Virtual interviews have become the go-to option for companies hiring during the pandemic — and while nothing can top the convenience of dialing in from home, the stakes are much higher.
“Although virtual interviews have become a ubiquitous part of the hiring process, even as more companies are requiring employees to return to the office, our data shows many job candidates have yet to master the art of the virtual interview — and it’s sabotaging their candidacy,” Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TopResume, explains.
Between August and September, TopResume asked 330 U.S. hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals to rank the worst offenses a candidate can commit during a virtual interview.
Here are the top 5 virtual interview deal-breakers that could cost you the job, according to TopResume:
- Avoiding eye contact or staring into space
- Sitting in a messy room
- Leaving inappropriate tabs or apps open when screen-sharing
- Using an unprofessional background
- Being interrupted by family members
Some of the takeaways might seem obvious — don’t have a pile of dirty laundry in the background, ask your roommates or family members not to bother you during the call — but others are harder to avoid. What, exactly, constitutes an “unprofessional background”? How do you make proper eye contact with someone on a screen?
The best place to conduct a virtual interview is a room that’s clean, quiet and has good acoustics, Jeff Hyman, CEO of Recruit Rockstars, says. “You want the interviewer focused on you, not the background,” he stresses.
If you don’t have a quiet workspace at home, Hyman recommends sitting in front of a blank wall in a bathroom or walk-in closet and using a blurred background. “I know it sounds crazy, but the acoustics are fantastic in there,” he says.
Augustine will often conduct interviews from a desk in her bedroom, but will remove the pillows off of her bed and toss a neutral throw blanket over the top to create a more professional background.
As for decorations, “if you would think twice about having something behind you in a cubicle at an office, then you probably shouldn’t have it up during a job interview,” Augustine says.
Direct eye contact in an interview is a critical skill to nail because it demonstrates professionalism, establishes trust and is polite, Hyman explains. “We are inherently hardwired to believe that shifty-eyed people are lying or hiding something, even if they’re just nervous,” he says.
It might feel unnatural to stare directly into the camera — but practicing with a friend on a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams ahead of time can help you make sure you’re looking at the right spot, Augustine says, as can lining up the intervthat looks greatiewer’s video box right under your computer’s camera at the start of the call.
Surprisingly, technical difficulties did not make the list of virtual interview deal-breakers. Augustine says that’s because hiring managers have become more empathetic to the unrelenting workplace challenges that have emerged over the last two-plus years.
“The good news is that the most disruptive, unnerving behaviors that interviewers consider deal breakers can all be avoided with a little preparation and practice,” she adds.
Read More: The 5 virtual interview mistakes that can cost you the job