How to ace an online job interview

The current restrictions imposed on us due to the coronavirus pandemic are tough for us all. Yet the world keeps on turning and we must get on with our lives and our work as best we can. We’re fortunate that technology has made it possible for many office-based workers to do their jobs from home, but what about those currently looking for a job?

If you’re currently applying for a job, it’s likely that any interviews you get in the coming weeks won’t be face to face, they’ll be via some kind of video conferencing service or app. Here are some things to consider before you take part in a video interview…


Dress and location

It’s no secret that people who work from home tend to take a more ‘relaxed’ approach to their dress and working environment. While you might be able to get away with spending your working days in your pyjamas, you can’t do the same for your video interview. You may feel slightly silly getting suited and booted just to talk to someone on your laptop but think about it from your interviewer’s point of view. What does it say about you if you haven’t bothered to get dressed for the occasion? If an employer doesn’t think you’ve put any effort into preparing for your video interview, it’s unlikely you will get the job.

Similarly, think about the best place in your home to accept the video call. Obviously, you want somewhere with good lighting, no background noise and a strong Wi-Fi connection, but you also need a place where you’re not going to be disturbed by other members of your household. You wouldn’t bring your partner or kids to a job interview, so try to avoid having them appear in your video interview.


Prepare, prepare, prepare 

Just because you don’t have to find the employer’s office and sit nervously in reception doesn’t mean you can skimp on the interview preparation. Think about what your potential employer is likely to ask you and come up with your very best response. The interviewer will likely have your CV and covering letter to hand, so you might want to do the same in case they ask you about it. 

However, do not refer to notes in your interview! While you might think about creating a little cheat sheet that the interviewer won’t see, it’s painfully obvious when someone is referring to notes, even in a video call. Be sure to memorise any answers you’ve prepared – you’re not going to get the job if the interviewer suspects you’re reading from a hidden script!


Don’t stress about the tech 

If you’re interviewing for a staff job, rather than a freelance or short-term contract role, then your potential employer will be obliged to provide all of the equipment you will need in order to work from home. For this reason, don’t stress about spending large sums of money on equipment just for video interviews. Most laptops come with a good-enough camera and microphone.

It might even be that your phone is better for video conferencing than your computer. If this is the case, find a way to mount it on your desk so that you won’t have to hold it up for the entire interview.

Freelancers and contractors, on the other hand, really need to think about investing in a computer with webcam and microphone, as well as signing up to a fast, reliable internet connection. These are the most basic tools that any remote worker needs to do their job.


Be on time 

Your interviewer is likely on a tight schedule, with interviews booked immediately before and after yours. This means you absolutely must be on time. Many common video conferencing services, including Google Hangouts and Skype, allow you to join a waiting lobby before going into the call. Aim to join this lobby ten minutes before your interview is due to start, in exactly the same way you’d arrive ten minutes before a face-to-face interview in order to sign in at reception.


Be yourself 

As with any interview, you need to be yourself. Knowing you might be a hundred miles away from the interviewer might make you think you can get away with pretending you’re a larger than life version of yourself. You might get the urge to embellish your previous work experience, or to flat-out lie about what you like to do in your free time. Yet even over the internet, interviewers will have seen it before and may even pick up on your half-truths. Don’t risk it.


Ultimately you need to go into any video interview with the same preparation as a face-to-face meeting. Do your homework and try your best to make sure it goes off without a hitch. If the worst happens and your internet drops out mid-call, just give the interviewer a callback, explain what happened and carry on the meeting over the phone.