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How to ace your virtual interview

It’s clear that 2021 will [hopefully] bring about a gradual return to normalcy. However the future of work remains uncertain. When will offices fully reopen? Will more organizations adopt remote working or hybrid models? In the meantime, on a micro level, how can candidates prepare for a 100% virtual interview process? 

For candidates, interviewing can be nerve-wracking whether it’s in person or virtual (of course, at Thoughtworks we believe it should also be an enjoyable experience), but there are some pros to interviewing remotely: more flexibility, no commute, and, most importantly, safety for everyone involved. Despite these pros, it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately still an interview. The same levels of preparation and professionalism apply to a virtual interview, maybe even more than in person, as interviewers may also be assessing whether or not a candidate has taken the time to ensure they’re demonstrating their readiness. 

At Thoughtworks, our recruiting organization has spent years re-imagining our interview process in order to create a globalized baseline of hiring attributes, improve operational efficiency, and cultivate an overall more positive interview experience for candidates and interviewers alike. In 2020, the pandemic and subsequent transition to a 100% remote workforce, presented the team with the opportunity to further improve the virtual interview process. 

We asked some of our recruiters here at Thoughtworks to share advice on how to prepare for a successful virtual interview. Here are their top tips.

Before the interview

  1. Check your internet connection. This may seem obvious, but taking the time to ensure your speeds are high enough can ensure you have a more positive experience. Screen freezes and audio delays make the conversation less productive and enjoyable. If you’re unable to improve your internet speed (e.g. if it’s unsafe to interview from a nearby café), let the interviewer know once you’ve signed on. - Maria Caparros, Spain
  2. Have thoughtful questions prepared for every stage of the interview. Many candidates inadvertently display a lack of interest by not researching and preparing questions. Asking the right questions allows both you and the interviewer to deep dive into whether or not Thoughtworks is a good fit for both sides. - Rhonda Kaleta, Atlanta, US
  3. ​Make sure you choose the optimal environment to conduct the interview. Many candidates will tell us they’re unable to turn their cameras on and while they may have a valid reason, it sometimes suggests they haven't spent too much time planning for the interview. There are multiple factors to consider when picking your virtual interview spot: noise level, distractions (children, pets, even visual distractions like passersby in a café), internet connection, and the right technology. - Neil Casey, Manchester, UK

During the interview

  1. Get online early! Even logging in just a minute in advance shows you’re prepared and reliable. 
  2. Be an active listener and take into consideration that there may be a slight delay in your conversation. When you finish talking about a concept, leave a small window of time for comments. - Maria Caparros
  3.  Be yourself, albeit a professional version. Feeling relaxed and building relationships and engagement are critical parts of the interview process at Thoughtworks. However, don't fall into the 'overly comfortable' trap with your language, posture, or approach. Interviewers, while looking for individuals they’d be happy to work with, are also looking at candidates as potential representatives of their company. How you are in the interview may show how you will be in front of their clients or customers. - Neil Casey

After the interview 

  1. Send ‘thank you’ emails to the folks you met with, if possible. Ask your recruiter to give you each interviewer’s email address or simply request that they pass along a ‘thank you’ note to all of your interviewers. 
  2. Ask for feedback on and follow up with your recruiter to see how the interview went. Always ask for next steps in the process, if any. This shows that you’re invested in understanding your performance as a candidate and shows your interest in continuing in the process. - Isabel Casey, Chicago, US
  3. Extra credit: sometimes you may have tangential conversations during your interview. Maybe you discussed (or debated!) an article with one of your interviewers or a new technology you found interesting. Follow up by passing along something related to your conversation. This shows you were fully engaged in your interview and thoughtful enough to share something after the fact. 
Either way you look at it, virtual interviewing can be a breath of fresh air for candidates, assuming they’ve taken into consideration what’s unique about the process before, during, and after.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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