8 keys to nailing a virtual interview
Whether they do it over the phone or with a webcam, today's job candidates need to be prepared for the virtual interview. Many companies seeking to fill customer service and call center positions are conducting virtual interviews to help screen candidates and, in some cases, as the only form of interviewing. Nikki Trotter, a career coach and workforce consultant, says, "Virtual interviews are big cost-savers, especially for those who are geographically detached. They save time and money on travel expenses and are great screening tools."
Once your resume has made it past the basic screening for requisite skills and qualifications, you're on to the next round in the screening process. Here are some tips to help you nail the virtual interview.
1. Be yourself
"My number one piece of advice is just be yourself," says Frank Steele, director of recruiting for FirstGroup America. He says that if you try to fake it, you'll eventually be found out. "I fully appreciate the pressures of looking for a job. But you've got to be yourself and be genuine. I would approach a phone interview like a first date or a speed date. It's the start of the relationship. During the course of the conversation, I ask myself, do I want to work with this person, do I like them?" Steel conducts a dozen or more phone screens every week with candidates seeking jobs with North America's largest provider of transportation services.
2. Communicate clearly & concisely
"During the initial phone screen, we're listening for the communication aspect. For contact center positions, what's most important is the candidate's competency on the phone," says Tyson Bragg, group HR manager for Enterprise Holdings. He oversees the hiring process for the company's two customer contact centers in St. Louis, Mo., and Eugene, Ore., and for its virtual workforce, who handle customer calls from home. "We are listening to their verbal communication skills, how well they manage their responses to questions and if their answers are succinct and well thought through," adds Bragg.
3. Have an elevator speech
With an initial phone screen, Steele says you've got about three minutes to make an impression. He says many recruiters start with, "Tell me about yourself." A phone screen is no different from the face-to-face interview when it comes to this question. You need to be prepared. Steel suggests, "Start with the understanding that individuals get hired to either save a company money or make them money. Think about what the company needs and plug in your competencies. You've got to talk to the company need, not your need."
4. Avoid distractions
Bragg says that because they hire a number of team members who will be working virtually from a home office, "You've got to be able to manage your surroundings in a phone interview." He says distractions are commonplace on phone interviews. "Surprisingly, some candidates don't realize the importance of being able to manage distractions like a barking dog or having the TV on."
5. Conduct a background check
If you are using a webcam, look behind you. "You need to see what is in the background when you're using Skype. Test the camera view to make sure the interviewer won't see your refrigerator full of magnets and school papers or a messy bookshelf," says executive human resources consultant Mary Pierce, SPHR.
6. Pause before speaking
"Skype is wonderful technology, but there can be a slight delay in the voice transmission. It's so easy to talk over the interviewer," warns Pierce. She urges candidates to be patient and careful to pause before responding to a question.
7. Test the technology
Pierce and Trotter both suggest doing a test run to ensure you understand how the web cam and microphone work on your computer. "Test it out with a friend, your career coach or a trusted business associate in a mock interview to get comfortable with how you look and sound," advises Pierce.
8. Remember: This is not a dress rehearsal
Pierce offers this final piece of advice, "Job candidates need to understand that this is just like a face-to-face interview. You must dress and act as professionally as if you were sitting in the interviewer's office."
With Enterprise, there are no dress rehearsals. In the past year, Bragg says Enterprise started doing everything over the phone and ceased doing face-to-face interviews for customer contact positions. When choosing the winning candidate, it comes down to "phone etiquette, communication skills ...and resiliency," concludes Bragg.