Do’s and Don’ts for Virtual Interviews – Nonverbal Communication as Key to Success

By Ana Sabo, Career Specialist


While at an interview, you might think that being well prepared and having amazing experience and accomplishments will get you the job. However, a big part of being successful in an interview is your nonverbal communication, or in other words, everything you express without actually saying it.

Considering that more than 80% of interviews since the start of the pandemic are being conducted online, mastering your nonverbal communication on the virtual platform is essential to interview success.

Nonverbal communication is made up primarily of body language, facial expression, your tone of voice, inflection, volume, and pace of speech. According to research, first impressions are only partially based on what you say; the exact breakdown could be as dramatic as 55% of what’s communicated coming from nonverbals.

In a virtual interview, there are some new first impression elements that you’ll want to consider. Below are some tips that could help you be better prepared for your next virtual interview.


On-screen appearance and environment

Dressing professionally is Interviewing 101 and it’s just as important in virtual interviews as it is in in-person ones. Our appearance sends a strong message and can make a big difference in how we are perceived by others. Not only that, the way we dress can also impact how we perceive ourselves. You’ve probably heard that old advice “dress for success”. Research has shown that clothes you wear can affect your mental and physical performance, so don’t disregard the power of a nice outfit!

You might be tempted to dress casually, being interviewed from home, but make sure you dress the way you would dress for an in-person interview. Research the company’s dress code and dress accordingly. That means the bottom part too! Wear colours that suit you, and be mindful of wearing accessories – in virtual interviews, light accessories are best. If you’re using ear buds, make sure the mic is not hitting your accessories or your collar.

Another thing that will immediately catch the interviewer’s attention will be your environment, so consider what is in your background. Is it messy, cluttered, or noisy? Consider taking the interview in a quiet corner with a neutral background so as to minimize the distractions and allow the interviewer to focus solely on you. If you’re using a virtual background, avoid using one with too much detail.

Pro Tip: Record yourself on camera having a mock interview. Review the recording to assess your dress, environment, sound and all other nonverbal cues.


Convey nonverbal attentiveness

Show the interviewer that you are fully present and focused as if they were in the room with you. Stay in the moment and pay attention to what the interviewer is saying. Make a habit of looking at the camera while you’re speaking, and not at yourself on video, as this helps create an impression of maintaining eye contact. It’s easy to get distracted in such a high-pressure situation, but be mindful of this. While in reality you might indeed be attentive, the interviewer might perceive this lack of “eye contact” as a disconnect. Furthermore, make sure you’re smiling at appropriate times and nodding to indicate you’re following along.

One of the upsides to virtual interviews is that they allow you to keep your notes with you. However, if you do have notes, stick them to the sides of your screen to avoid looking down. You can also use an app (such as Sticky Notes) to have them digitally on the screen right in front of you.


Good posture is key

Because most virtual interviews are conducted from home, where we feel most comfortable, we might subconsciously demonstrate excessively relaxed body posture and movements compared to what we would display at a hiring manager’s office. For example, you might slouch or lean back in your chair more than you would during an in-person interview. One thing that works at home, might not always translate well into a formal conversation. Sitting up straight, slightly leaning forward, will convey not only a sense of professionalism but also confidence and attentiveness.


Minimize gesturing

Gesturing isn’t inherently bad, and we all do it to a certain extent. While we should be mindful we’re not using our hands too much on camera, as it can be distracting (especially if you’re using a virtual background – which can make the hands look blurry), it’s important to know that not using our hands at all can be just as detrimental to the impression we’re making on the interviewer. The secret is to find a balance between the two – resist the urge to cross your arms or sit on them, instead, allow yourself to make simple gestures where appropriate.


Be prepared

In a nutshell, when practicing for an interview, it’s not only important to work on your STAR answers (Situation – Task – Action – Result) and other interviewing skills, but also on your nonverbal communication. Our coaches can help you identify your strengths and areas of improvement. Remember, it’s not only what you say, but also how you say it.


We at Toombs can help you prepare for your interviews through practice and a dialogue on strategies that will work best for you. Our value lies in the tailored approach to your own personal situation.

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