Virtual interviews are here to stay—and it’s important to know how to stand out

Hiring manager looks at a resume while a candidate appears on his laptop screenIn today’s global work environment, virtual interviews have become a crucial part of our employee toolkit—and it appears they are here to stay.

A 2021 survey from Indeed found that 82% of employers used virtual interviews and 93% of employers planned to continue using virtual interviews in the future. The report found that these employers preferred virtual interviews for speedier hiring, simpler management of the hiring process and an improved candidate experience.

With this long-term trend in mind, it’s important for candidates to know how best to stand out, while avoiding the pitfalls that can happen in the virtual setting. Whether you’re interviewing for a new job or meeting with a graduate admissions counselor, there are crucial dos and don’ts to follow.

We spoke with experts from the Daniels College of Business to share some best practices that apply to all types of virtual interviews.

Unique challenges in online interviews

Unlike in-person interviews, virtual interviews have high potential for technical and life difficulties that could derail your performance. Your internet may drop out unexpectedly, your dog might bark or your baby might cry while you’re in the middle of an answer. Although they are challenges unique to the virtual world, they have become normal occurrences in today’s work environment.

Our experts said the most important thing is to accept the unexpected issues, address them with your interviewer and try to move on in a professional fashion.

“Know that in today’s world that’s been normalized, so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable about it,” said Luke Parrott, the director of graduate admissions at Daniels. “You can joke about it.”

How to prepare for a virtual interview

While some issues may be unavoidable, there are some key steps to take before entering a virtual interview.

On the technical side, Parrott recommended that interview subjects test the software they’re using before their interview, making sure that they have all the necessary updates. He also advised subjects to dress as they would for an in-person interview, in a professional and presentable manner.

When it comes to answering questions, Parrott said, there is no difference between an in-person admissions interview and a virtual admissions interview.

“If you prefer the virtual environment, the questions are going to be the exact same that are asked in person,” he said. “Interviewers try to create the most predictable environment for every interview.”

As you ready yourself for a virtual interview, Daniels Career Services and the University of Denver offer crucial resources. The University’s free Big Interview tool offers hands-on practice, with mock interviews tailored to your specific major or area of interest. Students will learn ways to improve their interviewing skills and put them into practice.

The Career Services team said the Big Interview will reveal habits you didn’t even know you had, like playing with your hair, pushing up your glasses and fidgeting.

Focus on your location’s lighting, background and sound

Much like an in-person interview, presentation is key in the virtual environment. Not only should you focus on your own appearance, but also the setting you are in.

Daniels Career Services recommends that you set up in natural light when possible, having a window or light in front of you, not behind you. Your background should also be neutral and clutter free, so make sure your bed is made if it is in view. If you are unable to secure a comfortable, clean environment, there are rooms in the recruiting suite in Daniels that can be reserved for virtual interviews.

How do you stand out?

Standing out in a virtual interview can be more challenging than in person, but our experts still say there are ways to distance yourself from the competition.

Parrott said he more frequently sees candidates stand out for the wrong reasons in virtual interviews. People often show up late, don’t show up at all, have tech issues that could have been prevented or appear in attire that isn’t up to standard.

On the flip side, candidates that stand out in a positive way are prepared, have thoughtful responses to prompts and come with questions for their interviewer.

“Our team loves to see that you’ve done your homework and that you’re thinking on your feet,” Parrott said. He loves when interviewees ask what else they should know about the program, that they haven’t asked already.

Do these tips apply to both graduate school interviews and job interviews?

Both Parrott and the team from Daniels Career Services agreed that these skills are transferable regardless of the interview setting.

“We do tell our students to treat a graduate interview just like a job interview,” Parrott said.

So, whether you’re vying for a new job or applying for graduate school, these skills apply universally.

If you’re looking to improve your skills in this setting, the team at Daniels Career Services is an invaluable resource. Students can explore career options, prepare for interviews, advance their own professional development and build successful business networks. Current students can book an appointment online through Pioneer Careers (DU ID required). Go to the appointments tab and select an available time with a career advisor.

Additionally, Daniels alumni have lifelong access to the Career Services resources, allowing them to build networks and prepare for job interviews just as current students can.