Interviewing online is very different from meeting your interviewer in person. Recruitment Manager, Guy Reynolds, offers his recommendations to ensure you’re able to present yourself as effectively and in the best light using this medium.

There’s a misconception that an online interview is the same as a face-to-face meeting. It’s not. Virtual conversations are hard work. The screen is a barrier that makes active listening more challenging. Internet quality and the boundary of the screen itself mean you lose many non-verbal prompts. That said, online platforms also offer interviewees some advantages.

Here are my tips to help you prepare for and conduct a professional virtual interview.

Get the basics right

  • Do a dry run – If you’ve never used the platform before, download the app the day before, get online and test it out. See how you look and sound, and the mannerisms you use when talking.
  • Choose a professional background – Check out what’s in your background. It needs to be clean, tidy, and business-like, with good lighting. If in doubt, use one of the neutral backgrounds offered by the platform. A cluttered and messy background is a distraction, and also may give the impression this is also how you approach your professional life.
  • Put your camera just above your eye line – Everyone looks better filmed slightly from above rather than from below.
  • Organise a quiet hour – If you have children, dogs or tradespeople at your end, make sure you have someone else at home to deal with them and maintain a quiet space for your interview. Allocate at least an hour, even if the interview is only scheduled for30- 45 minutes. Sometimes, it’s that final ten minutes of discovery conversation that gets you the job, and you don’t want to be ‘rushing’ at the end of an interview or distracted.
  • Use your laptop indoors – Don’t sit outside. The connection may be erratic, patchy and your interviewer will be distracted by the sound of the wind and passers-by.
  • Dress for your role – Choose clothes appropriately and what you would expect to wear at work if you were in the office. Minimise visual distractions like dangly earrings or prominent logos.
  • Dial-in early – Even if you’re used to the format, don’t assume you can dial in one minute before your interview. Broadband can be patchy and laptops may need to reboot. Get in 15 minutes early to check your connection, video, and sound. And also allow you some calm time before the interview actually starts.
  • Turn your phone off – If that’s not possible, address this upfront: “My apologies, I may have to leave my phone on as I’m waiting for an urgent call from my son/ daughter”. 
  • Minimise visual distractions – If you have a second screen, shut down your email program so you won’t look when a new email floats in or a text comes through on your phone. Remember: pay attention to your interviewer, as unnecessary distractions will interrupt your ‘flow’ or clarity and response to their questions.

Adjust for online conversation

  • Be careful with your body language – Sit up straight, avoid fidgeting, and keep your gestures to a minimum. Normal gestures often go outside the screen and, if you move your hands too close to the camera, they will appear huge! Practice before the interview so you can see what works.
  • Keep acknowledgment non-verbal – Face to face we often acknowledge understanding or agreement by saying “yes” or “true” as others are talking. Online, that will simply interrupt your interviewer. Instead, nod or smile to show your reaction.
  • Watch for your turn to talk – This happens a lot on video calls.  Online time delays make it much harder to gauge when your interviewer expects you to respond. If you think they’ve finished, wait another few seconds before responding. Try not to leap in early and talk over your interviewer.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence – Remember, they’re writing notes even if you cannot see this as you would in a normal interview. Pace yourself, be comfortable with pauses, which also are useful when making strong examples of your previous experience.
  • Practice active listening – It’s easy to be distracted online and misinterpret what your interviewer is saying. A big advantage of an online interview is you can write down potential questions and areas you want to cover in advance.  You will be able to see these and reflect on these, but they are not visible to the interviewer.   That way you won’t ask a question they’ve already answered, or miss any crucial example you wanted to make them aware of.
  • Don’t eat or drink – No one wants to hear you eating or drinking on a video call. It’s just a distraction, and just as likely to end up spilling onto your keyboard.  Keep a glass of water handy and out of sight just in case, but slurping a large coffee or eating food whilst interviewing may not give the best possible first impression.
  • Timing– Try to secure an interview slot that suits your own energy levels. Are you a morning or afternoon person? Are you better before or after lunch? When do you usually do your best work?   Similarly, an interview at 4.30 on Friday may seem great for you, but the hiring manager may have a massive week with conflicting priorities, and their energy levels may be lower than earlier in the week.   You will usually get a few options, so try and chose one earlier in the week at a time -you and your interviewer may both have better energy levels. 

Technical challenges

  • Poor internet – If your connection in your area is poor, warn your interviewer upfront, and be prepared to turn off your video to support a stronger audio connection. Don’t soldier on with screen freezes, flickering and poor audio.
  • Have at least one backup – Load the platform onto your phone and tablet in case your laptop dies so you can quickly get back into the meeting.

Seize your online advantage

  • Use notes! – The interviewer can’t see what’s on your desk or around your screen. Put up any prompts you’d like to draw on in the interview – the role description or details from your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, or the company’s media releases or annual report – and refer to them discretely.

Finally, remember, virtual interviews are new for everyone, so don’t worry if the process seems a bit clunky or awkward.  Just like any other interview, prepare well, and try to enjoy the process. And who knows?  If your dog Rover makes an impromptu guest appearance it may be a welcome ice breaker!

Good luck!

Ready to take the first step to an exciting career journey? Explore your options at Accenture.

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Guy Reynolds

Recruiting Manager

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