May 28, 2020

5 Tips on Preparing for a Virtual Interview in Tech

Lexi Mills |


Adapt and survive thrive.

During this season of COVID-19, we’ve had to relearn almost everything about the way that we live. We’ve learned to communicate, exercise, shop, work, be social, be patient and – for some – prepare for an interview which is now remote. While we can’t predict the future or even make sense of the present sometimes, what we can do is make a conscious effort to adapt and do our best in the current climate.

On a lighter note, for me, finding the silver lining in the new normal means looking forward to Zoom Happy Hours on Fridays (you just can’t beat the price of at-home Boxed Wine AmIRite?)

People at virtual happy hour on Fridays at FreshWorks Studio
The team at FreshWorks enjoying our new tradition of virtual happy hour on Fridays

Changing jobs? You’re not alone.

On a more serious note, you or many others may now find themselves on the job market quite unexpectedly. Whether you are newly graduated, switching industries or recently laid off, part of making the best of this new normal means being as prepared as possible for the experience of being a remote candidate for the first time.

With team members from 17 different countries around the world, our hiring team at FreshWorks is no stranger to conducting remote interviews. However we see a lot of people that are new to interviewing from the other side of a screen and not a table. While navigating any new situation can feel daunting at first, let me tell you there is nothing better than bypassing that 6 minutes of small talk between you as an anxious candidate and the easy-breezy Office  Manager while making the walk from the reception desk to the interview room; I’m not nervous-sweating, you are! 

Whether you’re hoping to rock that remote interview or simply get through it alive, here are some tips and tricks that will help you be better prepared, right from the mouth (well, fingers technically) of someone that’s been on the other side once, twice or 500 something times.

1. Home is where the heart is… or at least where the interview is.

Take the home-court advantage.

These days, most of us would jump at the chance to leave the house, no matter the reason. But in reality, if you go to a potential employers office this can contribute to the stress of the interview. You not only have to take in the environment, but also adapt to it while already in a nervous state. Interviewing at home might not feel like an initial win, but it’s definitely not a negative; you have the home-court advantage and can use that.

Get your setup right.

Prepare for your virtual interview by setting your station up with a copy of your resume, a notebook and pen, and a glass of water or your fave caffeinated bev. There are no rules here the key is simply setting yourself up to feel prepared so that you go in feeling confident!

Bring a cheat sheet.

Take your preparation one step further by having notes that you can keep at your interview station. You know the classic “what do you know about our company” question? Well a lot may have changed in the world, but chances are that question is still coming for ya! Interviewing remotely allows you to use cheat sheets, post-it notes, stickers, whatever is in your eye-sight to help you nail those points that could otherwise slip your mind due to typical interview nerves.

Person at desk with notes behind camera preparing for a virtual interview.
No one can see notes or cheat sheets behind the camera.

My favourite cheat sheets of this kind include points about the company I’m interviewing for, bullet points of personal achievements I want to make sure I mention, questions to ask the interview team and more!

2. First, test! To do your best.

Do not wait until 2 minutes before the virtual interview start-time to prepare and test the video link that you’ve had for weeks. This is the equivalent of Google Mapping your interview location 30 minutes before  the interview starts and realizing it takes 31 minutes to get there. I am directionally challenged myself (I still use my maps app when driving to the ferries and I have lived in Victoria for 5+ years), and I can tell you that this build-up of panic right before starting an interview is not ideal and totally avoidable. Some things you might find:

  • The video link is outdated
  • It may require you to create an account or install software
  • You may need a password you didn’t see in another email

Test your video links ahead of time!

For multiple video conferencing softwares including Zoom – the remote interview tool of choice these days – you’re required to install the app before accessing the meeting. This should only take 30 seconds. But it can (and often does) end up being much more if you don’t have adequate storage on your phone, or need to update your laptop before downloading the latest version of the app. So give yourself a little more time to prepare.

Do a dry run with friends or family.

If the tool is easily accessible and free, make yourself an account ahead of time and create your own video link to do a test run with a friend or family member. That way you can test not only accessibility (do you need to download anything? create a personal login? etc.), but also video and audio quality too.

3. Lights? Camera? Action!

Audio quality matters.

In terms of audio quality tips, the first one is to make sure your mic isn’t blocked; whether that mic is built into your device or an external one such as a gaming, podcasting, or other headphone set. This might be your laptop speaker resting on the pillows on your couch or (my personal pet peeve) your attached mic on your earbuds rustling against your shirt or hair every time you slightly move your head.

If you don’t have a suitable headset already, investing in a decent external microphone starts at about $30 on Amazon. Given that virtual meetings are more common every day, and you might have to prepare for several virtual interviews, a good microphone is often a worthwhile purchase. 

Master the mute button.

It should go without saying but make sure your space is quiet. That will be the biggest factor in audio quality. If road noise or other external noise is impossible to prevent, Zoom or other software often have a push-to-talk setting where your microphone will be muted unless you are actively pressing an unmute button. Test your software beforehand and find this function if you think you’ll need to.

Look your best on video.

For video quality there are countless tips available on the subject. The right equipment helps, but planning your environment helps as much or more. Some basic tips:

  • Camera within a few degrees of eye level
  • Have a diffused light coming from the front
  • Natural light if possible
  • Perfect is a window in front of you (but not direct sunlight)

For some more lighting tips, check out this video.

4. No airplane arms.

We’ve all been on a FaceTime with a friend who forgets the implications of video calling on a smartphone and inadvertently initiates airplane arms. With interview jitters in-play, it is more likely than not that your stable grip on your phone will drift. When this happens, your interviewer might get just an ear in the video frame, a solid view up one nostril, or worse! I don’t know what your best angle is, but straight up from below the chin isn’t mine.

Results of airplane arms

While I’m probably being more dramatic than necessary, (it wouldn’t be the first time), this is an often overlooked tip on preparing for your virtual interview. Having a grounded device will provide an overall more professional and prepared vibe for the interview and will actually make you feel more, well… grounded.

A laptop with a camera or a desktop monitor with a webcam and mic are preferable, but a mobile device will work just fine. A small tripod for your phone is nice, but not required. The real takeaway here is to have your device fixed in one spot so that the frame does not travel during your conversation. 

5. Dress for success!

Business on top, party on the bottom.

In the earliest days of navigating this season of remote work, LinkedIn became flooded with articles and tips on how to be productive at home, the first of which being: dress as you would for the office. While I’m personally a fan of the “business on top, party on the bottom” (party meaning sweatpants where I’m concerned), there is plenty of evidence you can alter your mindset with the help of your wardrobe. Will your interviewer know if you’re wearing slacks or sweats? Likely not. Do the slacks make you more qualified? Still nope. But in being prepared for the part, you’ll be more confident in how you present yourself and having the right attitude does actually make you more qualified.

You’re gonna do great.

While there’s, unfortunately, no one ultimate secret to crushing an interview, whether remote or otherwise, confidence plays a huge role in how you’ll be perceived by a review panel. Most of these tips revolve around simply being prepared which undoubtedly contributes to a feeling of overall confidence. Feel like testing out these tips on me? FreshWorks Studio is hiring! Check out our open roles for more info.

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