Virtual Interview Fundamentals

Erron Fritchman, OMS IV
Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

EMRA MSC South East Coordinator

Rylan Russel, OMS IV
Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

Rich Dowd, OMS IV
Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Ohio University

EMRA MSC Midwest Coordinator

It has been a rocky year, but the interview season game is still on. We’ll try to prepare for every possible question that could come up. Typically, our mannerisms and non-verbal communication could make or break us in these in-person scenarios, but now we must rely on a webcam for a pristine performance. The virtual interview adds a layer of intricacy that requires some extra pre-game preparation. We have compiled some virtual interview fundamentals to help avoid some rookie mistakes.

In order to perform your best, make sure you have the proper environment. You’ll want an area free from the distractors of animals, children, construction work. Perhaps this space is readily available in your apartment or home, but don’t be afraid to reach out to your student affairs office to see if your school can create an interview space for students. Once your physical space is taken care of, it’s time to consider appearance.

While your computer screen probably isn’t capable of the same high definition as real life, appearance will be just as important as ever. Normally, your first impression would be a smile and a handshake, but now we have to consider our backdrop and eye contact. A clean, non-distracting background is a must. While a flat wall may be the simplest way to do this, you may try to portray a little about yourself with your background, tastefully. To look at your interviewer you need to look at your webcam, not the person on your screen. Now we’ve considered most of the things we can easily control, but what else can we do to prepare?

Fiechter et al found that although employers were made aware of audio visual bias, candidates with better functioning connections, internet and video quality, were favored over candidates with lesser video and internet quality. So make sure that your computer has proper functioning audio and camera. Make sure that you have access to a charger and outlet. Make sure that you have tested all of these things multiple days in advance. If your wifi struggles to stay connected through a zoom call, consider upgrading your internet speed. It might be time to use the money saved on travel this interview season on a high-quality webcam and a few months of faster internet speeds.

That said, even when the tech functions seamlessly, it still introduces another layer to the interview that we are forced to navigate, increasing the cognitive demand on all participants. Ferran and Watts cited some of the differences that lead to this increased cognitive workload as reduced transmission of nonverbal communication leading to changes in cue salience, awkward turn-taking, and a heightened sense of self-awareness as we can see video of ourselves in real-time. Interestingly, they also found that this increased cognitive demand caused observers to place greater emphasis on a presenter’s general likeability rather than the content of their presentation. This is not to encourage disregard of well-formed and compelling responses, instead it underscores the importance of practice and presentability. Going through simulated virtual interviews with family, friends, and mentors will make you more relaxed and prepared to put your best foot forward on interview day.

As easy as it is to become discouraged, don’t fret - there is hope after all. In their study “The impact of videoconference technology, interview structure and interviewer gender on interviewer evaluations in the employment interview: A field experiment”, Chapman and Rower found that employers actually favored those candidates who interviewed utilizing videoconferences rather than the traditional face to face interview style. Perhaps interviewing remotely gives us interviewees a home court advantage. It’s time to dust off the keyboard, polish the camera lens, and prepare for the most important virtual interview of your life. It’s gametime.

References:

  1. Fiechter JL, Fealing C, Gerrard R, Kornell N. Audiovisual quality impacts assessments of job candidates in video interviews: Evidence for an AV quality bias. Cogn Res Princ Implic. 2018;3(1):47. Published 2018 Dec 7. doi:10.1186/s41235-018-0139-y
  2. Ferran C and Watts S. Videoconferencing in the Field: A Heuristic Processing Model. Management Science. 2008; 54(9): 1565-1578. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.1080.0879
  3. De Kock FS, Hauptfleisch DB. Reducing racial similarity bias in interviews by increasing structure: A quasi-experiment using multilevel analysis. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation. 2018; 7(3):137-154. doi:10.1037/ipp0000091.
  4. Chapman DS, Rowe PM. The impact of videoconference technology, interview structure and interviewer gender on interviewer evaluations in the employment interview: A field experiment. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology. 2001; 74(3): 279-298. doi:10.1348/096317901167361
  5. AAMC Virtual Interview Tips

Virtual Interview Zoom with Hannah Hughes and Bo Burns

On July 23, 2020, EMRA President Hannah Hughes, MD, MBA and Bo Burns, DO, FACEP held a tips and best practices for video interviews in the upcoming season.

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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