Virtual Interviewing

It is important to remember that all rules of etiquette and professionalism discussed in the interviewing article apply in the setting of virtual interviewing - interviewing through a webcam does not make it less formal!

Create a set

Choosing your interview space carefully is crucial. Consider the potential for noise from others in your home, barking dogs, loud fans, or TV in the next room. While you do not need to buy special or costly equipment, do think about the direction and source of your light. Bright windows behind you may be comfortable for you, but could cast you in a very dark shadow and make it hard for your interviewers to see you or read your facial expression.

Check that the room behind you is presentable to your interviewers - close closet doors, remove or organize any belongings. Understand that any posters, artwork, or other items on the wall will be interpreted as reflections of you and will contribute to a first impression of you. Anything visible in your background is a fair topic of conversation or questions from interviewers - just like how anything on your application is fair game. Remember that your “real” background with books or photos of family and other personal effects can be a great source of conversational topics with your interviewers, so be thoughtful about design in this respect. You may choose to use a virtual background if so desired or necessary - but this should be a professionally developed virtual background with your school’s logo or design. Ask your medical school staff if such a one has been created for this purpose.

If there are no acceptable rooms in your home, consider and scope out rooms in libraries, medical school buildings, student call rooms in the hospital, homes of families or friends, apartment complex business centers or club houses, etc. Spend some time in these rooms before choosing one for an interview, so that you are not surprised by loud construction work next door, a strong draft that creates noise and blows your hair around, or other disruptions.

Test your tech

While you will never be asked to buy or use any special or particular equipment for any given interview - you will need a webcam (built-in or external to your device), microphone, and internet connection. If you know your access to one of these is difficult - for example, you know you have a sometimes poor internet connection - seek out an alternative ahead of time. This may be a matter of relocating to a campus building with reliable internet, or borrowing a webcam or laptop for interview days. Check with your medical school regarding any equipment you may need - often these may be loaned out for such use. If you borrow or purchase anything new, test drive it well before your interview. On a related note, assume your interviewers can hear you from the moment you boot up your device to start a call until they leave the session or log off. Do not trust the mute button or you risk interviewers overhearing something meant for someone else.

Dress for success

Remember to dress as you would for an in-person interview day - including bottoms! While most webcam use results in a visible torso and head, webcams can fall, or you may unexpectedly stand up or otherwise change position. Do not risk some mishap wherein your interviewers see you in pajama bottoms or other unprofessional attire. When choosing a blouse or dress, consider the cut of the top and placement of your webcam - avoid a situation in which interviewers are able to see “down” into a blouse!

Prepare and practice

Test early and often! When you have your equipment, room, and outfit selected - practice the interview over a virtual conference. This will allow you to view your background, outfit, and lighting the way your interviewers will see it. Experiment with placement of your webcam and lighting. Practice changing position in your chair to assess for potential wardrobe malfunctions. It would be best to practice with family, friends, other medical students, or even faculty on the other end. Anytime you change your clothing, equipment, or setting - test it out on a practice call. Institutions will use a variety of teleconferencing applications and software - test these all out, each one. Do not assume your familiarity and comfort with one platform applies to another. Additionally, note that the usual advice to practice interviewing discussed above applies here as well.

EMRA can help!

While this can seem overwhelming and nerve-wracking - remember that many students are in similar shoes and that the interviewers on the other side are adjusting, too! You’ve got EMRA in your corner and we want you to shine. Check out a great video with more information on virtual interviewing featuring EMRA President Hannah Hughes, MD (@hrh_approved) and CORD Board of Directors’ member Bo Burns, MD (@BoBurnsDO)! Reach out to us anytime. You got this, and we can help.

Initially written August 3, 2020 by Deena Khamees, MD (2019-21 EMRA Board of Directors’ Director of Education), University of Michigan

5 Tips for Effective Virtual Interviews

Dr Hughes and Dr Burns offer 5 tips for effective virtual interviews for EM-bound medical students, residents, and fellows.

Hannah Hughes, MD, MBA
EMRA President
PGY-4, Chief Resident 2020-2021
University of Cincinnati

Bo Burns, DO, FACEP
George Kaiser Family Foundation Chair in Emergency Medicine
Professor Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine
CORD Board of Directors

July 23, 2020

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