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14 Steps to Smash an Online Interview

In a post-covid and increasingly technological world, the demand for remote and hybrid working has grown at an astonishing rate. So, whether you are applying for an on-site, hybrid, or remote role, the chances are your interview process will be online.

Conducting interviews online can be the most efficient method for both you and the employer. It is cost-effective on both sides and allows flexibility for the first stages of the interview process. Therefore, knowing how you can best prepare will allow you to present the best version of you for that all important job.

Congratulations! You have secured yourself an interview!

You might now be thinking what are the best things you can do to prepare for this digital interview. Or, what can you do as a way of giving your potential future employer a 'virtual handshake'.

By following these 14 steps, you can be assured to put yourself in the best position to give a good, lasting impression and the best chance of securing that dream role.

1. Schedule your Interview Time

It is easy to forget things, but for an interview it won't look good to accidentally miss your scheduled slot. So, as soon as you arrange that interview, put it in the diary! Make sure you know what platform it will be on and all the information you will need.

In addition to this make sure the you check the time zones for where you and the hiring manager will be joining from!

2. Do your homework

Good preparation is the determining factor for a successful interview. As a recruiter, I can always notice when someone has properly prepared. Make sure you research the company and spend some time on the website. Most will have an 'About us', 'Meet the Team' or News pages where you will find lots of information. This will also mean making sure you know exactly which role and company you are applying for, what your role will be and the essential requirements.

If you don't already know the name of the person who will be interviewing you, it wouldn't hurt to reach out and confirm. Simply introducing with 'Hello [name]' in the interview will give a personal impression when you introduce yourself. Make sure you know their role in the company and what relation they will have to you in your new position.

3. Practice!

Everyone suggests that you should practice interview questions - and that is because it works! Do some research over the most common interview questions, and make sure you read the job description again - you will likely have some questions relevant to the role, so have some answers ready to go.

PRO TIP: make sure you have at least two questions to ask the interviewer at the end - we will get more onto that later!

Make sure you practice your answers aloud or ask your friends or family to go through these with you and ask for honest feedback.

4. Be Tech Ready.

If it is an online interview, it may be the first time you use Teams or Zoom, so familiarise yourself with the platform and its settings. Check your camera, microphone and sound work properly. If it is on your phone, will the microphone be picking up too much of your breathing noises and will your hand be steady? Ask your friends or family to do a test run with you.

There is nothing worse than being all set-up, ready to go, and then realising your Wi-Fi is down. Check you connection early and if you know you're doing it in an unfamiliar location go there the day before or more and connect to make sure everything works as expected. If it is a telephone interview, make sure you are somewhere with good signal so that the interviewer can hear you clearly.

Issues do arise, so if anything does come up, make sure you let the interviewer know. Consider having a backup device if possible. You will feel much more relaxed if you have a plan in place.

5. Don't be in a rush.

Make sure you have time blocked out before and after the scheduled time, the last thing you want is to be diving onto a call out of breath and sweaty because you're running late.

You shouldn't need an account to join the virtual interview, but it would help to make sure you are properly connected and set up with the platform. Have you Teams or Zoom downloaded, logged in and be ready in the 'room' at least 10 minutes before your interview. The hiring manager will likely not join until your scheduled time but being there and ready shows professional curtesy.

PRO TIP: Make sure you have a professional username, the one you made when you was 13 may not be the most appropriate.

If there are unavoidable issues, make sure you communicate them immediately with the interviewer (it's good to have the office phone number or their email to hand in case it's a platform connectivity issue) and be sure to apologise when you join the call.

The last thing you want is being potentially stuck in traffic rushing to get home for your interview. You may have made sure you're set up in time but it's also a good idea to make sure you have a buffer at the end of your scheduled slot as well in case things run over. You don't want to be selling your best self and then have to cut yourself off.

6. Dress appropriately.

Just like any other interview, what you wear can make you stand out and tell the interviewer you're professional. Making an effort also shows how serious you are about the role, regardless of it being virtual.

Take into consideration the nature of the business - research their ethos and the way they represent themselves. For example, if it is with an NGO, you may find smart casual to be more appropriate rather than a suit. Dressing the part will boost your confidence and keep your focus too - feel free to put your pyjamas back on straight after!

7. Consider your surroundings.

The best place to sit for a telephone or online interview isn't in a busy coffee shop, or in bed. If it is via telephone, then being outdoors where it could be windy isn't the best idea either.

Find a spot that looks professional with sufficient light and limited distractions, and feel free to blur your background - you want to be the focus. It's best practice to sit facing a light source, whether that is a window or a lamp, this is so your face is well lit and not in shadow. If you can lift your camera up so that you are looking straight forward and the interviewer has a clear view of your face (no one wants to spend an hour looking up someone's nose or just seeing their forehead!). You can do this by putting your laptop on a pile of books or propping your phone against a box.

8. Remove distractions.

Make sure your phone is on silent, not vibrate. Maybe consider leaving it outside the room or turning it off (if you're not using it for the interview!). Turn off desktop notifications and make sure all browser tabs are closed apart from the one you're using for the call.

Try to minimise background noises and distractions where you can - for example, put pets in another room, turn off the radio or TV and make sure your housemates don't knock to disturb you.

9. Introducing yourself.

Even the most confident people will be nervous when it comes to interviews. Simply asking your interviewer "How has your day been going so far?" can go a long way to show you are friendly with positive mannerisms. It's also a great way to break the ice and will make both sides feel comfortable (whilst also giving you a few moments to breathe and relax your nerves!). Chances are, the interviewer may have had a busy or stressful day, so making them feel relaxed could go a long way.

You may also want to make notes of anything important, so just let the employer know you are doing this, to prevent looking distracted when looking down/away from the camera.

10. Non-verbal Communication

Make sure to smile and sit up straight, this will radiate confidence, making you look friendly and professional. Also, try not to fiddle with things in your hands or click any pens.

Be sure to look at the camera - this will make your focus appear to be on them and show you are listening. If you are using Zoom, for example, you can reposition the video feeds of the panel members to just below your camera. This way, it will ensure you are looking at them when you speak, instead of to the side or in the corner. Be aware that there may be some delay with who is speaking, so make sure you are patient by letting the person finish speaking before you start.

11. Listen, Evaluate and Respond

Make sure you understand the question that is being asked, and judge how long an answer to give. A good practice is one example per question. You don't want to ramble on with all of your experience and skills for 10 minutes on Question 1 and then be repeating yourself throughout the rest of the interview whilst also losing the interest of the hirer.

Listen carefully to all the information you are told and the questions you are being asked - take notes if you need to. It's okay to ask for clarification of a question! You want to make sure the interviewer knows that you are present and paying attention.

12. Transferable skills and Beating the Competition

Having transferrable skills can be crucial to determining if you are shortlisted for the role. You may not have direct experience or knowledge needed for the job you are applying for, but all life experiences can be reflected on to meet the common skills needed for a role. You might surprise yourself with how many skills you do have!

Roles can be very competitive, so make sure you stand out! Be sure to have a good example of a skill or experience you have learnt that you can bring to the role that no one else has. This will not only make you memorable, but could be what beats the competition for others.

Make sure you don't leave the call feeling like you haven't presented all your important and relevant skills, experience and information. I recommend making a list of all the things you would like to bring up in your interview, and tick them off as you go along. However, do have considerations for the Interviewers time; they likely have another interview after you, so be sure to stick within your allocated time slot.

Make sure the employer has full clarity of your current situation, any notice periods or anything important and relevant that you think would be necessary to make them aware of.

13. Ask questions!

Whilst the interview is mainly about why the employer will want you, you also have to make sure that the job is right and suitable for YOU. So make sure you ask questions!

Make sure you have some thoughtful questions prepared that will make a good impression, like wanting to find out "what would a typical day look like?", "Do you have exciting things in the pipeline?" or "what areas do you think your company or current team can improve on?".

There is always more to find out about the role. For example, what the work environment is like, the flexibility, holiday entitlements, etc.

Also, make sure to ask what can you expect for the next steps? How long can you expect to wait for a response?

14. Send a thank you email.

Going out of your way to thank the employer for their time and consideration will go a long way. They may have asked you to provide them with additional documents or information, so send them through.

You smashed it!

Waiting for a response can be nerve wracking - especially if you really want the role. So give yourself some time to do some self-reflection, but do not dwell on it. Go out for a walk, distract yourself, phone a friend or family member and let them know how it went.

Most importantly, remember, don't take it personally if you are not selected. You were selected for an interview because they believe your skills and experience are relevant and strong enough to successfully fill the role. The most likely situation is someone else who applied may have slightly more relevant experience or skills required for the role or just seemed like a better fit for the team. The interviewer may have had to make a tough choice. Ultimately your perfect role is still out there.

You may also decide that the role is not suited for you, and that is okay. Just be sure to let the employer know this, so that they can factor that into their selection process.

All interviews are good experience that you can learn and improve on, so make sure you ask for feedback so that you can find out what areas you excelled or need improvement on.

Good luck!


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