Updared April 2023
Helping candidates prepare for online job interviews and video screening is something we now find ourselves doing on a regular basis. With hybrid working enabling companies to seek talent beyond their geographical location and platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams becoming part of our everyday working lives since the pandemic, online interviews are now commonplace, particularly for the first interview stage.
So, how can you make sure you make a lasting and positive impression during your video call with a prospective employer? Here are 7 tips to help you prepare for a successful online job interview.
If you are preparing for a face to face interview you will generally give plenty of thought to your interview outfit. The same applies, even though you may be sitting in your own living room or spare bedroom at home. In terms of what to wear, opt for plain fabrics and simple colours, just as you would if you were meeting face to face. Don’t just focus on the top half – dressing smartly from head to toe will help you feel business like and professional, which will improve your confidence and the way you project yourself on screen.
Give some thought to where you will take the video call. If you normally work from a bedroom, check the lighting and the background. Some platforms allow you to select a virtual background and if you intend to do this, keep it as simple and unobtrusive as possible. Lighting is very important. If your desk is by a window and the interview is at a time of day when the sun is at its strongest, this may make it difficult for the interviewers to see you properly. If your interview is in the late afternoon in the winter, make sure the lights are on in the room before you start so that you don’t suddenly find yourself sitting in darkness as the daylight outside fades.
Depending on what platform the interview is being held on, you may need to download an app or create an account if it isn’t one you normally use for work. It goes without saying that you will need a computer or laptop with a webcam and it may be useful to use headphones to cut out echo and background noise. Don’t try to do the interview on your mobile phone. You won’t be able to see the interviewers properly and it will affect how you appear to them. Test out your set up before with a friend, colleague or your recruitment consultant so that you are familiar with the platform and how it interacts with your computer. Make sure your internet connection is strong and reliable in the location where you’ll be sitting. If for some unexpected reason the broadband in your area is down on the day of interview or your laptop is hit by a mystery virus, prepare yourself to offer an alternative. This should be done in advance and can show the interviewer how organised you are. Request a call back number in case the technology fails so that you can continue by phone or reschedule to another date.
People often consider their body language when they are attending interviews face to face but this side of things tends to be forgotten about when the interview is being held online. Treat the interview as if the interviewers were in the same room as you. Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera. Lean in slightly when the interviewer is speaking to show engagement, don’t cross your legs and keep your hand movements to a minimum. Sit with good posture and position yourself centrally. It can be easy to think that because the interviewer is in a different room, they can’t see you fidget. They can!
The advantage of being interviewed at your own desk is that you can have your CV, the job description and any preparation notes laid out beside you. This can be helpful when it comes to asking your own questions about the job and the company. Avoid looking down too much but have a pen and paper handy so that you can write down any notes you might want to make during the session. As with any interview, make sure you have done your homework on the company and the role in advance so that you can respond quickly to questions, without referring to your notes. If there are specific personal successes you’d like to share, consider having these on the edge of your screen on post-it notes so that you remember to mention all the positive things you can offer.
Anyone who has been involved in online meetings or interviews will tell you that they are often distracted by their own image. Many video platforms have a default view which shows a large central image of you or the speaker with other participants in smaller squares. Learn how to change your settings before the interview so that you select gallery view rather than speaker view. This will avoid you being distracted by the way you look on camera. Another common mistake is to use a laptop which is too close to you or too low down. Experiment by pushing your laptop to the back of the desk so that there is clear space around your head. If you are too low down, consider putting your laptop on a stand or a large book to raise it up.
Make sure other people living in your home know that you have an interview. Many a video job interview has been interrupted by a partner popping in with a cup of tea or a family member appearing in the background to look for something they’ve lost. If you have dogs, keep them out of earshot in case they bark and if you have cats, make sure they are not in the room in case they are tempted to take up residence on the keyboard at an inappropriate moment. In short, do everything possible to avoid interruptions, including switching off the volume on your mobile.