Online Job Interview Tips to Help You Stand Out
More and more companies are conducting online virtual interviews.
With the recent pandemic, a Gartner survey found that over 80% of organizations now conduct virtual interviews for their hiring process. It’s official. Virtual is the new normal.
But don’t worry. New changes present new challenges and therefore new opportunities for growth. In simpler words, it’s time to adapt. Aspiring job seekers such as yourself have to fully realize the differences between online and virtual interviews. Even though the court has changed, you are still one among a dozen, if not a hundred, interviewees all working to impress the same hiring official. So, it’s not enough to adapt, you also got to stand out.
In this article, we’ll be showing you all you need to know to get ahead of the crowd and score your interviewer’s approval.
Basic Parts of an Online Interview
Unlike a traditional face-to-face interview, there are three main parts to an online interview: Your set-up, yourself, and your interviewer.
Set-up means everything related to your equipment and your surroundings. This covers your:
• Network connection
• Video-call software
• Background, and
Everything that is not on you or your interviewer, and is impactful to the quality of your interview, comprises your set-up.
Yourself, well, means everything related to you. This covers your:
• Body language
• Rapport, and
• Knowledge of the interviewer and their company.
Pay good attention to this, because you are your most valuable asset in an interview.
Your interviewer means everything that is on your interviewer’s end. This covers their:
• Professional background
• Questions, and
• On-hand references.
You can control the first two parts (your set-up and yourself), and you will have to play around the third (the interviewer). For example, you often can’t control the questions given to you by the interviewer, but you can maximize your set-up and make yourself presentable.
Understanding and improving upon these basic parts is the core to mastering your interview strategy and winning your interviewer’s interest.
Tweaking Your Set-Up
The set-up comes before everything else. Before any words are said, the set-up will immediately give your interviewer an impression about yourself and your character. A neat background, good lighting, high audio quality, high camera quality, and smooth network connection will come a long way in impressing your interviewer. Nobody likes having the perfect answer to an interview question, only for it to be awkwardly interrupted because of choppy connection or lackluster audio quality.
• Invest in a good camera and mic. Whether your interview is conducted via smartphone or PC, your mic and camera quality is essential. Most smartphones have good cameras and microphones, but you will have to acquire a good quality webcam and microphone if you’re on PC. Fortunately, you don’t need an expensive studio-quality mic or DSLR camera. Webcams and mics with acceptable quality can be purchased within the price range of $15-$25.
• Clean your background. Ensure that your background is pleasing and well-lit. Try not to use anything too plain or too bombastic. For that, you can set your own living room or your own bedroom as your background, provided it has no distractions. Also, don’t use virtual backgrounds as they can be considered unprofessional.
• Remove all distractions. Clear up all clutter and all possible interruptions before your interview starts. You can move to a quieter location, or ask your housemates to be quiet before your interview starts. As much as possible, there should be nothing that distracts you or the interviewer when your interview goes live.
• Have good lighting. Open your camera app or start a mock video-call to check if your lighting is well-rounded. Your face shouldn’t look too sharp or too dim. One way to ensure good lighting is to have your interview in a well-lit room while facing a ring light. Ring lights can be purchased for as low as $5.
• Double-check your network connection. Start a video-call with your friend or a separate device to check if your network connection is acceptable for the scheduled time of the interview. If the interview starts at 2PM, check a day before if your video-calls are smooth at this time.
Always be sure to check if your set-up is acceptable by starting a video-call before the interview starts.
In any job interview, you are your most valuable asset. Be aware of your own appearance, your body language, and your tone and voice, and treat your interviewer as if they are physically in front of you. Most importantly, prepare. Any interviewer can tell if you’ve neglected the time to look and sound presentable.
• Have a good posture. Keep your back straight and reveal your entire face. Try to angle the camera at eye-level.
• Wear professional attire. Do not wear your own house clothes to the interview. Also, keep a healthy color contrast between your attire and your background (e.g. don’t wear white top on a white background, but maybe a cream or blue top).
• Be early. Prepare at least twenty minutes or more before the actual interview starts. Use this time to check your set-up and spruce yourself up for the interview.
• Keep appropriate distance from the camera. Do not be too close or too far from the camera. Try to at least make your upper torso visible, and keep yourself centered on the camera.
• Look at the camera, not the screen. This is very simple. Consider the camera to be the interviewer’s eyes. Look directly at it when you answer.
• Speak slowly. Don’t be in a rush. Listen to their questions carefully and answer them in a steady pace. Talking too fast, especially with a slow connection, will make it difficult for the interviewer to understand you.
• Smile. A smiling face will be greeted warmly by any interviewer. It also helps keep a positive air with your interviewer, and demonstrates enthusiasm and energy.
• Prove that you want to be here. This is less of a practical tip and more of a mindset to have. The last thing an interviewer wants is someone who looks and sounds like they don’t want the job. When you keep a determined mindset, it will show in your answers and in your body language.
To get a good gauge of yourself, practice speaking in front of your camera before the interview.
Understanding Your Interviewer
Because of the remote nature of online interviews, it can be tempting to view interviewers as faceless soundboards waiting for input. Remember, they have requirements, expectations, and impressions that can make or break your interview. Take time to get to know them and their company whenever possible.
• Know the interview format. There are multiple types of online interviews. Some will require you to record yourself, others will be live with an online interviewer. Be sure to know the correct format that the interviewer requires.
• Use the correct software. Your interviewer will usually inform you of the software to conduct the virtual interview, but if that is not the case, be very sure to ask.
• Arrange the best schedule. Your interviewer’s schedule might be flexible, and if you feel like you have a better timeslot with less distractions, don’t be afraid to negotiate.
• Understand the interviewer’s background. Knowing the interviewer’s background will help you know their expectations and the way you should speak to them. For example, a higher seniority might mean you should not slip in any slangs or references only younger generations will understand.
Before anything else, check your set-up. Assess the quality of your equipment (mic and camera), the appropriateness of your background, and the placement of your lighting. Be certain that you have nothing that will distract you or your interviewer during your interview.
After the set-up, be personally ready for the interview. Do you have the right posture? Are you wearing a presentable attire? Are you showing enthusiasm in both expression and voice? Remember, you are your most important asset in the interview.
Finally, study your interviewer and their company carefully. Adhere to the required interview format and negotiate a schedule (preferably a time with the least distractions) and be aware of the correct software to use. When possible, know your interviewer’s background.
All in all, the main key is preparation. An interviewee who stands out is always an interviewee who prepares. Always take ample time to double-check your set-up, practice your answers, and research your interviewer and their company. With that, you’ll be on your way to acing your interview!