Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Stand out on screen: How to nail a virtual job interview

So you’ve built your professional network and landed a virtual job interview. Now what?

We reached out to journalism schools for their advice on how interviewees at any stage in their careers can shine remotely.

Treat video job interviews the same as you would in person. “You still have to be prepared, research the company and effectively communicate how you can best fit into and contribute to the organization,” said Michael Wong, director of career services at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Be well groomed and bring a positive vibe to the interview. 

“Dress professionally, and practice beforehand with a friend or family member,” said Suzanne Alcantara, assistant dean of student affairs at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Smile and make eye contact, remembering that nonverbal communication is an important aspect of the interview process.”

Do your homework. “Google the most often asked interview questions and be prepared with a succinct answer to each,” said Lynda Kraxberger, associate dean for undergraduate studies at the Missouri School of Journalism. “If you don’t know what to say about yourself, ask your three closest friends what makes you stand out in a professional setting.”

“Traditional advice holds true,” said American University Professor Jeremiah Patterson, incoming director of the School of Communication weekend MA program in journalism and digital storytelling. “Research the job and company, frame yourself as a solution to their employment needs.”

Think like a journalist. “When they ask you to tell them about yourself, don’t start with an encyclopedia entry. Instead, imagine the STORY you want them to remember,” Kraxberger said. “If you say, ‘I’m an incredibly hard worker,’ think of an example in which your hard work was significant.”

“Hiring managers want a sense of your personality, so be yourself, try to be relaxed and authentic,” said Alcantara.

Minimize distractions by finding a clean, quiet location. “Frame your shot and remove anything in the background or foreground that might be questionable,” said Wong.

“Try to find a spot where the lighting is good, either by adding a table lamp or positioning yourself near a window,” said Alison Young, Curtis B. Hurley chair in public affairs journalism and Washington Program director at the Missouri School of Journalism. “Before the interview, put pets in another room, silence your phone. Make sure family or roommates know not to interrupt your meeting.” 

Understand the technology before the interview. “Make sure you have a good internet connection and enough bandwidth to avoid technical glitches during the interview,” Wong said.

“Place the camera (laptop) at eye level, rather than looking up at your chin,” said Patterson. “Maintain ‘eye contact’ with the camera while you’re speaking — don’t get distracted by the image of yourself. Know how to toggle the mute button efficiently.” 

For advice on video set-up, check out this video from Jill Geisler:

Are you a newsroom leader or manager conducting virtual job interviews during the pandemic? Email us to share what works – and what hasn’t – from your experience with virtual interviews.


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2 years ago

I’ve noticed that there can be a lot of nuances between different hiring organizations…law firms, for example, have their own special approach to virtual interviews