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How to avoid common virtual interview mistakes that could cost you a job

interview Happy young black woman student waving having video call virtual meeting distance working or learning at home looking at laptop computer talking by videocall digital conference.
Some 82% of employers use virtual interviews and 93% of employers plan to continue using them according to a survey. Photo: Getty

Many of us are now used to using video-conferencing platforms like Teams or Zoom instead of in-person meetings. However, research suggests many job candidates are yet to master virtual interviews ⁠— and lots of people make simple mistakes which end up costing them a job.

An Indeed survey found 82% of employers surveyed use virtual interviews and 93% of employers plan to continue using them. In 2022, the CV-writing service TopResume surveyed 330 hiring managers, recruiters and HR professionals to find that one-third exclusively interviewed virtually.

An additional 21% only resorted to in-person interviews for final rounds ⁠— and only one in five (20%) participants stated that most of their company's interviews take place in-person.

Therefore, multiple rounds of virtual interviews may well be part of your job hunting experience if you’re looking for a new role. So what common mistakes do potential hires make when being interviewed virtually ⁠— and what can be done to avoid them?

Avoiding eye contact

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where to look in an online interview. In a face-to-face interview, you’re more likely than not to be facing the recruiter ⁠— but online, it can be more difficult to focus on who you’re talking to.

According to TopResume, staring into space or avoiding eye contact is one of the key turn-offs for employers when interviewing candidates remotely.

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So when you’re in an interview, make sure you focus on the recruiter ⁠— and avoid the temptation to gaze around the room instead.

Sitting in an untidy room

When working from home became the new normal during the pandemic, we were suddenly given an insight into our colleague’s homes and personal lives. We were able to see messy kitchens, pets, children, bedrooms and more as people had to make do without office spaces.

However, it’s important to remember that you’re trying to set a certain impression with a recruiter ⁠— so make sure you’re in a quiet, tidy space where you’re unlikely to have interruptions.

Of course, whether interruptions are a problem will likely depend on the job you’re applying for or the organisation. How an interviewer reacts to an interruption from a child may be a useful warning sign about whether they’re a family-friendly business ⁠— and whether you would want to work there.

Leaving inappropriate tabs or apps open when screen-sharing

You may be required to share your screen during a virtual interview, so it’s worth bearing in mind what tabs you have open.

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For example, having your online shopping in the background might not look professional to an interviewer. It might also suggest you’re not paying attention or fully engaged in the interview, even if you’ve simply forgotten to close the tab.

Using an unprofessional background

The same problem applies to backgrounds and profile pictures.

If you’ve been doing Zoom calls with friends or colleagues that you know well, you may well have a fun background set.

However, an interviewer wants to see your professional side ⁠— and it might be hard to focus on what you’re saying if they’re distracted by your background.

Being late

An interviewer wants to know you’re punctual and reliable, so arriving to an interview late ⁠— whether online or in person ⁠— doesn’t make a great first impression.

If you’re unsure about the technology that will be used for the virtual interview, make sure you’ve practised using the software in advance to avoid delays.

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Turning up on time will reflect positively on your time management abilities. And if you’re going to be late, make sure you have a valid reason and let the recruiter know.

Amanda Augustine, a career expert for TopResume, said mistakes can be easily avoided with preparation ⁠— which will allow job seekers to focus on highlighting their skills, experience and qualifications.

“It doesn't matter if you're participating in a phone interview, interviewing via video conference, or meeting in-person ⁠— if you make these interview missteps, you're undermining your chances of landing the job.”

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