Practice and Preparation for an Online Job Interview

Online interview
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Nowadays, it's unsurprising for job interviews to occur online. There are many reasons employers opt to conduct interviews online. Obviously, COVID-19 made them necessary. In fact, most organizations (86%) conducted online interviews during the pandemic. 

But even in ordinary times, an online interview saves employers money because they don’t have to pay for a job fair or for candidates to travel to the office.

Since the technology for video chats is mainstream, this method is simple and effective.

Job seekers benefit too: Online interviews save on travel time and can be less stressful than interviewing in person. 

But although the interview is taking place in your familiar home, you'll want to make sure to prepare well and familiarize yourself with the different types of online job interviews. Doing so will help you think on your feet and achieve a more successful interview performance.

Here's what you need to know. 

Video Job Interviews

The most typical online interview is the interview via webcam. Rather than having you travel to an office, the interviewer will simply conduct the interview via video. Since most laptops and tablets come with webcams built-in, you'll likely be expected to use your camera. If you do not have a laptop, you should typically be able to use a smartphone. 

The interviewer will often use popular video conferencing software like Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. 

If you're not familiar with the video chat or video conferencing, practice using the technology before your interview. 

If you do not already have the software, download it a day or two beforehand. Then, make sure it works properly and you do not experience any technical issues. If you already have the software installed, check you have the latest update.

Types of Online Interviews

Some employers use web-based systems for interviewing, with options for recorded interviews via webcam and in-depth live interviewing with split-screen online interviews with candidates.

Sometimes, rather than interviewing you, employers email you a list of interview questions and ask you to film yourself answering them. 

Get Comfortable With the Setup 

No matter what type of format or technology will be used, it's a good idea to practice with a friend beforehand. 

It often takes a few tries to get the hang of angling the camera so that your whole face (and not just your left nostril or the top of your head) is in the frame. 

You’ll want to find a flattering angle and practice “making eye contact” with the interviewer via the camera. Newbies tend to stare at the part of the window with their own video image instead of looking into the camera, which can appear odd, not to mention disengaged.

How to Prepare for the Interview

Remember that online interviews are just as important as in-person interviews. Your interview could get you to the next round or even a job offer if the company handles all the interviewing online.

Here's how to get ready for your interview:

  • Download the software ahead of time so that you’ll have the opportunity to get used to it.
  • Create a professional username, such as a variation on your real name as it appears on your resume, if it’s available. 
  • Dress professionally even if you are sitting down. Wear nice pants and shoes, as you never know when you may have to stand up. Plus, dressing the part will help you get your head in the game.
  • Clear your workspace and any clutter that is behind you so that it doesn't show up on the screen. You don’t want your interviewer to be distracted by visual noise in the room or to assume that your disorganized space is a sign of how you’d perform as a worker.
  • Make sure that you are in a quiet room where you will not be disturbed by people, pets, etc. Turn off your ringer, any alarms, and electronics that are likely to interrupt. Let roommates and family know when you'll be interviewing so they keep quiet and handle anything that comes up (like an unexpected doorbell). 
  • Have a piece of paper and a pen ready so that you are not scrambling to find them later.
  • Have a copy of your resume in your sightline in case you have to refer to dates, job titles, or numbers.

Tips for Acing the Interview

  • Practice using your webcam equipment before the interview, so you are sure everything is in working order and that you’re comfortable interviewing on video.
  • Smile and focus as much as possible and try to behave as if you’re in a regular, in-person interview.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Look into the camera, listen attentively, and engage with your interviewer. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak.
  • During a self-recorded interview, even though you are not speaking directly to a person, be sure to smile and maintain friendly "eye contact" via the camera.
  • It’s easy to speed up and come across as nervous and garbled when you’re doing a self-paced interview. Take deep breaths. If it seems like you’re speaking too slowly, you’re probably doing it right.