Virtual or In-Person Interviews: What’s the Right Answer When You Have the Choice?

The WFH revolution triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has changed not only the work experience but also employee recruitment. Now that everyone has been exposed to video conferencing, hiring managers are implementing a hybrid approach to recruiting, often using virtual interviews during early rounds, and moving to in-person for final interviews (and when public health conditions allow). But if you’re a job candidate who is asked whether you’d rather interview in-person or on Zoom, what should you say?

Virtual vs In-person - In article

The answer: It depends.

Why virtual interviewing is on the rise

Pre-pandemic, in an August 2019 survey, 62 percent of respondents said they would rather interview in-person for the obvious reasons: in-person is the only way to truly judge a potential opportunity, it’s easier to connect with the interviewer, and the chances of technical difficulties are high.

But in a March 2021 study, 41 percent of hiring managers said they were adopting a hybrid approach to interviews going forward, with 23 percent planning to go fully virtual. Virtual interviews are less time-consuming, allow hiring managers to inexpensively access a wider pool of candidates, and—given the rise in fully remote positions—may allow candidates to be evaluated in the environment in which they will ultimately work.

How to choose between virtual and in-person interviews

Like it or not, job candidates can expect that Zoom interviews are here to stay. But if you’re given a choice about what type of interview to pursue, you’ll want to consider several factors before making your decision:

  • What level of interview is this? If it’s your final round of interviews and you have an opportunity to appear in person, do so. You want to signify your keen interest and get a firsthand feel for the company’s culture. But if it’s the first round, and the hiring manager seems eager to go virtual, do. This is a screening round, and you don’t want to do anything that makes you seem high maintenance. Look at this as an enhanced phone interview.
  • How hard will it be for you to interview? One of the toughest parts of getting a new job is finding ways to interview without tipping your hand at your current position. A half-hour video conference is easy to work into the day, while the same interview in-person might involve an hour of driving across town.
  • What type of position are you interviewing for? For instance, if you’re interviewing for a fully remote position, and the hiring manager is located across the country, there’s no reason for you to travel. But if you will be working in the office or uprooting your family, the in-person experience is an opportunity you’ll want to take if offered.
  • How reliable is your technology—and do you have a quiet place to do the interview? As the saying goes, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and many a quality candidate has been felled by spotty Wi-Fi, bad lighting, or a noisy coffee shop. If the hiring manager can’t communicate with you, then sadly most will probably move on quickly, no matter how promising a candidate you are. Similarly, if your home is noisy, you might want to investigate finding an alternate location. Public libraries often have conference rooms you can reserve for free (and they typically have reliable internet).

Above all, you need to ask yourself: Which interview style will allow you to put your best foot forward? Where will you feel most comfortable? If you’re going to worry about your internet connection, go for in-person. If you’ll be preoccupied about the traffic, then opt for virtual. Make the choice that lets your personality and skills shine.

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