How To Prepare and Succeed at Online Interviews

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Since COVID-19 days, many of us (students and workers) have been quick to adapt to the transition of taking things online. Virtual interviews using videoconferencing technology have since exploded, and the trend looks like it is here to stay even after the pandemic abates, at least for early-round interviews.

Be it job or scholarship interviews, interview anxiety continues to be a struggle for many. As such, we have put together a foolproof guide to help you put your best foot (or should we say, face?) forward at any virtual interview. Creating a strong online presence is not as difficult as it seems. With the right tips and habits, you could be shining and making waves in the online world in no time.

Here are 5 ways to prepare, impress, and succeed at online interviews:

1. Test Your Technology

The most critical part of all online interviews is being able to stream a clear and uninterrupted virtual meeting. Check the strength and signal of your internet one week before (in case of technical issues which may need adequate lead time to be fixed) and again one day before your interview.

Ensure that there is a strong and stable connection. And if your connection appears spotty, try to troubleshoot the issue beforehand to avoid any technical surprises on the day. The last thing you want during your interview is for your internet connection to take you out without warning. So, be in the know and make sure that your technology is up to scratch.

Once you are confident of your internet connection, check if your camera and microphone are working clearly. Clean your web camera lens and check the clarity of your earphones (if you are using one) to make sure they are functioning optimally. You may want to consider other conducive venues to relocate your interview for a seamless stream. Some of the factors contributing to an ideal virtual environment can be found in the next point below.

2. Minimise Distractions

After testing your technology, the next thing to decide on is where to take the interview. Find a bright and clean room under a flattering lighting. Your best bet is near natural lighting, preferably someplace facing a window. Another good tip is to position yourself against a blank wall to ensure that you are the main focal point during the conversation.

Whether you are sitting in your room or in your home office, be sure to tidy up your surroundings. Remove clutter in all forms. Be it a stack of files on your desk or a collage of pictures hanging on your wall, eliminate objects of little significance to your interview. It is hard to convince employers you are detail-oriented and organised when there is unfolded laundry visibly piling up in the corner. Other possible distractions to take note of include, but are not limited to, switching off the television, silencing your cell phone, and closing any nearby windows to muffle the noise from neighbourhood traffic. If you are in doubt, choose to get rid of it anyway. Remember, every little effort will go a long way to presenting your best self online.

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3. Establish Your Presence

Although you are limited in establishing connections through the old-fashioned way of firmly shaking a potential manager’s hand or radiating human warmth, all hope is not lost. There are other ways to effectively showcase your personality virtually. It is imperative that you monitor and pay close attention to your body language.

The easiest way to communicate confidence is to sit up straight, as the right posture will make you look awake, attentive, and respectful. Wear a smile and keep the camera at eye level. Ensure that your laptop/phone (any gadget you are using for your e-interview) is placed on a stable and elevated platform. Find an eye-level angle that flatters you and stick to it. You want to avoid any angle that positions your webcam below eye-level as this looks grossly unprofessional and can be rather distracting. It is difficult to pin a positive impression to a person who highlights their flared nostrils while talking.

Furthermore, research shows that candidates who maintain eye contact are most likely to leave a lasting impression on their hiring personnel. This may take some practice and get used to, but when talking, make every effort to keep your focus on the web camera instead of the projected image of the hiring manager

4. Practise and Prepare

Just because you are not within physical proximity with your interviewer, does not mean you can get away with “cheating” your way through an interview. Believe that your future employer is well-experienced and is acutely aware of the “no-go”s and red flags arising from interviews (even online ones).

Do not be complacent and unprepared going into the meeting. Do the work and practice common questions that could arise during the interview. Research the company ahead of time and familiarise yourself with its vision, practices, clients, and goals. You want to appear informed and ready without the help of the internet. Do not think for a second that you can get away with clicking around the screen and fly under the radar while reading off open tabs on your screen. It is easy to detect if you are sounding robotic and ingenuine with your responses. It might seem small, but in actuality, this might cost you your credibility and integrity with your potential boss.

Speaking online might feel awkward and unnatural to some, so practice really does make perfect in this scenario. Do a test virtual interview with family or friends and allow them to give you feedback on your online decorum. Truth is, how we think we behave might not always translate in reality. If you are too self-conscious to practice with people (yet), another option is to record yourself and watch the playback whilst noticing habits or expressions that might give off the wrong or unintended vibe.

5. Dress To Impress

Just because you are home, it does not mean you should wear sweatpants to your interview. Groom yourself the way you would an actual interview. This includes brushing your hair or pinning up your fringe if it interferes with proper eye contact.

Basic hygiene such as brushing your teeth after a meal applies. You do not want leftovers from lunch peeking through. Lastly, do not be afraid to flaunt your best-dressed collegial outfit. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Some experts, such as Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire, claim that dressing up also boosts confidence. It is remarked that clothing has a significant effect on self-esteem and poise.

Read more about what to wear to a scholarship interview (for him and for her).

Now that you have these pro-tips under your belt, it is time to put them into practice and make your mark online.

More video communication tips by meeting and learning solutions expert, Marc Alexis Rémond.