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Top 10 Tips for Preparing for an Online Interview

Online interviews are the new norm thanks to COVID-19. But, let’s face it, much of the prep for a face-to-face interview remains highly relevant when flipped to online. But while interview structure remains similar, you’re now responsible for setting-up your interview surroundings and ensuring your tech and connections work.

Here’s our top 10 tips for online interviews:

  1. Position of your computer/laptop and light

Ideally you want natural light to be in front of you or to the side but not behind you - the latter makes you look like you are in a dungeon. Once you are happy with your computer set up, you now need to ensure that you position the camera correctly. It should be at eye level so that you are looking straight into the camera. You may need to raise the position of your computer by putting it on a firm box or set of books.

You can check what things look like by hosting your own meeting on the platform so you can check all of these in advance.

  1. Be aware of what is behind you

Ideally, find a spot where the background is either a blank wall or a simple painting. If soft furnishings are visible these need to be organised and minimal. Give yourself enough time prior to the interview to double check what is in your frame and remove any visible clutter.

Many platforms have a background that you can use, but do test this in advance, as some can look a little odd. On some platforms you can blur the background. Make sure you know which platform the interviewer will be using and sort it prior to the interview as once you start, you don’t want to be changing things around.

  1. Check your settings prior to interview

There are a couple of settings you need to ensure you have checked prior to interview:

Computer Settings

Make sure your laptop and computer are up to date in terms of your operating system. You don’t want an update starting half way through your interview.

Sound settings

Get to know where the input volume settings are for your device and operating system. It’s not usually much of an issue, because most apps and systems set pretty sensible defaults. Headphones of any kind will make your video calls better, since it minimizes the chance of echo from your mic picking up the audio from your own speakers. Big over ear models are good for sound quality, while earbuds make for less obvious headwear in your actual video image.

Platform settings

Double check that your name is still present on the platform and not last night’s name from your virtual pub quiz or another family member.

  1. Wi-Fi

The last thing you want is for your Wi-Fi to let you down. If there is any danger of other people in your home streaming and weakening the connection, please ask them to come offline until your interview is finished. If it does drop out, stay calm, check your settings, and retry. Your interviewers will be used to it and will absolutely understand.

Always have a fully charged tablet or phone that has data, as a back-up, just in case you can’t reconnect. Also useful to have a phone contact for the interviewer to call in if all else fails.

  1. Notes on the day

It is very easy to get flustered and lose your train of thought so one of the beautiful things about an online interview is being able to have your notes and CV right in front of you. Our top tip is to put your key points on Post-It Notes stuck around the edge of your computer. This also stops you losing eye contact with your interviewer, by looking down, as they are in front of you and act as gentle reminders.

  1. What to wear

Despite you and perhaps your interviewer being in an informal setting it is really important that you dress appropriately in a manner that enables you to feel at your best. By dressing correctly, it will not only help you to get into the right mindset, but it also sends a powerful message to the interviewer that you are taking the interview seriously. Fact: 55% of all communication is visual!

It is also critical that you don’t just dress professionally on the top half of your body, working on the assumption that, as it’s an online interview, they will never see your bottom half. You simply don’t know. For a number of unpredictable reasons you may well need to stand up, so dress as you would dress if you were having a face-to-face interview. However, as with all interviews, authenticity is key: the reality is you’re at home interviewing, so business smart is often the most appropriate.

  1. Body language

93% of all communication is nonverbal. Often the thing that panics people is what to do with their hands!

In everyday life it is totally natural to use our hands to aid our communication as both consciously and subconsciously they help to keep the focus on you. Here the emphasis is on natural gestures not wild actions as remember both you and the interviewer are confined to the boundaries of the computer screen. The aim here is to be natural, don’t overthink it. Start by placing your hands and forearms comfortably by your side or on the table in front of you and allow them to naturally be involved in the conversation. If you are prone to fidgeting, then a small piece of blu tac on your desk to keep your fingers busy is often enough to keep you focused on the task in hand.

  1. Eye Contact

It is critical to establish eye contact by looking into the camera. If you don’t look into the camera it can be obvious to your interviewer and very off putting. However, just to flag it is also much harder (nigh on impossible) to establish eye contact in the same way you would physically as some of the connection is naturally lost. You solve this by remaining focused and as relaxed as possible and look into the camera. If you find your self-view will distract you, you can hide this from your view.

It is a good idea to locate the video of the interviewer near to your camera, so you can maintain eye contact and see them at the same time.

  1. Give yourself plenty of time

First impressions count. Punctuality is a key business skill and therefore it is important that you are at your computer a good 10 minutes before the interview is due to start. By factoring in time to arrive at your computer early you are creating the space you need to get set up and ready, as well as calming your nerves and enable you to get into the right headspace.

Remember also that as this is online, there may be an element of delay, so remember to take a natural pause and ensure you are not talking over your interviewer. The interview will most probably have a slower pace than a face-to-face interview, so take your time.

  1. Do a test run!

Now that you have set up the room and got your technology all sorted we would highly recommend that you do a test run so that you are confident that everything is set up correctly and you aren’t leaving anything to chance. If you can do a test run with a friend to check it is all working correctly.

And finally, good luck!