Winning techniques for online interviews

A woman smiling at her laptop
April 11, 2021

Whilst online interviews have been happening for a while, thanks to Covid 19 they are now increasingly commonplace.

The fundamentals of interview preparation remain the same, whether in person or online, and these are covered in our guide to an effective interview.

The big difference with the online interview is that in an online interview you are also responsible for the setup of your interview surroundings. This guide takes you step by step through the staging and set up of the online interview so that you are as prepared as you can be.

1. Act as if you re having a face-to-face interview

Just because this interview may well be happening in your home it is important that your approach and preparation for the interview is as professional as it should be if the interview were taking place in their offices. This includes managing expectations, conducting research, preparing answers to likely interview questions, and formulating a few questions of your own. Read our guide to having a great interview

2. Get a decent camera and position it correctly

If you are not happy with the inbuilt quality of your camera then we would highly recommend that you invest in an external webcam. One brand that is highly recommended and used by Youtubers and vloggers is Logitech, though many others are available.

Once you are happy with your camera you now need to ensure that you position it correctly. It should be at eye level so that you are looking straight into the camera. You may need to raise the position of your computer by putting it on a firm box or set of books. 

3. Be aware of what is behind you. 

It is well worth taking the time to spot check what is visible in your frame. Your background needs to be work appropriate. Ideally find a spot where the background is either a blank wall, painting or if soft furnishings are visible, for these to be organised and minimal.

Top tip: give yourself enough time prior to the interview to double check what is in your frame as clutter has a wonderful way of appearing unannounced! 

4. Know your system sound settings

Get to know where the input volume settings are for your device and operating system. It’s not usually much of an issue, because most apps and systems set pretty sensible defaults but if you are sharing a computer with other family members it is possible that they may have changed your settings so it's always good to double check prior to the interview taking place. 

5. Position of your computer/laptop and light

Ideally you want natural light to be in front of you (behind the camera) or to the side but not behind you. If you can’t get enough natural light we would recommend that you look at investing in a ring light which enables you to artificially light the room.  

6. External noise

You ideally need to be in a room on your own so that you can focus on the interview. If this is not possible then your interviewer will understand, and we would recommend that you let them know in advance. 

7. Headphones

Headphones of any kind will make your video calls and conferences better, since it minimizes the chance of echo from your mic picking up the audio from your own speakers. Big over ears models are good for sound quality, while earbuds make for less obvious headwear in your actual video image.

8. Wi-Fi

The last thing you want is for the Wi-Fi to let you down. If there is any danger of other people in your home streamlining Netflix, etc and weakening the connection for you then please ask them to come off the Wi-Fi until your interview is finished.

9. Do a test run!

Now that you have set up the room and got your technology all sorted we would highly recommend that you do a test run so that you are confident that everything is set up correctly and you aren’t leaving anything to chance. 

You may find that you want to hide yourself, so that you’re not distracted by your own image (most people find that on online calls they end up looking at themselves, often focusing on what they don’t like!). If you’re using Zoom, you can use the "hide myself’/ hide self-view" – other platforms can also be adjusted to ensure you don’t spend the meeting wondering why your forehead is so shiny…! 

10. Blu tack is your friend

One of the advantages of having an online interview is that you can choose to have your notes and CV to hand. It is very easy to get flustered and lose your train of thought so one of the advantages of an online interview is being able to write post-it notes in bullet point format which can be stuck around the edges of your computer.

These will act as gentle reminders of the questions you want to ask or the key points that you want to get across and negates the need to look down/away from the computer thereby losing eye contact with your interviewer. 

11. What to wear

First impressions count. The default is smart business casual. The difference with an online video is to make sure this doesn’t stop at the waist. In the unlikely event that you need to stand up you don’t want to be caught off guard by wearing your PJs!

12. Punctuality

Punctuality is a key business skill and therefore it is important that you are at your computer a few minutes before the interview is due to start. This will also create the space you need to calm your nerves, review your notes and get into the right mindset.

13. Eye Contact

It is critical to establish eye contact by looking into the camera. If you don’t look into the camera, it can be off-putting to the interviewer. Try to avoid looking at yourself, however tempting. If you have dressed appropriately and set up the room correctly, let it go and focus instead on relaxing into and having a great conversation.  

And finally, good luck!


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