A guide to virtual interviews

Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant at the Careers Service

If you have an interview coming up – good luck! Many employers have switched to virtual interviews as a result of the pandemic, and with their cost-effectiveness, online interviews are set to stay in some form or another. To help you prepare, we’ve put together our top tips for virtual interviews.  We also have a range of resources on our interviews pages to help you succeed.

  1. Check the format.

There are three main methods of interviewing for graduate roles:

  • Face-to-face – this is a traditional in-person interview. There is usually a panel of interviewers, some asking questions, some taking notes, or a blend of both.
  • Live – this is similar to a regular face-to-face interview. Using a service such as Skype or Zoom, you will speak to the interviewer or panel in real-time. To gain experience of this kind of interview, you can book a 30 minute interview simulation with a Careers Consultant via CareerConnect.
  • Pre-recorded – in this type of interview you will see pre-recorded or written questions on screen, and then record your answer on video, often to a time limit. It can be awkward if you aren’t used to recording yourself, so use ShortList.Me or Graduates First to practice first.

You can find out more about live online interviews, recorded interviews and telephone interviews here.

  1. Choose your location wisely.

Try to use a quiet location, where noises and people will not disturb you. Make sure the room you choose is tidy and use a clean and simple background so that the recruiter focuses on you.

Think about the lighting too. To avoid a shadow either use natural light from a window or put a lamp in front of the camera and adjust the distance to get the best result.

If you don’t have access to an appropriate space or equipment:

  • If you are in Manchester, you could book a space on campus to take your interview. If you have just finished your course, you can continue to use the library until you graduate. After graduation, you are eligible for an Alumni Library card that gains you access to all Library sites except the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons and the Eddie Davies Library, allowing you to book a space but not use a university computer. (Please note: due to current restrictions, only current students can access university spaces). You can apply for graduate membership in person at the Main Library Customer Service Desk, or fill in the application form and send it via Library Help.  
  • If you are a graduate and need to borrow a computer, try one of these locations in Manchester, or ask at your local library.
  • You could add a virtual background and there are some University-branded backgrounds that are free to download

  1. Dress appropriately.

Remember it is still a job interview! Even though you may be at home, this is your opportunity to give a professional first impression. You should wear the same outfit you would have chosen for a face-to-face meeting. Think about how your clothes will look on screen and avoid busy patterns and stripes. If you don’t have an appropriate outfit, check out some schemes that can help.

  1. Use positive body language.

Avoid slouching, moving too much or touching your face. Instead, make good eye contact, smile, listen and take an interest in what the interviewer is saying. To help you do this your camera should be at eye level and you should look into it rather than at the screen.

For pre-recorded interviews, try to imagine you are speaking to a real person, maintaining your enthusiasm and positive body language.

If you are nervous, it can be easy to rush what you are saying, but remember that the employer wants to hear your answers. Speak clearly, and be careful not to interrupt as this is more easily done with the slight delay over the internet than during a face-to-face meeting.

  1. Get technical.

A few days before the interview, you should test the computer, camera and any software that you have been asked to use. Make sure the picture is clear and the sound quality is good. It is also worth checking your internet connection. On the day of the video interview, ensure everything is fully charged or plugged in, as you do not want the battery to run down half way through.

  1. On the day.


  • Make sure you have set up the webcam and microphone correctly and you know how they work before the start time.
  • Close any software on your computer that might play notification sounds, and switch your phone to silent.
  • Let people around you know you are about to start the interview so they do not interrupt.
  • Check the picture of yourself is clear.
  • Check your webcam is at eye-level, so you are looking directly at the camera, and smile frequently throughout.
  • Your webcam should be far enough away so the picture of yourself includes your head and shoulders.
  • Make sure you speak loudly and clearly.
  • Use hand gestures as normal, as this may improve your conversational flow.
  • You may want to prepare some brief notes, or stick some post-it notes on the wall behind your computer screen regarding key interview topics. However, these should be a quick visual aid to jog your memory, and you should not read from notes when answering the questions.


Follow the guidance for live online interviews above, plus:

  • For a recorded interview, the employer will have a standard set of questions and you will be instructed to login to their online video portal.
  • If you can choose when you want to record the video make sure to select a time when you are feeling fresh and full of energy.
  • You will usually have around 30 seconds to 1 minute to prepare, and a few minutes to answer for each question, although timings vary.
  • Do not begin answering aloud until your time to answer countdown has begun or your answer may not be counted. Do not panic if you are cut off, take a breath and move on.
  • When viewing video interviews, recruiters tend to pay particular attention to body language, tone of voice and ‘personality’, so ensure you are comfortable and relaxed and make sure you deliver with conviction, passion and enthusiasm.

It’s normal to be nervous in the lead up to your interview, especially if you don’t have much experience in this area. There are some great ways you can calm your nerves and prepare for your upcoming interview on our interviews and presentation nerves page.

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