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Elevating Your Virtual Presence: Strategies for Interviews 

A person doing a virtual job interview.

As virtual interviews become increasingly common in company hiring practices, mastering proper online etiquette is now essential to keep pace and distinguish yourself throughout the job application journey. The shift from face-to-face meetings to virtual interactions brings distinct challenges but also opportunities, such as flexibility and increased accessibility for candidates from different locations. 

Developing your virtual presence improves your professional image and your effectiveness in the virtual environment. This skill set aligns with the expanding domain of remote work—where approximately 42 percent of America’s workforce engages in remote work to some extent—and is likely to remain highly valuable in the future of employment. 

First impressions matter, even in the virtual world. To stand out in an online interview, it is essential to project confidence and professionalism through being fully present and engaged. This can be achieved by maintaining eye contact by looking into the camera, using hand gestures to emphasize points, and ensuring your body language is open and attentive. Additionally, having a neutral and tidy background can prevent distractions and keep the focus on you. Here are some more key strategies and tips, informed by expert advice and practical experiences, to help you elevate your virtual presence. 

1. Prepare Your Technical Arsenal 

Your technical setup forms the foundation of your virtual presence. 

A computer with a microphone and camera
  • Invest in Quality Equipment: A high-definition webcam, clear microphone, and adequate lighting are highly advantageous. These elements ensure that your visual and auditory presentation is clear and professional. 

  • Ensure Internet Reliability: Use a stable internet connection to prevent disruptions.

Research from the Journal of Business and Psychology highlights the impact of technical reliability on perceptions of professionalism in virtual settings. A smooth, uninterrupted virtual experience not only enhances your virtual credibility, but also allows you to engage most effectively with interviewers. 

As of recent years, most newer laptops and computers come equipped with built-in cameras and microphones. Estimates suggest that 95% to 98% of laptops and desktops manufactured in the last few years include them as standard features. This widespread incorporation demonstrates the recognized and projected importance of video communication and virtual interactions as a norm.  

No matter how much we prepare, things can go awry, especially technologically. Bringing us to the next point...

2. Navigate Technical Challenges Gracefully 

Despite even meticulous preparation, technical hiccups can disrupt virtual interviews. 

  • Preparation is Key: Familiarize yourself with the video conferencing platform and test your equipment beforehand to minimize the likelihood of technical issues. 

  • Maintain Composure: Stay calm and composed if technical difficulties arise. Troubleshoot calmly to resolve the issue without disrupting the flow of conversation. 

Begin the log in process at least 30 minutes before the start of the interview, especially if you have not used the video conferencing platform before. This gives you time to create an account if required, check your connection, troubleshoot video or audio issues, and set up your background.

Technical issues give candidates an opportunity to display resilience and adaptability in managing unforeseen challenges. Employers value those who can handle unexpected situations with professionalism, reinforcing their confidence in your ability to perform under pressure. 

3. Craft Your Virtual Environment 

Your environment contributes to how you are perceived virtually. 

A beautiful WFH set up.
  • Optimize Your Background: Choose a neutral and uncluttered backdrop that conveys professionalism. Utilize virtual background options if your physical space is less than ideal. 

  • Camera and Lighting: Set your camera to eye level for the most natural and flattering perspective. Experiment with available lighting, avoiding harsh overhead or backlight.

  • Manage Noise Distractions: Minimize background noise to maintain focus and clarity during conversations. Consider using noise-canceling headphones if necessary. 

Visual presentation holds considerable sway in shaping initial perceptions during video interviews, as it serves as the primary basis for the interviewer's assessment. A nicely curated environment shows attention to detail and enhances your overall virtual presence, setting a positive tone for interactions.  

Most popular web conferencing platforms allow users to replace their actual background with a chosen image or a blur effect, so no worries if your “home office” is more like your kitchen table. For more tips on setting up a home office, check out this other helpful article from The Panaro Group: Look Good, Feel Good: How to Rock Working from Home.  

Experiment with different setups beforehand to find the best combination of camera angle and lighting that enhances your visibility and presents you in the best possible light during your online interview.

4. Non-Verbal Communication 

Non-verbal cues are powerful indicators of engagement and confidence in interviews. 

Body language hand gestures and their meanings
  • Body Language: Sit upright with shoulders relaxed, maintain eye contact, and nod affirmatively to demonstrate attentiveness. 

  • Facial Expressions: Use facial cues to convey emotions such as interest, enthusiasm, or understanding. 

  • Dress Professionally: Even though you're virtual, dress as you would for an in-person meeting or interview. 

Effective non-verbal communication is essential for building rapport and conveying credibility in any interview and can be more challenging for a virtual interview. However, there are a few tricks that can help.  

Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera when speaking to simulate direct eye contact with the interviewer. This may feel awkward, but it helps convey engagement and confidence. Some have put googly eyes on either side of their computer camera to focus their gaze, consequently encouraging smiling.  

5. Verbal Communication Skills 

Clear and concise communication is key to conveying your ideas effectively and understanding the interviewer’s perspective. 

  • Articulate Clearly: Structure your responses logically and articulate your thoughts with precision.  

  • Active Listening: Demonstrate engagement by paraphrasing and asking insightful questions that demonstrate your understanding of the conversation. 

Prioritize active listening during video interviews; it fosters meaningful dialogue and showcases your suitability for the role. Active listening skills are demonstrated through occasional nodding, facial expressions, and an upright posture.  

In virtual interviews, determining when someone has finished speaking can be challenging. When responding to a question, take a moment to pause and ensure the other person has finished speaking before you start your answer. If you are presented with an unexpected question, be encouraged to pause and think before answering. 

Effective communication (verbal and non-verbal) positions you as competent, engaged, and more likely to hear back. If you have uncertainties about any aspect of the interview, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. It is better to seek clarity than to make assumptions and sets a foundation for great communication between yourself and the company.  

6. Don’t Forget the Thank You! 

Sending a thoughtful thank-you note to your interviewer can make a lasting impression. 

Thank you
  • Be prompt: Send the note within 24 hours of the interview to demonstrate eagerness and professionalism. 

  • Add a personal touch: Tailor the thank-you note to reflect specific aspects of the virtual interview. Mention key points discussed and reiterate your interest in the role. 

Effective communication doesn't end with the interview itself; it extends to the thoughtful follow-up you send afterward. Sending a thank-you note after a virtual interview is not just a formality—it's an opportunity to reinforce your candidacy and leave a positive impression on the hiring team.  

Acing virtual interviews requires more than technical know-how; it takes a strategic approach to communication and presentation. As virtual interactions become increasingly common in hiring practices, directing focus to proper online etiquette and enhancing virtual presence are both essential to stand out in today's competitive job market. By investing in quality equipment, gracefully managing technical challenges, and crafting your remote work space, you can project confidence and professionalism effectively in an online interview. 

Kathy Panaro, Founder and CEO of The Panaro Group
Kathy Panaro, Founder and CEO of The Panaro Group

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