Online Job Interview Do's and Don'ts
You've created the most eye-catching CV ever (through our CV Writing Service 😉), you've received numerous calls from agencies and companies interested in your profile, and they've now scheduled an interview, the only problem is that it's online!
Online job interviews are comparable to conventional face-to-face interviews and are common in some industries. There are some noteworthy changes to be aware of, though. Meeting someone over Skype or Zoom is different from meeting in person, but it doesn't have to be challenging. Your goals are to stand out from the competition and land a second interview, regardless of the differences between in-person and online interviews.
Don't worry, we've helped many candidates and clients over the last decade, and especially in the last 18 months (at the time of writing), with these dreaded online meetings. To be prepared and ready, we have written down the most common issues they face and how you can combat them.
Make sure you have the correct details
If you are working directly with a company or through a recruitment agency, always ask them and double-check that you have the correct hyperlink 24 hours before your interview. It may appear that you are being difficult, or that you have lost an original link that you were sent, but it actually makes you more prepared and organised for your interview, which is a trait that hiring managers will look for. Furthermore, if the link does not work, you will have time to resolve the issue rather than panicking 5 minutes before the scheduled interview.
Lights, camera, action!
Most of us don't have the time or resources to become the next Steven Spielberg, setting up lights, good quality microphones and cameras, but how you present yourself on the device you're using for the online interview will greatly influence the interviewer's perception of you as a candidate. Consider whether a well-lit candidate with a clear, minimalist background and a high-quality image would look better than a candidate sitting in a dark, cluttered room. As a recruiter, I'd go with the first option.
If possible, try to sit in front of a window to allow natural light to illuminate your face. If you don't have access to sunlight (due to clouds or it being later in the day), use a lamp pointed at a wall. This can help brighten a room without over-exposing your face and making you look like a ghost!
Tidy your room
A clean room is a clear mind. You might not notice the stacks of books behind you or the trinkets scattered across the shelf, but a potential employer might. Even if you are aware that the clutter has nothing to do with how you work and may not even be yours, the interviewer may question whether your lack of organisation will be an issue at work. Furthermore, a tidy space will not only make you feel accomplished and motivated, but it will also clear your mind, allowing you to be at your best for your interview.
If you do have a busy background that you can't 'tidy away' then you could use a virtual background. I wouldn't recommend bubbles or a video of a rollercoaster, but a simple colour or blur would work well to keep the hirer's attention on you rather than your wall.
Minimize all distractions
Imagine you're in your room, halfway through your online interview, things are going well, your legs have stopped shaking nervously, and you're bossing all questions thrown at you. Suddenly(!), your children burst through the door, the washing machine beeps to indicate completion, and the Amazon delivery driver rings the doorbell, waking up your dog, who then begins barking!
Not everyone has experienced all of the above distractions, but most can identify with a few. To be fully prepared and focused, you should eliminate as many distractions as possible, and as Murphy's First Law states, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." If you have children, for example, you could ask a friend or neighbour to watch them for an hour or two during your interview. Also, avoid purchasing a parcel 24 hours before your scheduled interview date, so those unexpected deliveries don't arrive when you don't need them.
Check your internet connection
This is self-evident, but crucial for anything online. The best way to deal with this issue is to practice with a friend before the interview. Arrange a call with a friend who has a good connection (so you know it's not their fault), and then walk into every available room until you have a reliable connection. If you're still having trouble, ask a friend with a good connection to go around and use their WiFi, or if that's not an option, go to an internet cafe.
Understand the device you’re using
This point follows from the previous one. Check that you understand how to use the device you've selected for your call. A laptop, phone, tablet, and the software you're using, such as Teams, Zoom, will all work slightly differently, and if you're unfamiliar with that particular device/app, you could find yourself in a difficult situation if something unusual occurs. Again, the best advice is to practise with a partner or a friend the night before your official interview.
Don’t stress, you’re not the first
Because of the dynamic and global change in how both small to large companies work in the modern day, as well as the introduction of hybrid and remote working as a result of COVID-19, online interviews are still relatively new. The majority of people either aren't used to them or don't have access to the right facilities; there are still teething issues, and as a recruitment agency, we've seen it all.
Technical issues, the sound of next-door's builders seeping into your home office, and poor lighting should not have a significant impact on the recruiter's decision as long as you have a positive attitude, are polite, and answer all questions to the best of your ability. In these rapidly changing technological times, both the candidate and the client must be adaptable.
If you do have an issue, relax, breathe and refocus. You are not the first person it has happened to, and you won't be the last.
Remember that the same principles that apply to face-to-face interviews also apply to online interviews. Be confident and follow the tips above to master your next online interview.