How to shine in your next online job interview

26 Mar 2020

How to shine in your next online job interview

As the Coronavirus changes the way we live and work, here are a few ways to make sure your next online interview reflects your best self.

However good the picture, online is all-too-clearly never truly an in-person, face-to-face experience. But with a little preparation, you can make the most of the online interview and get closer to the leadership position you want.

Importantly, there is a reduction in the cues that people use to interpret what others say. This is particularly difficult if the technology is less than perfect. Whilst we make allowances for that in our social and day-to-day digital interactions, the stakes are much higher for all parties in a hiring interview.

But there are some things to remember if you want to do the best job at making and sustaining a favourable impression. It’s not a definitive list, but it draws on the experience of our global executive search consultants who conduct hundreds of video interviews (and online meetings and consultations with clients) every single day.

1. Do your prep

Remove all distractions. Make sure alerts that might pop up on the screen (and distract you) are turned off. Remove other distractions such as nearby phones, or any other tech. Have a notepad and pen handy.

Make sure you are in a quiet location and do let others around you know that you are not to be disturbed.

Log in ahead of time to ensure a smooth start. Set up with an appropriate background, a neutral room with soft natural light is best. Dogs, cats and children are cute, but do think hard about what kind of image you want to portray in the interview.

2. Tech check

The better the technology, the more effective it will be. This requires planning and preparation, especially if networks, and home broadband arrangements, are in heavy use (request other household users to come offline, please).

Give yourself plenty of time before the interview to test everything. A full-dress rehearsal is a good idea to check out the technology and your approach. Enlist a friend to do a run-through. And if things do go wrong tech-wise, keep your cool, it’s not your fault and everyone understands that these things are far from foolproof.

3. Showtime

You need to pay particular attention to building rapport. This begins with focusing on the introductions (don’t rush, prepare yours before).

Ensure effective eye contact (look into the screen, not down at your notes), and pay attention to body language (not too close to the camera, sit up straight), and other interpersonal cues.

Also, make sure you listen, allow space for everyone to make their point (don’t interrupt). Consider responding to the questioner by name and then check at the end of the response whether they require any expansion on what you’ve said.

4. Good presence

The flattening of the interaction into a 2D event and a reduction in cues can affect perceptions of your gravitas. You will need to project yourself more (without overdoing it), and speak at an appropriate speed and volume (another thing to check beforehand).

Good eye contact is particularly important in a technology-enabled interview. The camera should be at eye level to avoid you looking down on or away from the interviewer. Moving the on-screen tile/video image of the interviewer so that it is adjacent to the camera will help.

5. Cultural fit

Whilst first-round interviews are often carried out remotely, in our experience, final rounds are typically in-person. If the final round is online, you’ll need to work out how to explore the “fit-with-the-culture” aspect of the position on offer, usually facilitated by the physical and social cues of a visit to the office. For example, the ‘feel’ you get at reception, and the sense of the broader work environment as you meet more of the team and potential co-workers.

In the absence of that, see if the company has any online video content that you can access or ask to speak online with other members of the team you might be joining. A trawl through a prospective employer’s social media streams might also provide some clues.

Incidentally, managing your own social media presence has now become even more vital, something we emphasise in our downloadable CV Guide.

These are clearly not ordinary times, but as we all adjust and work differently, advancing your career can continue to be a reality, and we are happy to help you find the best route by providing useful information and advice. Online or not, we’re here to help you succeed.