How To Prepare For An Online Interview
2 years ago

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented shifts in the ways that organisations traditionally operate. How job applicants are interviewed is a relevant example. The method of online interviews was becoming increasingly popular in the years before the pandemic. Still, the shift to online working has accelerated the adoption of the method, and it looks as if it's here to stay!

Don't panic! There are many upsides to online interviews. I mean, who wouldn't want to complete a potentially daunting scenario in the comfort of their own home? However, there are some downsides, most prominently potential technical problems, but these can be anticipated and mitigated.

Due to the above, let's discuss how to prepare for online interviews and truly ACE them!

  1. Test your technical setup: You must ensure your internet connection, camera, microphone, and video conferencing software are working properly. Also, you must conduct a test call with a friend to ensure everything is in order.
  2. Research the company and role: Ensure to familiarise yourself with the company's mission, values, products/services, and recent news. Understand the job description and identify the key skills and qualifications they seek.
  3. Practise common interview questions: Prepare and rehearse responses to common interview questions. Focus on highlighting your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements. Also, you must consider conducting mock interviews to gain confidence and improve your performance.
  4. Create a professional environment: Find a quiet, well-lit area for the interview. Be sure to remove any distractions or clutter from the background. Dress professionally as you would for an in-person interview to make a positive impression.
  5. Maintain good body language: Sit upright with good posture and maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera. You can practise active listening and pause briefly before answering questions. Speak clearly and confidently.
  6. Have your notes ready: Keep a copy of your resume, the job description, and any other relevant documents nearby for reference during the interview. You must avoid reading directly from them, but use them as a quick reminder if needed.
  7. Prepare thoughtful questions: You must prepare a few thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer about the company, role, or work environment. This shows your interest and engagement in the opportunity.
  8. Check your online presence: You should review your social media profiles and ensure they present a professional image. Always check and remove or adjust any content that may be deemed inappropriate or unprofessional.
  9. Be punctual: Log in to the video conference a few minutes before the scheduled time to ensure you're ready when the interview starts. If you're punctual, it will demonstrate respect and professionalism.

Practice. Cliché, right? No! Growing up, as I increasingly understand the world, I've realised that cliché sayings (practice, give 110%, think outside the box) are the most useful. Josh Kaufman highlights the importance of practice to be able to go from "knowing nothing to being pretty good". 

We're all reluctant to practise, but you cannot become "pretty good" without practising, receiving feedback, refining approaches, and subsequently practising again. This is hard to do. Learning something new means being clumsy at it initially, making mistakes, course-correcting, and trying again. It's uncomfortable but essential. 

I believe 10 main tips (of course, combined with the practice) will allow you to prepare properly for online interviews and increase your chances of being hired.

A simple tip to start, ensure you remove all distractions around you. You don't want your cat walking across the screen and interfering with the conversation! Turn off your phone notifications, ask people in your house to be quiet for the duration of the interview, etc. 

You're telling your story during the interview, so ensure your environment helps portray this! Storytelling isn't just about what you say. It extends to your setting. What do your environment and presentation reveal about you? How does it reflect on your personal brand? This is an element people often overlook. Pay attention to it, and you will stand out.

Find a spot that is simple and free of distractions (like a blank wall or one that has a few pictures hanging on it). If your background is too cluttered, it will distract the recruiters from you. 

It's been proven that unconscious biases were less likely to creep into the decision-making process when candidates had a clean backdrop. You can even choose a simple virtual background instead of propping yourself in front of a messy bookshelf. If you do, though, ensure it is professional! Ninety-seven percent of the recruiters we spoke to preferred virtual backgrounds of office settings over beaches, mountains, or outer space.

Make sure where you are sitting isn't too, but also stay away from overhead lights during the interview if you can. If possible, try to settle down near a window with your face towards the light. You always want to put your best foot (or, in this case, face) forward!

I'm very much a believer in wearing what you feel comfortable in, but just remember that your goal is to look professional. You don't need to wear a suit jacket — that would look awkward under the circumstances — but you don't want to wear a hoodie either. Studies also show that people feel "most authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire."

The last thing you want is to be unsuccessful due to something you could have managed/prepared for! The technology could cause exactly this, so ensure you are comfortable using whichever method your prospective employer prefers!

Once you're comfortable with the program, you'll be using it. It's a good idea to test your internet connection and your audio and sound capabilities to ensure everything works properly. Poor internet = poor communication. 

To ensure your internet is working optimally, ask family members or roommates to log out while you're in your interview. If you don't trust your Wi-Fi, connect by plugging in your local area network (LAN) cable. You can also test your connection through a simple Google search for "Internet speed test."

Find a friend or family member you can conduct a practice run with on the selected platform. It will help you familiarise yourself with the interface and functionalities – no more..." oh by the way you're on mute!" 

Being on time is really about 10 minutes early. For a virtual, first-time interview, you may want to make sure you are ready to go 15-20 minutes early. If this sounds like a lot, just remember: In a normal interview, you would probably be getting ready, driving, parking, and finding the right room before the interview.

In this situation, setting up the computer and logging in is essentially the parking part of your interview process. Make sure everything works, and then you can hang out until about 5-10 minutes before the scheduled time.

Keep notes handy, but don't refer to them too often: During job interviews, it's standard for recruiters to ask candidates for examples of their most impactful work. Don't let this unnerve you at the moment. Create a printout or Word document of notes with crisp bullet points highlighting a few things you want to share. Sort your projects under two or three headers, for example, accomplishments, research, and voluntary work.

Don't make it more than one page of notes. You don't want to become overwhelmed trying to read them at the moment and appear distracted. The goal is to refer to your notes minimally. Use them only to remind you of points you have already practised.

Prepare for the most common interview questions and ensure you're up to date on the latest news about the company. 

Like power poses, using engaged body language during the interview is going to help you answer with confidence and energy. If on camera, use hand gestures, particularly if sharing personal reflections. It could be an idea to move your hands close to your heart. Even if the call is just over the phone, the right posture will help you sound more friendly, open, and sure of yourself.

On the flip side, slouching can cause you to feel tired and want to be done. Crossing your arms or your legs will make it look like you aren't fully engaged and can cause a kind of mental block that makes it hard to really take in the information.

Speak to the camera. Television anchors use a teleprompter to make "eye contact" with the audience. Can you imagine watching a 30-minute program where the host is talking to his notes the entire time?

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