A Recruiter’s Guide to Virtual Interviews – 4 Skills to Nail and 4 Pitfalls to Avoid

Nathaniel S. is a Sales Recruiter in Yelp’s Phoenix office. He’s been recruiting top talent for our sales team since March 2017, and combining his experience at Yelp with years of additional recruiting experience so he knows a thing or two about acing a virtual interview.


Nathaniel, tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been at Yelp, and what do you do?

I like to consider myself a Prospector of Talent. I try to see the gold in others– pulling it out, refining it a bit, and finding the best fit for that value. At Yelp this looks like talking to dozens of talented professionals each month to see if they’re a good fit for our sales team.


Why do you think it’s important for people to know how to effectively interview virtually?

Many companies today are going virtual in every way. It’s less expensive for the organization, and it’s more convenient for the candidate. If you’re looking at companies that aren’t physically located in your city, chances are you’ll need to have a virtual interview at some point in your job search. Without the typical body language cues and gentle tonality changes in speech that come from in-person interviews, it’s imperative to hone your interview skills even further.

I’m a musician at heart, and I’ve always been a big believer that life is like a song. With songwriting you want to remove distractions and keep it simple because you really want to make sure key things shine in the tune. An interview is like your moment on stage – you get to sing your song… it’s about YOU. A virtual interview is like taking that live stage experience and transferring it to an 8-track or cassette tape. Imagine going to see Beyonce at Coachella. Amazing, right? Now listen to the same song on your phone speakers at your desk…it’s just not the same experience. A virtual interview means you have to be that much more intentional in conveying the song you’re singing.


What do you think are the biggest differences between virtual interviews and in-person interviews?

I would say many of the skills needed for an in-person interview are the same for a virtual interview, but you’ll need to highlight certain key attributes more than others. Think about what you’ll be missing: a handshake, direct eye contact (it’s just not the same staring into a green light at the top of a monitor), and other body language nuances and subtleties. This means you’ll need to accentuate other aspects that much more. Here are three main skills you should focus on:

  1. Be technically savvy – Knowing how to troubleshoot audio/video and quickly navigating your computer and the app or site you’re using (i.e. Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout) is key. I’ve had countless interviews that are rescheduled or even cancelled due to a candidate not knowing how to troubleshoot their own computer.
  2. Attention to detail (specifically via written communication) – When you’re getting set up for the interview, most companies are going to have specific instructions on how to prepare. Whether it be how to get connected, what time to show up or what to have with you, you should read every detail in their emails prior to your interview.
  3. Rehearse your intro and outro –  Maya Angelou famously said “people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Your intro and outro are what recruiters will remember the most. I’ve changed my decision on whether I was going to hire someone based on their outro either blowing me away (with great questions) or completely falling apart (revealing their only reason for wanting the job is the hours or benefits.)


What are your biggest tips to nailing a virtual interview?

  1. Do a test call with a friend. Make sure your audio and video are good to go as well as lighting – a lot of folks miss the lighting aspect and we’re often talking to a shadow. We like Peter Pan’s shadow, but we want to chat with Pan the Man.
  2. Make up for missing out on the handshake, eye contact, and complete body language by sharing your personality in other ways like fun facts and accomplishments that may not be on your resume.
  3. Have a goal in your control. It’s not in your control whether the recruiter moves forward with you, or whether weird one-offs happen with troubleshooting, but control what you can. Ask yourself, “what do I want this person to know about me by the end of our interview? What are some key accomplishments/experiences I can speak to in order to convey that?” Regardless of the result of the interview, you can feel good about your skills as an interviewee if you have a goal you can control and measure.
  4. Have at least 3 thoughtful questions prepared: one about the company, one about the team, and one about the interviewer.


What are your top pitfalls to avoid when interviewing virtually?

  1. Avoid using your phone or tablet for virtual interviews. Laptop/desktop is best so you can rest your hands and keep your video steady. The company may also want to share their screen with you, and If your device doesn’t support that functionality you can run into issues.
  2. Avoid public areas. You’ll most likely want some privacy while you’re interviewing, and on top of that most public areas can be extremely noisy – it can be distracting to both you and the interviewer when others are in the background.
  3. Avoid talking about why you want to LEAVE somewhere. Instead, focus on why you want the company and job you’re applying to.
  4. Avoid generic language. Asking questions like, “What’s the culture like?”or stating things like “I’m a real people person” are definitely things to steer clear of. It’s already more difficult to get a full sense for you as an individual (virtually) so the more vibrant and specific you can be the better.

Any other advice you can share to make for a great virtual interview?

Here are few things I tell all candidates, whether they’re virtual or in-person:

  1. Ask great questions
  2. Be ready for great questions
  3. Dress to impress


Interested in putting your new interview skills to the test? Visit www.yelp/com/careers to start your #FiveStarCareer!