Ace Your Virtual Interview: Best Practices for Remote Conversations

Remote interviews have become increasingly popular in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially with the rise in remote and work-from-home jobs.  Remote interviews are especially popular for HR screenings and behavioral interviews, making it essential for modern job seekers to adapt their interview skills to the virtual landscape.  Here are some tips and strategies to help you ace a virtual interview:

Prepare Your Technical Setup

Before the interview, make sure that you have a stable internet connection and that the computer or phone you’ll be using for the interview can run the video conferencing software being used for the interview.  It’s critical to ensure that everything is working correctly to avoid any technical issues during the interview.  Popular software for remote interviews include Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams.

If possible, use a computer with a wired internet connection, which is more reliable than connecting to WiFi.  Ask a friend or family member to call you using the video conferencing software, and test your audio and video settings to make sure that you can hear and see each other.  Check that your webcam angle, lighting, and background give a professional impression, and that your video does not appear too dark or too light.

When setting up the interview, arrange with your interviewer or HR contact to have a backup plan in case of any technical difficulties, such as having a contact number to call in order to continue the interview via phone if necessary.

Personal story: I once was invited for a virtual interview that involved pair-programming with one of the company’s senior developers.  It was early on in my career and I was borrowing a computer to do the interview.  The computer was a little bit older, and couldn’t run the video conferencing software–an issue I found out about while trying to join the meeting for the interview!  I ended up joining the meeting about five minutes late, on a different computer that was not set up for programming, and had to ask to reschedule the interview.  While it worked out for me in the end, I wish I had tested the video conferencing software first and been able to avoid the issue entirely! 

Dress Professionally

Even though you may be interviewing from the comfort of your home, and will only appear on the video feed from the shoulders up, you should dress as you would for an in-person interview.  Dressing professionally will help you feel more confident and prepared during the interview, and it will project a serious and committed image to your interviewer.  

Pay attention to your clothing choices from head to toe, and resist the urge to wear sweatpants with a dress shirt!  You never know when you may need to stand up or move during the interview, and if you’re not prepared to stand up suddenly, it will definitely happen. 

Choose a Suitable Location

Select a private, quiet, and well-lit area for your virtual interview, where you won’t be disturbed by pets, roommates, or family members. Let your roommates and family know that you’ll be interviewing remotely, and ask them not to disturb you during the interview time.  Avoid any loud background noises that can be picked up by your computer’s microphone, such as cleaning appliances, landscaping equipment, barking dogs and TVs.  A clutter-free and neutral background is preferable, as it avoids distractions and keeps the focus on you. If you can’t find a suitable location, try a professional-looking virtual background or a blurring filter.  

Practice Non-Verbal Communication

A woman having a virtual interview.  She is looking at a laptop screen which shows three people on it in a Zoom-like video conferencing format.
Photo by Anna Shvets

Non-verbal cues play a big role in virtual interviews. It is important to make good “eye contact” with your interviewer by looking directly at the camera, rather than at the interviewer’s video feed. Sit up straight, maintain good posture, and use natural hand gestures, making sure that your hands appear on camera. Be sure to smile and nod to express engagement and interest in the conversation during the interview, but don’t force or exaggerate your facial expressions just because the interview is being conducted virtually. 

Avoid fidgeting or looking away from the camera, as it may come across as disinterest or lack of confidence.  If you are prone to moving around in your chair, make sure that you do not have a spinning office chair or chair that rocks–you may not even notice how much you are moving, and the movement can be very distracting for your interviewer. 

Minimize Distractions

Turn off or shut down all other applications, notifications, and sounds on your computer or phone before the interview.  Close all irrelevant tabs and programs, and avoid multitasking during the conversation. You need to give the interviewer your undivided attention in order to show respect for their time and effort in conducting the interview. 

Remove anything that may distract you from your field of vision so that you can focus on the interview, including your mobile phone (if not being used for the interview), pets, paperwork, and hobby items–anything that could remove your focus from the interviewer. 

Prepare Relevant Materials

Keep any materials you may need during the interview–such as your resume, cover letter, reference material and paper to take notes–easily accessible, but out of view of the camera.  Put the files for your resume and cover letter on your computer desktop or another easily accessible location, in case your interview asks for you to send them via email or through the conferencing platform during the interview. 

Although it is tempting to refer to any notes you have for STAR responses and technical interview questions during the interview, be aware of any time you are looking away from the camera.  If the interview suspects that you are reading directly from notes or prepared answers, they will be less likely to move you forward in the hiring process.  If you look away from the camera to take notes, let your interviewer know that is what you are doing. 

In Conclusion…

A virtual interview can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with proper preparation, you can ace it!  Remember to test your equipment, dress professionally, choose a quiet and private space, be mindful of your body language, and have a backup plan in case the conferencing software fails. Using these tips, you can ensure that you are well-prepared, professional, and engaging during your remote interview.  Good luck!

This article is preliminary material from a book tentatively titled “HIRE ME: A Workbook for Getting to Work”, by Tori Brenneison (,, 2023. No part of this article may be reproduced or distributed, in whole or in part, in any manner, without the permission of the copyright owner.

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