Communicating openly and honestly | By Maddie LeBlanc | February 16, 2021

Expert Advice on Virtual Interviewing

“Alright, can you see me now?” We’ve all been there – the beginning of a virtual interview. You’re checking to make sure all is well before you dive into the nitty gritty, and begging the universe to not cut your Wi-Fi connection. While virtual interviews might seem daunting and complicated, we’re here to help you feel confident the next time you log on to Zoom, Webex, Blue Jeans, and the like. Virtual interviewing is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Check out the most imperative tips and tricks from Nelnet hiring experts on how to interview in this virtual world with ease!

Before the Virtual Interview

The best place to start with any interview is your preparation before it’s time to meet with the organization.

Set up your space.

The first thing you should figure out is where you’re going to have this virtual interview. After almost a year of virtual classes, we’re certain most students have a dedicated space for this, but take a step back and review your space critically, including your desk, background, noises, etc. Test your space by hopping onto a practice video call a few days before your interview.

Test technology.

Another important aspect of your preparation is testing the technology ahead of time. We’ve all been in those meetings or classes where you forgot to unmute yourself, your camera wasn’t working, or a computer update happened in the middle of a call. Take the time to test the video interview program, or even watch a YouTube video from the company to get a sense of how the platform works ahead of time.

Research the company ahead of time.

Like in-person interviewing, it’s always a good idea to do research on the organization ahead of time. But why is this important? Taking time before you meet to do research can show initiative, that you’re invested in the process, and that you are serious about your interest in the role. Here are a few key areas we believe are important to review before interviewing:

Prepare (relevant) questions.

You can easily Google a list of standard questions to ask during an interview, but we highly encourage you to prepare questions that are going to be most relevant to you. For example, if you value work-life balance, you may ask an interviewer if they feel like they can step away from their work and focus on other priorities. Or, if you are interested in progressing your career, you could ask how the organization best prepares employees to reach their goals. Whatever your questions are, make sure that you first think about what’s important to you, and write them down before you go into an interview.

Have a backup plan if your connection goes down.

We all know there are times when technology fails, a connection drops, or a fire alarm in an apartment building goes off. It can be helpful to have a backup plan ready so that if something does happen, you can transition seamlessly. A few recommendations to think about:

  • Do you have contact information for both the interviewer and the recruiter you’ve been working with?
  • Is there an alternate space you can transition to easily?
  • If the internet drops, do you know how to call into a virtual meeting from your phone?
  • Do you have time after your interview blocked off in case your interview starts late?

During the Virtual Interview

A few hiring managers shared what they thought was most important to focus on during a virtual interview:

Tara, IT development manager: Just like in any interview, be yourself. Be ready to talk about all the awesome things you’ve done and have a pitch prepared that showcases your positive attributes and experiences. When someone says “Tell me about yourself,” this is your chance to differentiate yourself from the crowd and share information the interviewer might not know to ask about.

Chem, IT director: Students should have a portfolio of work they’ve completed to demonstrate competence –  especially if they have no real-world experience. Do research about the company you’re interviewing for, and be ready to talk about this when talking to hiring managers. The research you’ve done can come through in your answers, or questions you’ve prepared ahead of time.

Raquel, online help & communications specialist: Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Sometimes interview questions can have multiple parts and seem a little overwhelming. It’s totally fine to repeat the question to the interviewer to make sure you are correctly addressing all parts of the question. This also shows your attention to detail and gives you a chance to make sure your answer is thorough and accurate.

After the Virtual Interview

You’ve just finished your interview! Now what should you do?

Thank them for their time.

We always recommend that students send a short thank you email to the team that interviewed them. Although this would not be the only deciding factor for a manager, this shows that you are willing to take initiative. Customer service is a top priority at Nelnet and taking the time to send a quick thank you is a great way to exemplify this before you get the job.

Connect or follow up with them on LinkedIn.

If you have not connected with the recruiter and hiring manager yet, now is a perfect time. Even if this opportunity does not work out, this will be an excellent way for them to stay up to date with you and you with them. We also recommend following the company on LinkedIn.

Give them space.

Following up with your recruiter is important, but don’t overdo it. Most of the time, a recruiter will give you a timeline of when you should hear back from them. Unless you have another deadline or offer come up, we recommend waiting to reach out until the date you expect to hear back from them.

Trust the process.

After accepting an offer, you might feel nervous about working remotely. Trust that the company has your best interest in mind and will follow up to make sure all relevant information about the specifics of your role are clearly defined and communicated. If you haven’t heard from them, it never hurts to reach out to a campus recruiter or program manager. Keep in mind that our world is still constantly changing, and logistics may not be finalized until there is more certainty.

Now that you know the tips and tricks to make you feel more confident after a virtual interview, be sure to check out Nelnet’s available internship opportunities at nelnetinc.com/careers/internships/.


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