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What to do before, during and after a virtual interview to land the job

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The job market today is in many ways unrecognizable compared to early 2020, including the sheer volume of jobless workers applying for scarce openings, as well as the way people are connecting and interviewing for new opportunities during the pandemic.

But employers are still hiring, and even though employers are increasingly relying on virtual interviews to hire, some of the basic tenets of job interviewing still apply with a few tweaks, says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of HR at the job site Indeed.

Some companies, including Amazon, are even launching nationwide virtual career days to attract interested applicants and streamline the hiring process.

And on September 14, Indeed kicked off a national virtual hiring tour with the goal of filling 20,000 roles through October by facilitating virtual interviews. Job seekers can sign up to interview with more than 400 participating employers looking to fill immediate roles ranging from essential frontline work to desk jobs that can be done from home.

Whether you're planning a one-off video-meeting with a hiring manager or participating in an online career fair, here are Wolfe's tips on how to succeed in a virtual interview setting.

How to prepare for a virtual interview

First and foremost, "you want to be prepared," Wolfe says. "That's the advice we've given for ages."

Just as you'd prepare for an in-person interview, do some homework on the company and the job you're applying for, Wolfe says. Take note of the top two or three responsibilities of the job and be prepared to discuss how your own experience would set you up for success in the role.

You'll also want to prepare your technology for the specific platform you'll be using for the meeting. Before your call, open the application to test the camera and sound quality from your device. Invite a friend or someone in your house into a test meeting to ensure everything is working properly.

Some hiring events may let you sign up for interview slots with multiple employers ahead of time. If you have several meetings lined up in one time block, test each interview platform on your device earlier in the day.

"Even moving platform to platform, whether you're in Google Hangouts or Zoom or FaceTime, the camera doesn't always work the same way," Wolfe says. "That's why with virtual hiring events, make sure you test your video and audio beforehand."

Different platforms may also show a different frame of your surroundings, so scan to make sure your background is appropriate and free from as many distractions as possible.

If you live with other people, Wolfe recommends you let them know of your meeting schedule to try and avoid any disruptions during your call.

And because no one is immune to technology glitches, consider exchanging phone numbers with your hiring manager so you can continue your interview no matter what happens on the Wi-Fi front.

Make a good impression on video

After you've put on a professional interview outfit and ensured your equipment is ready to go, log into the interviewing platform a few minutes early.

Wolfe says another major change between in-person and on-camera interviewing is that you'll want to be especially aware of how your body language comes across on screen. Be aware if you tend to slouch at your computer desk. If so, rearrange your seating so you're well-framed on the screen, comfortable and alert.

"We may forget what we look like here in our houses enclosed in a room for Zoom meetings all day," Wolfe says.

If you use more than one computer monitor, make sure to open the interview window on the screen closest to your camera so you can maintain eye contact with the interviewer.

Close any tabs or noise-making apps on your screen so they don't distract. And just as you would for an in-person interview, set your phone to silent. Try to control for other noises that might occur, such as by asking a housemate to answer a landline or doorbell if they go off during your interview. Some noises will be beyond your control, such as a barking dog or outside traffic, so use your judgment whether to acknowledge it at the top of your call and thank the interviewer for their patience.

You may want to have paper copies of the company profile, job description and your resume handy so you can refer to them easily during the interview instead of clicking among browser tabs. If you don't have a printer, have a set of handwritten notes ready.

And because you'll be looking at a screen, you may be able to keep a better eye on the time. If you're nearing the end of your session and haven't hit your selling points about why you should be hired, find a natural segue to cover your bases.

Close out the interview strong

One of the best ways to leave a lasting impression is to come prepared with questions about the company, job and hiring manager, Wolfe says.

"That's my ongoing advice to job seekers," he says. "I was interviewing a candidate earlier for a job, and they came prepared with a good group of questions that expressed their interest in the role."

Wolfe recommends you send a follow-up "thank you" email to your interviewer before the end of the day with a personal note about something you discussed. If you have any additional follow-up questions about the job or hiring process, this would be a good time to ask them.

Finally, a benefit to doing virtual interviews is the hiring manager may be able to meet with and evaluate multiple candidates more quickly.

"Sometimes this process can take up to six weeks," Wolfe says of the usual in-person hiring process. "With virtual interviewing, we can reduce the time to hire from weeks to days. We've had some employers make job offers on the spot."

Have an idea of how you would approach an offer from the company, what parts of the job package you'd like to negotiate, and your mutual expectations for joining the team.

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