How to win at on-line interviewing!

The on-line interview is likely to survive well beyond the current virus crisis and therefore you may find this article helpful, at least we hope so!

Hiring managers from businesses of all sizes continue to stress how important it is for candidates to perform well during a virtual interview and share the same key tips to getting it right.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen not only an increase in the frequency of on-line interviews but a preference from some of our clients to use them,” comments Russell Stewart, Managing Director at Simpson Booth Ltd.

There are of course limitations to on-line interviews for both Candidates and Clients, but the candidates who know how to prepare for and engage fully with this type of interview, have a distinct advantage over their competition. Being properly prepared for a virtual interview will significantly increase your chance of landing the role you are pitching for.

This article tackles the nuances of the on-line interview only. Clearly, you would still need to prepare for different question types and research the employer as normal.

Seven top tips for successful on-line interviews

1. Dress for success – Dressing professionally as you would for a face-to-face interview will put you in the right frame of mind for your interview. It will also demonstrate you are taking the interview seriously and negates any embarrassment if your interviewer does make the same effort. Dressing professionally makes a psychological difference and gets you prepared for the discussion.

You may wish to look up the Company’s dress code and remember not to just dress your top-half neatly and forget your bottom-half, as you may have to stand up to get something during the video call. Dark colours are typically better to wear and avoid stark white as well as overly busy patterns, as these do not work well on camera.

Heavy bright make-up and glittery jewellery can also be distracting. At the risk of stating the obvious, we advise against wearing dark glasses, scarves etc. A shirt collar is always the preferred option if possible.

2. Remain engaged with your interviewers – Remember, the natural way you can come across as passionate, animated, and compelling is through body language and hand gestures in a normal face to face interview is now limited. To mitigate this, you need to make sure you come across as engaged and focused with the body language you are still able to articulate. Looking into the camera, rather than at the interviewer’s image on the screen will help you look as involved as possible, giving the impression that you are looking into their eyes.

Keep your posture straight and lean forward toward the camera slightly as it can increase eye contact and allow the interviewer a better read of your facial expressions. This body language also demonstrates you are alert and interested, it portrays honesty as well.

3. Consider the setting for your interview – Make sure your interview space is distraction free and portrays a neat business setting, keeping (where possible) to a blank or neutral background. Messy or cluttered backgrounds with lots of items or wall hangings in the room, can be really distracting for the interviewers. It is always better to test this with a friend or relative, be critical and try, where you can, to check your background. Before you start, test the angle of your lighting to avoid being shrouded in shadow and to make sure it is as flattering as possible on your face and skin tone.

Background noise should be limited as far as possible, no barking dogs, doorbells ringing, children, music playing etc.

4. Be careful reading from notes – Notes can be particularly helpful in an on-line interview, but if you use them you will need to make sure your reference to them is subtle. Reading notes or sounding too rehearsed will disrupt the natural flow of conversation, making you look under-prepared.

Consider prompts and key words on post-it notes as the interviewer(s) cannot see them, but again…… keep it subtle.

5. Know your tech!! – If you experience a technical glitch like a weak connection or interference, try not to let it rattle you, it happens!! You can always ask the interviewer to repeat the question. If the problem continues, politely mention it, you may even have to reconnect to avoid missing any important information. Monitoring the speed and tone of your speech will also prepare you for any delays in communication, while making acknowledgement sounds like ‘hmm’ or ‘yes’ will reassure the interviewer that you can hear them and that you are engaged.

Remember to test your equipment and any software downloads you may need to participate in the type of call such as Zoom, Skype, MS Teams etc, the interviewer has requested. It is important to do this as well in advance as possible and again immediately before the interview begins.

6. Expect more than one interviewer – The interviewers may be dialling in from different locations so expect things to be a little awkward at times and for participants to be speaking over each other. The social cues can be more difficult to anticipate on-line and sometimes there can be slight signal delays. If you anticipate that, it is a lot easier to deal with. Again, do not study the different participants faces too much, the camera lens is where you should try to focus as much as you can.

7. Finish on the right note – As with any face-to-face interview, you will need to find the opportunity to summarise your main points and ask any questions you may have, but usually no more than two or three relevant ones. Make sure the question was not already answered in the introduction! Thank the interviewer for his or her time, while making sure you confirm any next steps.

Other things to consider.

• Your username which will appear on the screen – think about what kind of first impression this will create. Does it position you as a professional?

• Body language – set yourself up a medium distance away from the camera, keeping the upper halves of your arms showing as well as allowing for some free space above your head will allow the interviewer to best read your body language.

• Interruptions – inform those around you of the interview so you are not disturbed.

• Documents – have a printed version of your CV handy as well as any other necessary documentation. Keeping your email account open is also a good idea in case you need to share any documents with your interviewer.

• Headphones – can be more reliable than speakers and are far less likely to create feedback. It is OK to use them but make sure they are subtle in appearance to not distract the interviewer.

• Time – if you have been told that the interview will last one hour, and you hear yourself starting to digress, or notice that you have gone over the time limit, or see the interviewers checking their watch – take that cue! Ask if they have some time to let you finish your point. It is likely they will have another meeting or interview to attend afterwards – their time and your time is equally as precious!

Finally, we wish you good luck and consider this. The fact you have got to the on-line interview stage means you have already beaten several other candidates. Have faith in your abilities, be confident, and sell yourself!

If you read and follow the tips on this article, we believe you will increase your chance of success by over 25%, simply by investing in your preparation!