7 Tips to Help You Ace a Virtual Job Interview

Real-time video interviews were a necessity during the pandemic, and accounting and finance employers continue to use them to assess applicants. Most of the guidance for an in-person interview applies to a video interview, but you’ll face additional challenges in a video conference. Common candidate worries include communicating effectively and presenting themselves in the best possible light via the video feed. The following tips will help you ace your virtual interview.

Before the Interview

1. Organize the details and test your tech.

First, organize all the essential interview details on paper or a printout. Include the time and length of the interview (reconfirm the time if parties are in different time zones), the name of the interviewer, your HR contact’s email address and phone number, and the video conference link. The video conference invite email may include a call-in number, so make sure you have it in case a power outage, internet service interruption, or similar issue arises during the interview.

Then check your computer setup. Test that your camera and microphone work. If the video image isn’t sharp and the audio isn’t clear, buy a webcam with a built-in microphone. Check your internet connection speed. On the day of your interview, confirm that your gear and internet connection are working.

Finally, recruiters use a variety of video-conferencing platforms, such as Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. If you don’t have the software the recruiter is using, download it immediately. Online video tutorials will help you pick up the platform’s basics quickly.

2. Set the stage.

For a video interview, it’s essential to present good visuals. Imagine that you’re filming a scene for a movie. Find an appropriate space with comfortable seating and good natural lighting — not too dark or overly bright. A blank wall is a good choice for an interview background, but other backgrounds may work as long as there’s no clutter or obvious distractions. Avoid using a virtual background, if possible. The goal is to make sure that you’ll be the focus of the video feed.

Set up your PC or laptop on a table or desk. Position it near your seat at a distance that enables the camera to show your shoulders and upper chest while leaving some space above your head. Make sure the camera is at eye level so you can maintain eye contact during the interview without raising or lowering your head. Keep changing the variables until you find the perfect placement.

Next, be ready to dress the part. Depending on the position and the firm, you’ll want to wear either business formal or business casual clothes. Keep your background in mind when choosing your outfit and test it in front of your camera setup.

Ensure your interview location won’t have any audio distractions. Ask family members or roommates to avoid making noises or intruding on the interview. Just before the interview, close windows, mute your phone, and silence any other potential noisemakers.

3. Prepare for the interview.

Preparing for a virtual interview essentially mirrors the preparations that you would make for an in-person interview. Follow these general interview tips, review these questions to ask in a job interview, and be aware of these 10 interview mistakes to avoid.

For a video interview, it’s essential to perform a practice interview with a spouse or friend. Rehearsing answers to common interview questions will make you more comfortable with the conferencing platform, your interview location, and your presentation. If possible, record the practice interview and analyze it later. Your practice buddy can also point out any audiovisual issues that occurred during the practice run and suggest ways to improve your presentation.

On the day of the interview, log onto the conference platform 5 to 10 minutes early to confirm there’s no technical issue. This ensures you’ll be present when the interviewer launches the video conference to start the interview.

During the Interview

4. Make your pitch.

The goal of an interview is to make a persuasive pitch that convinces the interviewer that you’re the best candidate for the job. To convey your messages effectively, your answers and statements should be thoughtful and professional.

Once the interview begins, look at the camera and speak clearly. Remain calm and focus on the interviewer’s questions and your responses. One of the advantages of a virtual interview is that you can subtly use prompts. Stick bullet-point notes to your monitor that provide behavioral reminders (for example: speak slowly, look at camera) and that help you emphasize your prepared talking points (for example: skills, great firm, career advancement). You can also place longer reminders, such as a list of questions to ask, within sight or on your screen. Be careful because you don’t want to look away from the camera for too long or appear to be reading off of a list.

5. Be aware of your body language.

Even in an in-person job interview, candidates often overlook the importance of body language. It’s even easier to neglect this facet in a virtual interview, which lacks handshakes and the other social and physical aspects of face-to-face meetings.

Your interviewer will see only your face and upper body. Due to this limitation, the most effective way to communicate visually is to sit up straight and maintain good posture, smile and show other emotions when appropriate, and maintain eye contact. You may want to remove your self-view from the platform’s screen so you don’t fall into the trap of looking to see how you appear. If you typically use your hands while talking, try to keep it to a minimum; seeing your hands fluttering in and out of the video feed will likely distract the interviewer.

6. Bond with the interviewer.

One of the keys to a successful virtual interview is to make a connection with the interviewer. You want to overcome the constraints of the video platform to impress the interviewer that you’re likable, sensible, and easy to work with. The guidance here is simple to express but requires mindfulness to execute: Be confident, be genuine, be yourself. Even on a video feed, humans are adept at sensing inauthenticity or a lack of confidence.

After the Interview

7. Send a thank-you email.

Within 24 hours of your virtual interview, send each interviewer an individualized thank-you email. A follow-up email is proper etiquette and a sign of respect. It also offers a bonus opportunity for you to make the case that you’re the perfect fit for the position and include talking points that you didn’t have time to make during the interview. Also promptly follow up on any requests for additional information that the interviewer made, such as asking for references or authorization to perform a background check.

Career Moves Can Help You Navigate a Virtual Interview

Paul Wigglesworth, CPA and founder of Career Moves, can help you build the perfect resume for today’s accounting and finance jobs and get it into the hands of the right people at many of the top companies in Connecticut. With more than two decades of experience helping accounting and finance professionals land their ideal positions, he also knows what hiring managers look for in interviews. Contact Paul for assistance.