This article was originally published by Zonotho on 8 April 2020 and republished in 2021 on the University of Johannesburg’s Career Service’s Portal. It was later republished on Careers24 on 14 August 2022.
While I’m writing these words, the world is on lockdown, thanks to Covid-19. Many companies are working remotely for the first time and it’s completely changed the way we conduct business. In recruitment, I’ve encountered many challenges with online interviews which I never did face-to-face. Knowing what these challenges are will help you to prepare for your own interviews.
Before the Interview:
The rationale behind dressing up is not only to look professional, but to psychologically prepare yourself for the interview. Make sure that you’re dressed formally from top to bottom.
I recently watched someone get up during the interview and she didn’t realise that everyone saw the underwear she was wearing. (We pretended as if we saw nothing, but we all know what we saw). You never know if you’ll need to get up to close the door, fetch a pen, or in this case, swat a bug.
Since we don’t have meeting rooms anymore, we’re looking inside your home. Busy backgrounds can be distracting, so use a clear background where there isn’t much movement. Some apps allow you to blur your background. Microsoft Teams has this functionality and as recruiters, we use this feature all the time
Another distraction is email or phone sounds so remember to put those on silent too.
Choose a quiet place. Many people are at home with their families, so inform them when you’ll be interviewing and request that they keep the noise down. Not only is it a distraction for the interviewers, but you also don’t want to lose your train of thought while answering questions.
It’s essential to check the following before an interview:
Download the video-calling app or check that the link provided works, so that if you have any technical or sound issues, it can be sorted out before the time.
Check that your internet is working and that you have good network quality. If you don’t, you may need to ask to have the video turned off after the introduction. I’ve been forced to do this before as a last resort and it’s not ideal.
The interview process is as much about body language and facial expressions as it is about answering questions, so always assume that the interviewers will want the video on. Without the above it’s (virtually) impossible to conduct the virtual interview, and you don’t want to waste valuable interview time sorting it out.
During the Interview
Maintain Eye Contact
Be aware of where the camera is on your laptop, even if you need to mark where it is with a sticker. If you don’t look up, it looks as if you’re disinterested, not confident or in some cases, reading off from somewhere.
By looking up and maintaining eye contact, you’re showing that you have confidence and that you’ve done your research.
Don’t Read Off Answers
You should definitely not read off answers. An interview is a conversation, not a speech. I recently asked a candidate to explain her understanding of the company, and she took out a piece of paper (and very evidently), started reading out the company’s mission statement. Rather have sticky notes with keywords on your laptop to prompt you, but do not read it off. It makes you look unprepared.
Worse than reading off is Googling answers during an interview. Having a laptop with you is not a licence to cheat. Even if we don’t say anything, we WILL know.
Be cognisant of internet lag, so talk slowly and pause, just in case the speaker is not done talking yet. If you did not hear the question, rather ask the speaker to repeat the question.
You may also hear typing noises while you speak, so do not let that throw you off.
In summary, treat the online interview with the same level of professionalism as a face-to-face one. There are unique challenges with online interviews, but with the right preparation, it’s easy to mitigate them. Follow these easy steps and you’ll be ready to ace your interview online!