The Covid-19 pandemic has forced governments across the world to introduce a series of restrictive measures, such as social distancing. When it comes to recruitment, this has had the effect of prompting employers to opt for online interviews rather than face-to-face meetings. In fact, in all likelihood, remote interviews between prospective employers and job candidates will remain the preferred method for years to come.
What is an online interview?
Although an online interview is quite similar to a face-to-face meeting, you will be utilising technology such as a video conferencing app or a smartphone. Nevertheless, if you have been invited to participate in this type of interview, you will need to make some adjustments as the technology can limit your ability to decipher the interviewer’s:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Hand gestures
Video interview preparation tips
First of all, you need to determine what type of video interview you will be having with your potential employer. Make sure you:
- Make a note of the critical dates and times
- Recheck the contact details before sending any recordings
- Answer any practice questions they send; this will enable you to familiarise yourself with the employer’s format and their expectations
- Learn about the employer’s organisation and the job requirements
- Visit the company’s website to understand its corporate culture and values
- Read and follow any guidance and instructions issued by the recruiter
- Prepare some questions of your own
Test your device set-up
In order to successfully plan for a remote meeting, you will need:
- A computer equipped with a camera, microphone and speakers
- A video communications program such as Zoom
- A fast and reliable internet connection
It is imperative that you test your devices to make sure they are working properly before the scheduled meeting. Check the following:
- Your computer should be fully functioning and it should meet all the requisite technical specifications
- You should have already downloaded the software you will need for the interview
- Ensure your internet is reliable and strong enough for video streaming
At least 15–30 minutes before the interview, conduct a final check of your internet connection. Then, sign in to the video link provided, turn on the sound and video, and ensure everything is working as it should. If you notice any technical problems, you need to inform the interviewer immediately. It would be much better to restart or reschedule the meeting than jeopardise your chances of being successful.
You should dress as if you are attending a face-to-face meeting. It is vital that you appear professional and confident. If no criteria have been issued, it’s probably best to wear casual business clothes. Furthermore, even if you are just sat at home, make sure you present a background that resembles an office environment.
Conduct some research and prepare diligently
With online recruitment, you can boost your chances of success by conducting some research into your potential employer. This will enable you to prepare some suitable answers to possible questions the interviewers may ask. However, having a list of possible answers won’t suffice; you will need to converse in a natural way and not simply offer rehearsed responses.
Occasionally, companies will send a list of questions before the interview to give you some time to prepare your answers. Often, however, you will have no prior knowledge, in which case you will need to treat the remote meeting as if it was face-to-face. Here are the steps you need to take:
- Search for commonly asked interview questions and prepare suitable answers
- Conduct some research into your potential employer and their organisation
- Review the job description and check to see if it matches your qualifications, skills and experience
- Compile a list of your relevant achievements and experiences
Interviews conducted online or over the phone can hamper your ability to communicate through body language. Nevertheless, if possible, try to use your body language to project a professional image.
If the interviewer throws you an unexpected question, stay calm, take a few moments to gather your thoughts and then respond in a measured way.
During the interview, make sure you:
- Speak clearly and don’t talk too fast
- Pause at the end of each question (there can be a slight delay in online conversations)
- Smile and look interested
- Maintain good eye contact by looking at the camera instead of the screen
You should position the camera so it will show your face in the middle of the screen. In normal circumstances, you would begin and end the meeting with a handshake. As it’s an online interview, you can use other body language as a greeting, such as:
- A smile
- A confident wave with eye contact
Eliminate potential distractions
As you will be participating in the online interview from home, try to find a quiet space with as few distractions as possible. Choose a room that is professional-looking and clean. This will help you direct the interviewer’s attention to you and not your surroundings. If you have no dedicated office space, consider the following locations:
- Kitchen table
- Cleared-out wardrobe space
If you usually share the space with other people, remember to politely inform them about the:
- Time of your interview
- The area you intend to use
Also, respectfully remind them that you would like to limit any distractions. If you have any pets, it’s probably best to put them in another room for the duration of the meeting.
Be sincere and establish a rapport
As you will be in your home environment, virtual interviews allow you to speak in a relaxed manner. Accordingly, you can highlight:
- Who you are
- Why you are the most suitable candidate for the job
Remember, the interviewers will be evaluating:
- The way you express yourself
- Whether you would be the ideal employee
You can enhance your chances by using personal tools such as:
- Body language
- Facial expressions
It is essential that you demonstrate the self-confidence and personality required by the job.
You will also need to establish a rapport with your interviewers; if you build a personal connection, this can help you distinguish yourself from the other applicants. Even if you are communicating virtually, there are ways to connect with your interviewers. For example, you can talk about specific topics, such as:
- Common interests
- The interviewer’s experience of virtual interviews
- Any neutral topic that can help you gain an insight into your interviewer
Don’t forget to follow up
You can send a follow-up email the day after the interview. Make sure you:
- Thank them for their time
- Inform them that you are available for any supplementary questions
If you don’t have the interviewer’s email address, you can request it from the company’s HR representative or the hiring manager.
Tips for pre-recorded interviews
With this format, you have the advantage of being able to record your answers. As you watch the video, you will have time to answer the questions that appear on the screen.
Since you won’t actually be talking to an interviewer, you won’t be able to observe any visual clues. Instead, you should act as if you are addressing an actual person.
To prepare yourself, face a mirror or ask a friend to act as the interviewer and then practise answering potential questions. You can change or refine your answers before sending the recorded responses.
Online interviews are fast becoming the norm, primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, remote meetings are not the same as talking to someone face-to-face. As they are conducted virtually, there are no physical interactions. Despite this, you will still need to do your homework and learn as much as you can about the employer and the job. You will also need to ensure that your computer hardware and internet connection are working correctly. Online meetings have their advantages, such as being able to chat from the relaxed surroundings of your home. Although the way you can use your body language will be limited, you can still convey visual cues to show that you are enthusiastic about the job.