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September 11, 2020

How to ACE your Virtual Interview

Are you prepared for the “new normal” when it comes to job searching? With so many interviews moving to virtual platforms, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and become confused on how to go about this new process. You could be thinking “How do I stand out as the right candidate, from only meeting a team virtually?”, “How do I make the most of my online presence?”.  Well, Sonoco’s recruiting team is excited to share helpful tips ranging from how to prepare for your interview with the right technology to how to set up your virtual office. Let us help you interview your way to success!

Tip #1 - Create a Virtual Conference Room

Creating your virtual conference room will ensure that what is behind you on screen is appropriate for an interview. You want your background to come off as professional as your behavior. Try to have a neutral, well lit, office-like appearance if possible. Even just a blank wall will work. You may be taken less seriously if your favorite movie poster is visible in the background! Also take advantage of background settings if they are available through the platform you are using to interview. Some platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, allow you to choose an image that appears as your background or even blurring the focus of the background shown on camera.

Along with having an appropriate background, be sure to check the entire scope of your camera. Anything within the view of the camera should be tidy and clean. You want to send a message to your interviewers that you are detail oriented and organized. That pile of laundry in the corner you refuse to fold does not scream organized!

Tip #2 - Be as professional on camera, as you would in person. 

Just because you’re not going to be in the same physical space as your interviewers, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare like you will be. Dressing up like you are interviewing in person will put you in a mindset to take your interview more seriously and will make you feel as though you’re in a professional setting. Sometimes, we feel a degree of separation when attending virtual events, which causes us to be more relaxed and casual. Remember this is your time to show off your best professional self. We promise, you don’t want to go viral for that reason! Asking your recruiter about the dress code is also recommended. Many companies are only requesting business casual for virtual interviews.

While you may feel more comfortable and relaxed in your remote location, remember you are on camera for your interview. Don't fidget or whip out a snack because the recruiters can see you! Sit up straight, smile, and look at the camera to mimic eye contact. You may also be tempted to have other pages open on your computer or device during your interview, but this is a potential distraction! Your interviewers will definitely notice if you are clicking around and appear to be reading things on your screen. This will tell them that they do not have your undivided attention.     

Tip #3 - Technology is the best, until it isn't. 

One big advantage you can have before interviewing virtually is being familiar with the settings on the interviewing platform. Most virtual meeting platform have a "lobby" or preview screen where you can adjust your microphone and camera settings before actually entering the video call. The mute button, while it can occasionally be a useful tool, can be dangerous to use while interviewing. If you are using the mute button to reduce distracting background noises, consider using headphones with microphone capabilities instead. 

Also be mindful of your virtual identity. Unusual email addresses and half cropped profile pictures don’t scream “hire me.” The safest bets for email are to use a university email or first-name-last-name format. For your profile picture, use a professional headshot if you have one or a picture of just you from only your shoulders up.

Having a stable WiFi connection during the time of your interview is vital! The last thing you want is to be disconnected in the middle of the call. If the WiFi for the building you are interviewing from is not the most reliable, test out using a mobile WiFi hotspot or consider a new location with a stronger connection.

Tip #4 - Practice makes perfect. 

Just like in person interviews, practice makes perfect. Have an idea on how you would answer common interviewing questions, know something about the company, and know what is on your resume. Get to know yourself! Sometimes the question people struggle with the most is, "Could you tell us a little about yourself?" Practice in the mirror, with friends, and even do a mock interview to make sure you are ready. Practice makes perfect, but make sure it doesn’t keep you from being genuine. Be polished, but let your recruiters know who you are!

While you should practice like the interview is in person, preparing yourself for the interviewing space is a little different when it’s virtual. As soon as you know which platform your interview will be taking place through, familiarize yourself with all its functions. Even if it is a platform you may have used before, doing a quick refresh won't hurt. You want to be able to navigate the platform smoothly. It's less stress for you and good tech skills are appealing to employers!

Sonoco commonly uses Microsoft Teams and another popular platform with other companies is Zoom. Test out the common platforms so when it’s time for your interview, you will already know a little something about how to work the platform.

The final step in preparing for your virtual interview is letting other people know that you are interviewing! If you are interviewing from home, talk to any roommates or family members the day before to remind them what time and where you will be interviewing in the house. Make sure that your pets are in a safe place where they won’t be disruptive as well!       

Virtual interviews are, in many ways, just like in person interviews and should be treated as such. Try your best with all the new technological aspects and your recruiters will appreciate your efforts. Everyone understands that this is new and can be challenging so don’t stress! Get out there and show your recruiters you are ready to face the challenges and they will help you overcome any hurdles you need help with. Above all, remember that the Sonoco recruiting team is here and ready to help guide you to a successful virtual interviewing experience!

Author: Mary Margaret Cottingham