How to nail an online interview

Online Interview
How to nail an online interview

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to rock the foundations of recruitment. According to McKinsey’s estimate, during one week in April, nearly a quarter of the country’s working-age population had been furloughed. And none of us really know what the long-term effect on jobs will be once government support is removed.

But despite this impact, there are still job opportunities around. Some sectors have experienced massive growth due to the virus, with a huge demand for new workers as a result. And now we see some light at the end of what feels like a very long tunnel, businesses will start to return to work, and many will find they have vacancies to fill.

One thing’s for sure, though, face to face interviews are unlikely to be a factor of recruitment for some while. Online will be the way forward for the foreseeable future.  

So how should you prepare for an online interview? Is it the same as a face to face? Or are there any important differences to be aware of? Here’s our top tips for having the best online experience.

A few days before the big day

The first thing we would suggest is deciding on your location. There are some obvious things like not having your back to a window, as the light will shine onto your screen, or not being in a dark corner. Think about how your surroundings look on screen – you can check this out by using your camera on forward mode to see how you will appear. A plain or certainly uncluttered wall is best – you want the focus to be on you, not your collection of artwork, no matter how proud of it you may be.

The next area of preparation is equipment. Will you use your laptop, phone, tablet? You’ll probably find a desktop or laptop computer easiest, but use whichever option you feel most comfortable with. Check it’s working properly and that the operating system is the latest version. You don’t want it going into a 25-minute automatic software update 10 minutes in.

Do you plan to use any other hardware such as speakers or headphones? If so, make sure they connect to your device and work properly with it.

Software is the next thing to check. There are so many platforms for conference calling, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, and more. Ask which one will be used and ensure it is compatible with your device and that you have the latest version downloaded. If you have children or pets at home, whilst most interviewers are likely to be sympathetic, it might be worth looking at noise-cancelling software.

It’s worth trialling a test online interview in advance with a friend to ensure that everything works well.

Once you know your system is working properly, it’s time to ensure you’ve done your interview preparation, just as you would for a face to face interview. Don’t fall into the trap of taking it less seriously. Research the company, think of interesting questions, anticipate what they might ask you and plan what you are going to wear that is appropriate for the job you are applying for. Weird we know, if you’ve lived the last 10 weeks in pyjamas.

On the day of the interview

Do a final equipment check a while before you are due to start. Turn off all applications that might send notifications and interrupt the flow of your discussion, ensure your device is charged and the power cable is to hand.  

Half an hour beforehand, change into your interview outfit and set up your technology in the interview location, making sure the area is tidy, and no dirty coffee cups have crept into view. It’s a good idea to have a glass of water to hand though, in case your throat gets dry while talking. If you have children at home, put a notice on your door to ask them not to enter. If you are not using your phone, switch it off.

One benefit of an online interview is you can make a few notes and keep them to hand. So, by all means, jot down the key points you want to get across. Just don’t rely on them too much, you don’t want to appear as if you are reading aloud or to be constantly glancing away.

Give yourself 15 mins to gather your thoughts and then connect up to the link you have been given a few minutes before the start time.

During the interview itself

Look directly into the camera, not at the image of the interviewer. It’s easy to forget that the other person can see you, so remember your body language – appropriate smiles, eye contact, good posture, positive cues.

Be aware of the possibility of talking over people when having an online conversation, as there may be a slight delay on the line. Wait until you are sure the interviewer has finished the question before you start to answer. It’s fine to pause slightly before replying.

Phew, it’s all over

It’s good practice to send a quick follow up email expressing how much you enjoyed talking to the interviewer and reinforcing your interest in the position – assuming of course that you still feel like that!

Finally, we thought we’d share one great tip we heard if you are feeling nervous, something that you could never do with a face to face interview.  

Stick a photo of a trusted friend or family member on your screen, next to – but not covering – the camera and pretend you are talking to them. It will ensure you are looking in the right direction and may just help you to relax and calm your nerves.

Have you experience of conducting an online interview – either as the interviewer or interviewee? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know by commenting below.

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