Interviewing can seem like an overwhelming process, especially when you're preparing for your first interview (or if it’s been a while since your last interview). In addition, the pandemic has led to an increase in video interviewing – according to this article, in March alone more than half of professionals in the U.S. changed their in-person meetings to either phone or video for health and safety reasons.

As we look ahead to the second half of 2020, we want to start preparing you for virtual interviewing, whether that be on platforms you’re familiar with like Google Hangouts or Zoom, or methods you might be less familiar with, like on-demand, pre-recorded interviews. We’re here to help you understand the process, develop your skills, and gain confidence.

General interviewing tips

Perhaps the best tip for a successful, less stressful interviewing experience is to prepare. When I meet with job seekers, I encourage them to prepare with a 3-step process: Research, Revisit & Reflect, and Practice.

Research

  • Carve out time before your interview to research the role and company. Review the company's website, LinkedIn page, Glassdoor reviews and sample interview questions, and other web presence (e.g., press articles).

Revisit & Reflect

  • Revisit the description of the job you’re interviewing for. Identify the technical and non-technical skills this employer wants in a candidate.
  • Reflect and identify experiences that demonstrate you possess these skills.
  • Review common interviewing questions and think about how you would respond.

Practice

  • Once you have some responses in mind, practice talking about your stories out loud, even just to yourself. Practicing our delivery boosts confidence and helps us develop clear, concise responses.
  • Try starting a Zoom meeting, record, and answer one (or more) of your practice questions. Rewatch the recording to review your answers, posture, body language, tone, rate of speech, etc.
  • Use the STAR technique to help structure your responses to behavioral and resume-based interview questions.

In fact, before you even start applying to jobs, start building your “story toolbox”. I encourage advisees to review lists of common behavioral interviewing questions and identify examples from the classroom, CIOs, the lab, internships, summer jobs, etc., that could answer those questions. Start a Google Doc with sample behavioral questions and jot down any stories that come to mind that could answer these questions. Before each interview, revisit this “story toolbox” to refresh your memory on stories that could turn into interview responses. TIP: Practice is good, but remember not to overly rehearse answer answers (see tip #3).

Find more information on interviewing (prep, day-of tips, and what to do after the interview) on the Engineering Career Development website, as well as the UVA Career Center’s site.

Video Interviewing: Things to know

While there are many similarities between in-person and video interviewing, there are key differences to be aware of – revisit this list before future virtual interviews:

  • Prepare just as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Do a couple of practice runs with friends, family, and/or your career advisor in the days leading up to the interview. Use the technology you’ll be using for the interview, if possible, or practice with the platform you’re most comfortable with.
  • On the day of the interview, check your tech. Make sure software and programs are updated well before your interview begins. Test your internet connection and consider asking a friend to join you on Zoom or Google Hangouts to test your audio and video settings. Be sure your devices are fully charged and consider having them plugged in for the duration of the interview. And, have a backup plan just in case something isn’t working (e.g., a phone number where the interviewer can contact you or vice versa).
  • Position your device so that the camera is at your eye-level. I currently have my laptop sitting on a shoe box to reach the right height (see 2:30 of this video).
  • Review your environment and surroundings. Is the space well lit? How do you look in the lighting? What will the interviewer see in the background? Do you have housemates? Let them know you’ll need quiet time for your interview, and post a reminder on the door.
  • If you’re using a personal Google, Skype, etc., account, make sure you have a professional username. I updated my default Zoom username of “hrr5j” to “Heather Palmer” for clarity.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person interview. TIP: Review this guide to business casual vs professional wear.
  • Eye contact is a way we show we’re paying attention, listening, and invested in a conversation. Many of us have a tendency to look at the person we’re talking to during a video call instead of looking directly at the camera – and that’s usually okay. However, for an interview, you might find it beneficial to look at the camera versus the person – they’ll receive more direct eye contact from you.  It might feel a little uncomfortable, so practice with friends ahead of time. Check out eye contact tips starting at 2:20 in this video.
  • Consider keeping a few, very brief talking points on your screen (starting at 6:20 in this video).
  • Be sure to send an email thank-you note after the interview.

Additional resources:
20 Video Interview Tips to Help You Dazzle the Hiring Manager and Get the Job from The Muse
Video Interview Guide: Tips for a Successful Interview from Indeed
How to Ace Your Virtual Interview from Glassdoor

Recording interview responses with video interviewing software

Over the last two years, I’ve met with a small but increasing number of students who have had a “pre-recorded, on-demand” interview experience. Several companies, like HireVue, allow employers to send candidates a series of questions to answer over video. Candidates will hear one question at a time, have 30 or so seconds to prepare to respond, and then record themselves answering the question – all without an actual interviewer being present.

One advantage to this method of interviewing: Once a company invites you to participate, you’ll generally have a few days to complete the interview – on your own time, whenever it best suits you.

One potential drawback: This “one-way” method of interviewing doesn’t allow you to gauge your interviewer’s facial reactions and body language. Some find this makes them more nervous but for others, talking to a camera versus a person might feel less daunting.

A few things you should know:

  • Prepare for this interview like you would any other interview by anticipating potential questions, brainstorming talking points, and practicing answering questions out loud.
  • All candidates interviewing for the same role will receive the same questions to answer.
  • Once you launch the session, take advantage of the practice question – don’t skip it! Use this opportunity to note how much of your background will be included in the video. Tame a few of those butterflies before recording and submitting your first real interview response.
  • In some cases, you’ll have the ability to rerecord an answer if you’d like. For some questions, you’ll have one opportunity to record your response within a time limit (e.g., 1-3 minutes).
  • If you have notes with talking points or stories to share, you can look at them during the ~30 seconds of reflection/practice time before recording your response.
  • Some employers might incorporate AI into the analysis of the recorded responses. Not much is known about which employers incorporate AI or what individual employers are looking for. Our best advice is to practice answering common interviewing questions and be yourself. Learn more about the use of AI in pre-recorded interviews (CNN) and AI ethics in video interviewing (HireVue).

Resources to help you prep for recorded interviews:
8 tips for successful video interviewing from HireVue
Popular one-way video interview questions (you’ll find they’re similar to questions you’d receive in a traditional interview)
Common questions from HireVue interviews submitted by students at Duke
Guide to preparing for your AI interview

Additional things to consider while interviewing during the pandemic

While navigating a global pandemic, both you and the employer might have new questions to ask one another during the interview.

After many of you experienced last-minute changes to your summer plans, employers are likely to start asking interviewees something like, “How did your summer plans change as a result of COVID-19? How did you pivot from your original plans to creating opportunities for your summer?” If you’ve taking courses through Coursera or LinkedIn Learning, furthered your knowledge or skills through webinars, or participated in part-time or short-term projects or research, employers want to know. Tell them how you approached redesigning your summer and what the experience has taught you.

In addition, employers may have a renewed focus on communication, collaboration, and one’s ability to handle challenges. One employers said “"We’re looking for people who are self-motivated, have the ability to collaborate digitally, and communicate effectively," (check out #3 and #4 here). Add examples to your story toolkit (see above) that illustrate your skills in these areas.

Of course you might have new questions for the interviewer as well, such as wanting to learn more about how their organization responded to the pandemic and what changes, if any, are they still implementing. Read 8 Interview Questions for Job Seekers to Ask about COVID-19 to get more ideas of questions to discuss.

Finally, you might have questions for our team about the fall – how employers may or may not change their interviewing processes, as well as what resources and programs we’ll offer to help you prepare. Career advisors are working collaboratively this month to identify and prepare resources for you, and our colleagues who work most closely with employers are learning more about their plans for fall recruiting. As we learn more about interviewing trends and plans for the fall, we’ll be sure to communicate those to you. In the meantime, if you have an idea that you’d like to share with our team, reply to this message and I’ll be sure to share with my fellow advisors.