The online interview: a guide to success

Careers advice

Congratulations: you got the interview.

The wake of Covid-19 has changed the interview process significantly. Preparation that once involved travel planning, practising your handshake, and curating the perfect interview outfit, has been replaced for many with webcam testing, Wi-Fi boosting, and worrying about the top half of your outfit... interview slippers, anyone?

Online interviews present their challenges: conducting an important event in the home can raise issues with noisy children, pets introducing themselves intermittently, and dodgy Wi-Fi connections.

For some, it can be harder to connect with the interviewer through a screen without physical cues. However, your career prospects can soar without even leaving your kitchen with the correct preparation and guidance.

The following tried and tested tips will optimise your online interview performance.

Use your space

The benefit of an online interview is that you can use the space around you to your advantage. For example, use the wall behind your computer to stick notes, reminding you of key points. Don't assume that all of your most impressive traits and experiences will come up naturally - you have to drop them into the conversation.

List out key parts of the job specification, and identify several examples where you have demonstrated that trait, for example, if the job spec states 'the candidate must be experienced in time management, you could say: “I showed good time management when…”

Don't do this in extreme detail; note a few good examples and stick them on the wall, so you can quickly glance up if you freeze. If you don’t have a wall in your clear eye-line, you can use windows or furniture to stick cues to instead.

Use your home environment to boost your performance!

Know your sector

Interview questions are unpredictable, so it’s crucial to research common interview questions in your sector. In an online interview, there is no excuse for not having researched potential questions and made notes. Planning your answers and having those with you in the interview is not something you could do in an in-person interview, so take advantage of it.

Have a look through common questions - some will be easy and answered quickly, but some will be more challenging, requiring careful thought and reflection.

Don’t be afraid to draw on examples from your academic life if you don’t have much work experience, but it’s best to use a mix if possible. Pick out a few of these and plan examples that you can have with you in the interview.

Don’t be caught off guard!

Research the company

One way to impress an interviewer is demonstrating you researched the organisation, emphasising your interest in pursuing a career there. Does the organisation have a website? If so, check if they have a list of values or a mission statement – a significant advantage of virtual interviews is being able to have the organisations’ website open in front of you. By threading their values throughout your answers, you show alignment. If the company motto is 'Confidence and Clarity' - reference occasions when you have shown these traits.

Do they have a blog or social media account? You can bring these naturally into conversations. For example: “I found the article online about a four-day working week interesting because I feel that...” and so on. Demonstrating your research shows the interviewer you have an enquiring mind – and are willing to go the extra mile.

In an increasingly virtual world, being tuned into the company’s online platforms demonstrates your ability to keep up with digital trends and business online. Virtual interviews remove the need to travel further than your kitchen table – so use the time you would have spent travelling to the office to instead deepen your research.

If you don’t do your research– it will show.

Asking the interviewer the right questions

Prepare a list of three questions to ask that you can keep in front of you. For example: “What traits would help a person to succeed in this role?” Or “Is there anything else that would convince you I am right for this position?” Your questions should be for you to gain information about the job and show the interviewer any yet-unmentioned qualities or relevant experiences.

Some questions will naturally be answered in the interview, so it’s best to have extra prepared. In remote interviews, as touched on above, you can prepare and utilise questions to keep in front of you throughout your interview.

Show them you're keen!

Body language is key

Body language is essential, especially in remote interviews; the interviewer may not be able to see that you are wearing pyjama bottoms and bed socks, but they will read more into what they can see of you, and your body language from the waist up may be closely observed.

When using a laptop or mobile device, prop it up, so the webcam is at eye level. To check how it will look prior to the interview, open up the device camera. Practice sitting positions and eye contact. An honest, open, and confident impression is conveyed by looking directly into the camera - not down or to the side.

Straighten up your outfit, sit up straight and look the interviewer in the eye.

Making the most of your background

Make sure the room is tidy so that a professional impression is given. A messy environment implies that you are disorganised! While many use zoom backgrounds for their interviews, this is a chance for you to show the interviewer that you are organised and professional; it’s better if you have a clean room behind you rather than a background or blur effect.

Tidy room, tidy mind!

To conclude, following these simple steps will prepare you for any remote interview and give you the best chance of success.

On behalf of all of us at Impact Futures, good luck in your interview...with these tips? We know you’ll smash it.

Find out more about our programmes at Impact Futures online.


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