How to Prepare for a Virtual Job Interview

Ken Chase profile pic
Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

13 min read

How to Prepare for a Virtual Job Interview

Remote interviews have become a staple of many company’s hiring processes in recent years. These virtual interviews can provide tremendous benefits for the companies that employ them. If you’ve ever participated in a virtual job interview, then you know how convenient they can be for job seekers too. On the other hand, if you’ve never interviewed remotely, then you probably have some questions about how it all works.

In this post, we’ll explain some of the reasons why companies use remote interviews and why they are expected to become even more popular in the years to come. We’ll also examine some important tips that you can use to prepare for a virtual job interview to maximize your chances of landing your desired position.  

Why companies rely on virtual job interviews

Even before the pandemic began in 2020, observers noted a significant increase in the use of remote job interview technology by companies around the world. In fact, a 2021 survey published on LinkedIn found that 70% of respondents expected virtual recruitment of job candidates to be the norm even after the pandemic ended. As companies became more comfortable with remote hiring practices, they discovered the many benefits that virtual interviews could provide, including:

  • Shorter hiring times

  • Expanded access to diverse talent

  • Improved experience for candidates

  • Greater cost-efficiency for employers

  • Fewer delays and cancellations

Of course, remote interviewing also offers many benefits to job candidates. For example, job seekers who are offered virtual interviews can more easily schedule multiple job interviews in a compressed period of time. They also save on travel costs and other expenses that they might otherwise incur when they attend in-person interviews.

How to ace a virtual job interview: top tips you need to know

Before you participate in any remote job interview, you should take some time to become familiar with these virtual engagements. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you know how to ace a virtual job interview just because you’ve always been successful with in-person interviews. While the basic question and answer strategies are similar, there are some key factors that you need to consider if you want to make the right first impression. Below, we explore some vital tips that you need to consider to be at your best.

Prepare as you would for any other interview

While a virtual interview differs from an in-person job interview in many important respects, you need to prepare for both in much the same way. Always take the time to research the company and the position you’re seeking, to ensure that you know what you’re talking about during the meeting. What part of the company’s mission resonates with your own career goals? Are your values in alignment with one another? Are there any job duties that need further explanation?

Create a list of these and other questions and try to answer them as best you can. While you’re at it, try to identify the reason why you want to work in that role, and how you think you can add value to the organization. Giving thought to these questions before the interview can help to ensure that you have a prepared answer for all of the most important concerns the interviewer may express.

Prepare your interview space

With an in-person interview, the meeting space is already prepared for you. All you need to do is show up and go where they tell you to go. Since a virtual job interview will be conducted in your own space, you’ll need to ensure that the area is properly prepared. Start by selecting a quiet space where you can speak with interviewers without excessive noise or interruptions. If possible, pick a room with a door that you can close – or better yet, lock.

That space should be free of clutter, clean, and well-lit. A neutral background is often the best choice, so that the interviewer isn’t distracted by your environment. Alternatively, you can use a Zoom virtual background for your job interview if you’re invited to a Zoom interview. Just keep in mind that many of those virtual backgrounds can look as fake as they are.

Also, try to ensure that light in the room is coming from in front of you, so that your face isn’t cast in shadows. Web cameras need plenty of light to capture great images, after all. Natural light from a window is often the best option, but you can also use a lamp or other light source as long as you choose a bulb that provides soft lighting.

Always test the technology

A successful virtual job interview requires the right technology. You’ll need a good webcam, a laptop or desktop computer, reliable Wi-Fi with a strong signal, and a headset or earbuds with a microphone. The quality of these tech tools and services are essential if you want to hold a fluid, virtual conversation with an interviewer, so take the time to test your connection, hardware, and software several times before your scheduled interview.

The interviewer will let you know which software tools they are using for the meeting, so make sure that you’ve downloaded that platform and familiarized yourself with its operations. We recommend setting up your interview tools on your own computer and asking a friend or family member to do the same. That will allow you to experiment with the technology by making some practice calls. This experience can help you to avoid unnecessary errors or technical difficulties.

Choose the right virtual job interview attire

Now, you might be thinking that it’s okay to show up for your virtual job interview wearing whatever you threw on when you woke up. After all, chances are that your interview is taking place at home, right? Well, if you even considered showing up wearing sweats and sneakers, think again. As tempting as it might be to adopt that casual approach, rest assured that it won’t make the type of impression you need to get hired.

Instead, find out what the company’s employees usually wear to work, and dress as though you’re showing up for your first day at the job. Focus on looking as professional as possible and wear clothes that show how much you want the position. While you’re at it, take the time to comb your hair, brush your teeth, and attend to other details of your appearance. This will not only help you to make the right impression, but can also boost your confidence and keep you focused on the task at hand.

Making eye contact can take practice

During an in-person interview, eye contact is simple; you just look at the other person’s face. A virtual job interview is another matter entirely. To simulate the appearance of eye contact, you need to look directly into the camera. However, most people don’t do that naturally, so you need to mimic that effect. To achieve that appearance, you need to position your computer screen directly in front of you so that you can look right at it during your virtual call.

In addition, you need to make sure that the video conference software window is positioned in the right place on your computer screen. If your web camera is at the top of your monitor, as most are, you will need to position that window as close to the camera as you can. The reason you should do this is that you will almost certainly find yourself looking at the interviewer’s face during the meeting. The closer your web camera is to that window, the more it will look as though you’re looking directly at them.

Choose your distance from the camera

The best video calls also require you to frame yourself properly on the screen. That means finding the right distance between yourself and the webcam. Again, think about an in-person interview and where you would be seated relative to the interviewer. Would it be just inches away or clear on the other side of the room? Obviously, the ideal distance would be somewhere between those two extremes. You should try to create that same apparent distance for your virtual interview as well.

As a rule, try to seat yourself so that your head, shoulders, and upper chest are all visible on the screen. That’s typically what an interviewer will see during an in-person meeting. If you do it properly, there should be some empty space on the computer screen above your head as well.

Practice for the interview

Earlier, we suggested that you practice making video calls with a friend or family member. You should also practice your responses to commonly asked interview questions, to ensure that you’re fully prepared for whatever might come your way. Obviously, you cannot completely anticipate every possible question that you might be asked during an interview, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for the most likely questions you’ll hear.

Some questions are almost always asked during either an in-person or virtual job interview. For example, why did you apply for this job? What makes you think that you’re the right person for the position? Where do you plan to be in ten years? For a look at how to answer one of these common questions, check out our post, How to Answer the “What’s Your Greatest Accomplishment” Interview Question.

Eliminate distractions

You also need to do everything you can to reduce the possibility that distractions may occur during the interview. Being in a closed room should help, but you should also take other steps to eliminate potential interruptions. For example, let everyone else in the house know that you’ll be busy during your scheduled interview. If you have kids or pets, try to get someone else to care for them during that time. Eliminate electronic interruptions by silencing your phone and computer notifications.

At the same time, though, it’s important to recognize that some distractions are unavoidable. If you wake up to construction on the street out in front of your home, or a neighbor who is mowing or using power tools, there may not be much you can do to avoid that noise. If that’s the case, make sure that you let the interviewer know about the unexpected noise at the start of the interview. In most instances, they will understand and appreciate you mentioning it to them.

Learn virtual job interview etiquette

Just as in-person interviews have their own unique etiquette standards, there are certain things that everyone expects from a virtual job interview too. These common niceties can help to ensure that you make a great impression, or at least don’t do anything so egregious that you automatically spoil the experience for the interviewer. For example:

  • Make sure that you’re on time. You should be at your computer, relaxed, and signed into the meeting at least a few minutes before it begins. Think of it as showing up early for an in-person interview and waiting in the lobby.

  • Properly greet the interviewer. While you can’t actually shake hands with someone through a computer screen, you can say hello, introduce yourself, and use a simple nod of your head and smile to make an immediate connection.

  • Always wait for the interviewer to complete their sentences before you speak. That ensures that crosstalk is minimized, avoids frustration, and keeps the conversation flowing in a productive way.

  • When you complete an answer, make sure that you somehow signal that you’re done. You can simply nod or ask the interviewer a question to let them know that your answer is complete.

  • Maintain good posture and avoid any fidgeting or nervous reactions.

  • If you don’t understand something, ask. That will help to ensure that the interviewer knows you’re fully engaged in the conversation.

  • Always end a virtual job interview by asking relevant questions before you thank them for their time.

  • Make sure that you follow up after the interview with an email that expresses your appreciation for the opportunity. Many job candidates ignore this simple bit of etiquette, so this can be one more way to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Use effective nonverbal communication

Don’t forget to consciously use nonverbal cues during your interview. Remember, a virtual job interview that uses video technology is a visual experience that enables the interviewer to see you in real-time. Take advantage of that fact by consciously using effective body language to reinforce your message.

Smile throughout the interview to ensure that the interviewer knows you’re fully engaged and enjoying the encounter. Maintain good posture and focus your attention on the interviewer at all times. An open position is best, since it can show that you’re receptive to the interviewer’s questions. If you need to pause to find a document or other relevant information, make sure that you let the interviewer know what you’re doing. Use hand gestures to emphasize important details.

Speak clearly and compellingly

Of course, you’ll also need to ensure that your voice is doing its job. While a virtual job interview requires excellent visual presentation, the vocal aspect is equally important. Practice speaking into the microphone before the interview and listen to the results to see just how well your voice comes across using that technology. If you’ve ever been surprised by how your recorded voice sounds, then you know how important this preparation can be.

Sometimes, computers can make human speech sound off-pitch or even gargled. If you tend to mumble at all, then that effect may be magnified during a virtual interview. By practicing before the interview and examining your results, you can more effectively focus on speaking clearly and enunciating your words to improve your listener’s understanding. Remember, you can’t make a great first impression if nobody can understand what you’re saying.

If you’re still struggling to get your vocal presentation right, try slowing down. Focus on each word and sentence as it comes out of your mouth and speak for clarity rather than speed. If necessary, pause between sentences. You may even need to speak a little louder to ensure that every syllable is properly enunciated. Try to relax and breathe in a normal fashion and give yourself permission to take whatever time you need to get your message out in a compelling way.

Nail your virtual job interview and land that dream job

Remote job interviews are apparently here to stay, so it’s well worth your time to master the techniques needed to successfully ace them. The good news is that your virtual job interview doesn’t have to feel like a completely new experience. Just pay attention to the technical details and interview etiquette and you’ll have everything you need to make the best possible impression on any potential employer.

Before you can nail that interview, though, you need to make sure that your resume captures the right kind of attention from employers. Get your free resume review from our experts today!

Recommended reading:

Ken Chase profile pic

Written by

Ken Chase, Freelance Writer

During Ken's two decades as a freelance writer, he has covered everything from banking and fintech to business management and the entertainment industry. His true passion, however, has always been focused on helping others achieve their career goals with timely job search and interview advice or the occasional resume consultation. When he's not working, Ken can usually be found adventuring with family and friends or playing fetch with his demanding German Shepherd. Read more resume advice from Ken on ZipJob’s blog.

Person working on laptop outside. ZipJob Branded.

Our resume services get results.

We’ve helped change over 30,000 careers.


This site uses cookies and related technologies for site operation, and analytics as described in our Privacy Policy. You may choose to consent to our use of these technologies, reject non-essential technologies, or further manage your preferences.