn’t up to scratch and use a headset or earphones to minimise disruption from other sounds in the room.

2. Practice makes perfect

Don’t just test your equipment, trial your answers to common questions and make sure you’re comfortable on video. Record yourself answering some standard interview queries and watch back to make sure that you come across in the way that you want to. It’s easy to get distracted by your own image on a video call, but you’ll want to give your interviewer your full attention, so make sure you’re accustomed to the process. You’ll want to appear comfortable, confident and engaged. Taking part in a few trials can help ensure you pull this off with ease.

3. Imagine you’re in the boardroom, not the bedroom

It’s easy to feel that a video interview is a more informal experience, but don’t fall into this trap. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so imagine what you’d wear to a face-to-face interview, how you would carry yourself and who you would expect to be there. You wouldn’t normally introduce a potential employer to your pet dog, so don’t do this over video, either.

Dressing for the job you want, not the job you have, as the saying goes, will help you to get into the right mindset, as well as making a good impression on your would-be employer. Check your environment too, and make sure that whatever is in shot adds to your professional image.

4. Find some solo space

The BBC interviewee who was interrupted by his children will live on in internet infamy, so try to learn from his mistake. Make sure someone is keeping a close eye on any little ones and pets in the household so that you are free from distractions. If you live with housemates, make sure they’re aware of the time and duration of your interview and ask them not to interrupt you.

5. Keep it positive

If you’re having to take part in a virtual interview due to factors beyond your control, it can be easy to get caught up in the situation and feel overwhelmed. While this is completely valid, try not to bring any negativity to your interview. This is an opportunity, after all, and though things might be difficult at the moment it’s important to focus on the good and remember that things will get better.

Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes: would you hire the person who was excited and enthusiastic about the role, or the one that seemed despondent and distracted? It’s tough, but this is about putting your best self forward, so make sure to look on the bright side.

6. Do your research

Often, candidates will share their interview experiences online, on platforms such as Glassdoor. Have a read through these so that you can be prepared for the interview and anticipate the kind of questions that might be posed. Take these reviews with a pinch of salt – they are unverified but they could still give you an indication of what to expect.

Of course, if you are working with a recruiter then they will have prepped you for the kind of questions asked and the format of the interview. If you’re unsure about anything, work with your recruiter in advance.  

7. Get back to basics

There’s a strong likelihood that anything you would normally do for a face-to-face interview should also be replicated for a virtual interview. Arrive early, get yourself a glass of water (using a receptacle that you wouldn’t mind showing to your employer, not the novelty glasses you have at the back of the cupboard) and, as we’ve mentioned, dress appropriately.

You should also make sure that any useful materials that you may need, such as a CV or portfolio, are readily available to you. You can even take advantage of the virtual format by keeping notes to hand on key things you’d like to say or ask about the role.

8. Keep it natural

Having some notes to hand is useful, but don’t be tempted to create a whole script for yourself. Your interviewer will notice if you have pre-prepared answers and it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be able to predict all the questions they’ll ask you.

Think about what you want to say, keep brief notes if that’s helpful to you, and practice your answers – but make sure your responses are not completely pre-determined.

9. Consider what you want from the experience

Interviews are an opportunity for candidates to get to know more about their prospective employer too, so if you have something in mind make sure you put this forward to the hiring manager. This could be questions related to company culture or the working environment – anything that you may well have gained from a face-to-face interview.

Similarly, if you weren’t able to include a point that you felt was particularly strong in any of the formal questions, feel free to add this at the end. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself.

10. Ask for feedback

Whether the hiring organisation makes you an offer or not, it is a good idea to ask for feedback on the interview, so that if you are ever asked to take part in a virtual interview again you can be prepared and improve.

Video interviews are likely to become the new normal when it comes to the hiring process, so even if you are not successful in securing the role, you can at least use this as a learning experience. That way, when the time comes for your next virtual interview, you’ll be a step ahead of your competition.

David Stone is Chief Executive and Founder of recruitment firm, MRL Consulting Group.

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