Interviews can be intimidating; for some, the human face-to-face aspect can settle nerves. However, more recently, and especially in these ‘lockdown and social distancing’ times, you will find yourself being asked to interview online using technology that you may not use day-to-day.
There are generally two types of online interviews and you must be prepared for both. As we know, preparedness is fundamental to success: and you want to be successful, right?
- One-way video interviews – here you will be asked pre-scripted questions and you will record your answers by a specific deadline. This allows the interviewers to re-watch your video. You may be given the questions beforehand, but it is more likely that you’ll be given them when you login to the platform used by the company.
- Two-way video conferencing interviews – this is a more traditional live back-and-forth conversation with the interviewer on the other side of the screen.
Both these situations can be a little daunting, but these following tips will help you to be more prepared for a successful online interview:
Do a technology test run
Make test calls using the software to friends/family and see if you encounter any technical problems. The main video conferencing platforms and software used are: Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, HireVue, and GoToMeeting. Make sure you’re comfortable using these, familiarise yourself with the platforms and check out YouTube tutorials if necessary.
Before your interview you should ask the interviewer if it will be audio/video or both? Who do you contact if you have technical difficulties during the interview?
There are three main things you must check at least one day before and on the day of your interview:
- Audio: Do your microphone and speakers work? Will you be using a headset/microphone/speakers or the integrated technology in your laptop? Is there any static or feedback? You need to make sure you can be heard loudly and clearly across the system and also that you can hear well enough.
- Camera: Is it too light or too dark? Can you be seen clearly and with a good distance between you and your webcam? If you are using an external camera device, make sure that the software has permission to access it.
- Internet connection: Is your connection stable and reliable? It is best if you have direct access with an ethernet cable as a temperamental WiFi connection can cause delays and unfortunately be seen as unprofessional.
Choose your location very carefully. You want a neutral and professional background – like a plain wall which also limits visual distractions. Near a window and natural light is best as long as you are facing the light so as to avoid darkening of your screen, but if you must use artificial lighting then make sure it isn’t distracting or creating glare or shadows across your face. A quiet space away from loud noises is ideal. Keep pets and children supervised to keep a distraction free environment.
Body language and eye contact
Remember to sit up straight, lean slightly forward, and keep your body language open and professional. Avoid slouching and resting your head in your hands. Try to keep your hands in your lap and use specific gestures rather than fidgeting or using distracting hand movements.
Keep in mind that eye contact is still as important, if not more so, during online interviews. When you look your interviewer’s face on the screen, you’re not looking at them. Look directly at the camera lens as much as possible to maintain eye contact with the interviewer. If this feels uncomfortable for you – place a picture of something or someone familiar next to or just behind the camera. Lastly, smile!
You may be at home or have rented a space for the interview – but remember you should be dressed appropriately. Check that you appear professional on camera. You want the focus to be on you and not what you’re wearing. Check that any jewellery worn does not make disturbing noises.
Many make the mistake of only wearing professional attire from the waist up, but what if they ask you to go and get something that is not in reaching distance? Wearing your full interview outfit will also psychologically put you in the right frame of mind to ace the interview.
This point also ties in with technology. It is professionally courteous to arrive 10 minutes early to an in-person interview, and the same applies to online interviews. Having technical issues is not a valid excuse. You may have to login to platforms and input information (especially in one-way video interviews) and you do not want to be the candidate who was late. Read instructions very carefully. Prove your strong work ethic by being prepared and ready to begin.
Speak clearly and listen carefully
You know your standard interview answers perfectly by now, you have practiced and perfected them. However, you still want them to sound natural in delivery. Speaking clearly and giving moments to pause and consider will help you in this endeavour. Pay close attention to what the interviewer is saying and avoid making assumptions on what you think they are asking.
Sometimes some software will have audio or video lag and for that reason you should always wait a couple of seconds before speaking. You don’t want to make the mistake of interrupting the interviewer by accident or because you haven’t been paying attention to non-verbal cues.
As always: do your research and have your interview answers ready. Online interviews give you the advantage of having some notes on the table if you want to use specific data or have some key points you don’t want to forget. But remember, you always need to be engaged in the interview because they don’t want to see you shuffling papers or reading statements.
Be the best version of you!
Remain calm, have a glass of water, and tissues on hand. Make sure you have brushed teeth, combed hair, and are looking presentable. Check there are no deliveries scheduled and that your phone and laptop notifications are turned off or on silent. Know your worth and how you can add value to their company.