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3 Things You Can Do to Stand Out in a Virtual Job Interview

The ability to maneuver in a virtual environment is proving to be more critical than ever before. With the majority of our tasks shifting online, we’ve been developing ways to work through online classes, presentations, and meetings. And, if interviews weren’t nerve-wracking enough, now we have to deal with the extra challenges of virtual interviews. If you’re looking for ways to stand out in a virtual environment, here are my top three tips to help you ace your next interview!

Dress for success

Let’s start with the basics. Just because the interview has shifted online, doesn’t mean you should ignore the fundamentals of interviewing. Putting in a little time to make sure you look presentable is an easy way to score some points during your first impression.

Most interviewers will expect you to wear business formal attire, but it could vary depending on the company’s office culture. For example, employees at a startup may feel comfortable wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work, but would that apply for an investment banking firm? One thing you could do is try to research the office dress code, but if you can’t find any information, err on the side of caution by wearing something formal. 

What if you wear a fancy suit or blazer, and your interviewer shows up wearing a hoodie? This could easily happen, but you shouldn’t worry about feeling out of place. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, since you want to let them know you’re serious about the job! 

Dressing for success doesn’t only make you appear more professional, but it also helps you feel more confident. Once you’ve picked your outfit, you should do a quick dress rehearsal! Sit in front of your laptop or device like you would in an actual interview, and check out how great you look.

Tell stories, not “facts”

Many of the job interview fundamentals remain important, even with the shift to a virtual setting. You probably know what the basic interview questions are – what are your strengths and weaknesses, why are you interested in this role, and a whole lot of “tell me about a time when you…” questions. However, if you want to impress your interviewer on a whole other level, you have to tell stories. People remember narrative far more than a random stream of information. 

For example, let’s say the interviewer asks you, “what are your strengths?” You should not be listing off a bunch of traits like, “I’m hard-working, I know how to manage my time, I’m self-driven and passionate,” etc. Rather, craft an answer with three distinct parts: 

1. Start by addressing the main strength you want to highlight. 

2. Weave together a story to tell them about a time you demonstrated that strength. 

3. Tie the story back to the specific role you’re applying for by adding how you’ll leverage this strength at the company. 

Also, because the interview is virtual, you should make sure to enunciate your speech and speak slowly. Emphasize the points you want to draw attention to, and don’t be afraid to animate yourself through natural hand motions and body language. This will make you appear more engaging and passionate about the job opportunity.

If you’re seeking additional help on how to craft your answers, Madeline Mann’s YouTube channel, Self Made Millennial, has an amazing video called “BEST Answers to the 10 Most Asked Interview Questions” you can check out! Her energy is incredible, and as an HR Recruiter, she can offer details and inside information on the hiring process.

Ask thought-provoking questions

At the end of the interview, interviewers will often ask if you have any questions for them. Always say yes! Asking a few intriguing questions is another simple, yet significant, way to impress your interviewer. 

If you’re brainstorming what questions to ask, here’s my tip: do research in advance on the company and your interviewer (if you know who they are), so you can tailor your questions to them. It will undoubtedly impress if you have specific, thought-provoking questions. 

I’ll give you an example. If you read on the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile that they attended a certain school or studied a cool major, you can formulate a question with this information. A simple question like, “how has your experience studying East Asian Language and Cultures shaped the work you do?” can add color to your conversation. Questions like these will reveal that you’re passionate about the role; it’s also exciting because you’re creating the opportunity to learn from your interviewer’s experience. 

Here’s a bonus tip: take notes during the interview. Don’t stare at your paper for too long, but if you hear something interesting, jot it down! This is another simple way to appear more professional and committed.

If you ask a question, and the interviewer has to pause and think, that’s actually a great sign. They’ll most likely remember, “oh yeah, the one who asked me about my major!” This is your time to shine, so let them know you dedicated time to preparing for this interview every step of the way! 

Since I’m invested in your career and success, I’ll add a short bonus tip: make sure to ask for your interviewer’s email, so you can send them a thank you note. You should ideally do this within 24 hours to cement yourself as a memorable, outstanding candidate. They most likely went through numerous interviews that day, so thanking them and adding a personal element to your email will make them feel appreciated. No matter how the interview goes, you should take a few minutes to craft a considerate message.

There are some small hurdles for a virtual job interview, but none that you can’t overcome! By making an effort to look presentable, crafting compelling responses, and asking detailed questions, you’re going to feel more confident and set yourself apart from the rest of the competition. 

If you happen to have an interview coming up, I wish you the best of luck! I want to remind you that you’ll bring something unique to any company you end up joining. A job is a match to be made, and my hope is that I can bring you closer to your goal. You’re intelligent and worthy, and you’ll find success. Go get ‘em!

Mary is a junior majoring in Science, Technology & Society with a minor in Consumer Psychology. She is on the Penn Women's Golf Team and is passionate about storytelling and health & wellness. Her favorite writers include Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, and Malcolm Gladwell. When she isn't studying or golfing, Mary enjoys listening to music + podcasts, watching TV with her family & friends, and practicing yoga.
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