Chances are you may find yourself doing a virtual interview at least once during the MBA admissions process, especially now that most business schools are conducting all of their interviews remotely for the 2020–2021 application season. Although the basics of interviewing remain the same whether conducted in person, via Skype/Zoom, or by phone, there are a few extra things to keep in mind when being interviewed remotely. If you can master the virtual interview, your chances for MBA admission are greatly enhanced. Here are five tips that can ensure your next virtual interview is a sparkling success:
1. Prep smart and be early.
There is always the chance that your interviewer will log on to Skype or Zoom a few minutes early, and you should be ready. In fact, for some schools, this might even be a strategy to see how you handle unexpected events. Another reason to be online a bit early is that you want to spend those last few minutes reviewing the key points you would like to make during the interview, not scrambling to fix Internet problems or audio/visual connections. You can even go old school and plug in to maximize your connection strength and avoid technical issues. Confirm the meeting link or Skype address of your contact in advance, and have a phone number available in case you have trouble with the connection.
2. Pay attention to what is behind you.
Ideally, you should have a very neutral background such as a white wall behind your screen and use a computer, not a handheld device. I once interviewed a candidate who had a very bold black and white tapestry behind him and was also using his cell phone. It was quite distracting and made me feel like I had entered a psychedelic disco scene as the candidate moved along with his hand motions while speaking. Check the video settings before the call so you can confirm the view your interviewer will see.
3. Look at the camera.
You want the virtual interview to be as close as possible to talking to a person in the same room. The best way to do that is to make eye contact with your interviewer. On Skype/Zoom, you will need to look at the camera, not your screen. Practice with a friend before your interview and be sure to make direct eye contact as you participate in the interview.
4. Dress for success.
Although it is true that no one will see if you are in your pajama bottoms, you will project with more confidence and professionalism if you wear the same thing you would wear in a face-to-face interview. All candidates should be well groomed, just as they would be in an in-person interview. Dressing and grooming professionally sends the message that this school is a priority for you.
I’m saving the most important point for last. You would be surprised how in just the first five seconds of the interview, a big smile can set the tone for a relaxed, collaborative conversation. I did not always make a formal note of this in my reviews, but as I now reflect on what had the biggest impact on assessing charisma and confidence, I would say a seeing a smile played a large role in assessing those traits that are ultimately needed for acceptance into any top MBA program.