The dos and don’ts of the online interview

This article is part of an ongoing series of guest articles by James Fitzsimons, Director of Elevate Career Advice. Make the next step in your career count –⁠ visit

Preparing for a job interview can be a nerve wrecking experience. You can find yourself doubting your choice of dress, your answers to their questions and just about everything you do for the duration of the interview.

This is a hard-enough experience when it is in person, where you can gauge the reactions of those interviewing you. This difficulty can reach new heights when it comes to moving this process online, where the element of the human touch can be almost entirely removed. Unfortunately for some, with the current pandemic, more and more businesses are opting for the option of the online interview.

This however, can be turned around and made into an advantage if you follow Elevate Career Advice’s do’s and don’ts of the online interview.

Step 1: The Platform

The first, and arguably most important, step is to make sure you familiarize yourself with the video conferencing platform that will be used for the interview. The most commonly used platforms are Skype Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Make yourself an account on whichever one you will be using and make sure you understand how the platform works. If your interview will take place through a question and record platform, such as Hirevue, we would suggest that you make sure you understand the process by watching the tutorial videos they provide you with.

We would also suggest that you use the plethora of helpful tutorial videos made about these platforms on YouTube. Knowing how your platform works with make you feel more confident and will also make you look like you know what you are doing.

Step 2: The “Dry-Run”

Practice makes perfect. This goes without saying for online interviews. Elevate Career Advice would suggest that you do a few mock video interviews on the platform leading up to the actual interview.

Choose a trusted family member, friend or colleague to ask you the questions and pretend that it is the real thing. You can consult these videos to see what you need improvement on as well as familiarizing yourself with the platform in question.

During your practice calls you should check that the sound is working, the image resolution is at its’ best, the Wi-Fi broadband connection works, that the lighting is good, that the external sounds are at a minimum and that there are absolutely no distractions in your interview space. Doing this will eliminate you wasting time and stress on the set-u for the actual interview.

Step 3: Location, Location, Location…

No matter if you are in an office or at home, the background of your interview is important. People forget but your choice in location adds to the interviewers first impression of you. If you choose a messy room with people walking in and out of it, the interviewer may think that you do not care about the interview or the job.

The location then should reveal an air of professionalism about it. If you are at home, make sure you do not do the interview in your bedroom or, for that matter, in the bathroom. Make sure the lighting in the location you choose is good. Natural light or soft light is preferable. You need to make sure that there is as much human connection during your interview as possible and so the interviewer needs to be able to see all of you, not just your silhouette.

Make sure your backdrop is de-cluttered and appropriately professional. Make sure the computer, laptop or tablet you are using for the interview is angled to show you at eye level and in a flattering way.  If you do not have a stand, get creative with the objects around you. Books, notepads and folders are always handy!

Step 4: The Dress Code

It is expected in most interviews that interviewees wear business attire. Looking tidy and professional is an important indication for the interviewer of what kind of person you are as well as how seriously you are taking the interview.

Make sure what you are wearing does not clash nor blend in with background of your chosen interview location. You want the interviewer’s focus to be on you and what you are saying. Be sure to be fully addressed. No-one appreciates the ‘old college try’ of wearing no trousers or your PJ bottoms for an online video conference. You should act as if it were an in-person experience.

Wearing professional clothes from top to bottom will make you feel focused and confident. Your PJs rarely have the same effect. The old age slogan “Dress to Impress” is very much applicable here.

Step 5: Interruptions

Always prepare for the unexpected. Especially in 2020 with everyone at home, there is a good chance that interruptions could happen during your interview. To prepare for this, make sure you turn off your phone or put it on silent. Turn off the sound on apps (updates, email and social media notifications etc) which may pop up during the interview. Lock or close the door to the room you are in and communicate with your family members or roommates that you are on a call and are not to be interrupted.

Make sure, if you know, some delivery is due to be dropped off that you have someone who will sign for it while you are on the call. Make sure that any house pets, especially those that are particularly chatty, are out of the house or the room you are doing your interview in at the time.

Lastly, make sure if you are sharing Wi-Fi with others in your household that you ask them to refrain from going online for the duration of your interview in order to stop compromising the connection.

Step 6: Body Language

Something that is easy to forget during an online interview is the importance of your body language. You have to make sure you are aware of your non-verbal communication during the interview.

Make sure to look into the web camera, but don’t stare as it could be deemed intimidating. Speak clearly and calmly when you answer the interviewer’s questions. Due to video conferences unreliability make sure to take breaks and pauses in order to make sure they have heard you. Avoid making too many big hand movements or gestures.

Step 7: The Mute Button

There is one important thing that we want you to take away from this article and that is that the mute button is your friend, use it! If there are two or more interviewers on the call, it is important for those not speaking to mute their microphones until they have been asked to join in the conversation. This will allow for better communication flow and limit sound interference. The lead interviewer can prompt the other interviewer when to join the call and unmute their microphones.

Step 8: The Practicalities

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Here are some ‘housekeeping’ tips for you to make sure you follow on the day. Do not forget to prepare what you are going to say and that you know how to sell “brand you”. Make sure you have answers ready for why you want to the join the company or about you and your interests.

These questions will inevitably come up in some shape or form. Make sure that in any case where you to have share your screen with the interviewer that only the relevant document is visible. Make sure you test the sound and camera on the day.

Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer if they can hear and see you when the meeting begins. Also make sure that your device is fully charged and in working condition. Make sure to listen to the interviewer’s instructions from the very beginning of the call. This will inform you of the expectations you have to meet during the call. If you miss an instruction, do not be afraid to ask them to repeat it.

Make sure your username is plainly your name and not a remnant of your jokey Zoom calls with your friends or family. You will be talking a lot so remember to make sure you have water beside you to prevent getting a dry mouth or cough during the interview. Finally make sure you are aware of how to log off of the platform. This should be practiced during your “dry run”.

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