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Five tips to nail virtual interviews

Hiring managers in Singapore share what you can do to stand out amongst the rest.

Caris Chua
Caris Chua

Published: 2 July 2021, 7:27 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual interviews all the rage, especially since work from home has become the default setting for the large part of two years. 

While job interviews often drive people into a nervous wreck no matter how they take place, virtual interviews could be especially daunting.

This new phenomenon sees us trying to connect with our hiring managers across the screen, while fighting potential technical difficulties to create the best impression of ourselves in the short amount of time that we are given. 

However, for a trend that is likely to stay for the foreseeable future, it is crucial that as jobseekers, we are well-positioned for this change. 

As this new platform for hosting job interviews may seem foreign to many, we asked two hiring managers – Nicolette Yeo, general manager of rapidly growing local biotechnology and e-commerce start-up ProfilePrint, and Dan Koh, director of boutique PR agency WhiteLabel PR – for the realest advice that will help you leverage on the virtual setting to ace your next video interview. 

Treat virtual interviews like you would a physical one

While it can be challenging to engage others through a screen, it is important to treat the virtual interview with the same level of enthusiasm you would during an in-person meeting.

Nicolette often looks out for qualities not too different from physical interviews when she hires virtually.

“While soft skills are a bit more difficult to assess through video calls, we often observe their communication skills, potential for leadership, openness to new ideas and adaptability,” said the general manager of the homegrown startup which was recently awarded the grand winner of the Cargill Prize for Health through Nutrition at Future Food Asia 2021.  

This means dressing your part as well.

 

It’s always important to give a good first impression during interviews. PHOTO CREDITS: RUTHSON ZIMMERMAN VIA UNSPLASH

 

“While we definitely do not expect full makeup, it tells us a lot if the candidate puts in the effort to put on a presentable blouse or shirt, even if it were a T-shirt,” said Dan, co-founder of WhiteLabel PR agency that specialises in marketing communications for fashion and lifestyle brands.

“We would appreciate it if the candidate confers similar levels of respect on camera as they would in person,” said Dan.

Confidence is key

Both Nicolette and Dan concur on the simplest yet best way to exude your confidence through the screen: body language.

 

Body language is a way to express your confidence and interest for the position you are applying for. PHOTO CREDITS: HEADWAY VIA UNSPLASH

 

Nicolette advises that keeping eye contact during video interviews is crucial: “I do believe some may be more reserved and shy, but do still try to maintain eye contact.”

“Someone who is upbeat and enthusiastic, and someone who is not shy to hold eye contact as well would definitely pique our interest,” said Dan. 

Dan believes that it is vital for interviewees to take ownership of the conversation. He said: “In terms of personality, it is important that the candidate is confident and takes the initiative to engage in an exchange rather than a passive response to our questions.”

A bonus tip? Posture is also of paramount importance. Nicolette added: “Sit up straight and don’t slouch.”

Be authentic

Nonetheless, hiring managers do not expect you to be perfect. 

While using a clean virtual background is often encouraged for virtual interviews, as a PR practitioner, Dan actually appreciates authenticity during an interview: “Even if it were your slightly messy bedroom, it does give us a better sense of what the candidate is like and if the candidate would be a good fit for our team.”

Engaging in occasional small talk and sharing personal stories are some ways to demonstrate authenticity. 

“[Small talk] gives the candidate the chance to show that they care. It presents the opportunity to start a two-way conversation between the interviewee and the interviewer,” said Dan. 

“Sharing personal stories that are weaved into the achievements they would like to share suggests to me that the candidate is confident and reflexive – that they are able to take experiences as learning opportunities.

“Don’t be afraid to frown, or take a moment to think during video interviews. We are not robots and are pretty good at detecting nervous or false smiles.”

However, if you do wish to add a personal quirk to your interview, there are ways to do so. For example, “a designer could use something they’ve designed to showcase their creativity or personality,” said Nicolette.

They know when you're reading off your screen

Perhaps a good thing that has come with virtual interviews is the freedom to have some notes spread out before you during the interview. 

The catch? Hiring managers can tell when you read off a script, said Nicolette.

“It can be quite obvious when a candidate starts focusing on something else on the screen,  especially if you wear glasses and there’s a reflection of your screen. It suggests to us that you might not be keen to talk to us, or to be working in this position,” said Dan. 

Nicolette describes interviews as a “two-way street”. She said: “As much as the company is assessing you, it is also your chance to assess the company to see if it’s a good fit for you and in line with your career goals.”

Keeping in mind that you’re engaging in a conversation with your interviewer is also a means to demonstrate your authenticity. 

Prepare questions for the company

Always do your homework and prepare insightful questions to express your genuine interest in the company that you’re interviewing for.

 

It’s always best to research about the company beforehand. PHOTO CREDITS: SARAH ELIZABETH VIA UNSPLASH

 

“We appreciate someone who has a sense of what we do as a company and expresses interest to join us because of the work that we do,” said Dan. 

But what types of questions would be most appropriate?

“Ask questions about the company, the culture, and so on, to show your interest,” said Nicolette.

“If the candidate is prepared with a list of questions to ask about the job, and the team, even the pay, we will know that the candidate is serious about the opportunity,” added Dan.

The future is here

Dan remains optimistic about virtual interviews being here to stay. “While it may seem to be an unintended consequence of the pandemic, in my opinion, the pandemic has merely sped up the inevitable,” he said. 

In fact, moving forward, he believes that virtual presentations are a good skill to have. He added: “Virtual presentations have become an increasingly important skill set that distinguishes a good addition from a great addition to our team.”

“Don’t let the screen change anything about what you’d typically do during an interview,” said Nicolette.

Here’s a final piece of advice from the both of them: ALWAYS follow up after your interview.

“It tells us a lot about how keen you are about the position,” said Dan.


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