Mar 29, 2023

How to do a Successful Interview - Online

Written by Orla Stack

The Covid pandemic changed the way we communicate and collaborate in the workplace. And today, for many, how we interact is still less about face-to-face communication and more about meeting online where body language is framed by what your webcam picks up and verbal communication may be hindered by connectivity issues.

As a result, we've adjusted to new behaviors, and nowhere is this more true than in preparing for that Big Interview - Online! Plus if you’re successful - and get that job - you may find yourself working with colleagues on a virtual basis for a big portion of the time.

As with anything, preparation is key. How we prepare for an interview is extremely important but we need to follow a few extra pointers in this new world of work! In this blog, we offer suggestions and tips for anyone preparing to do an interview in an online environment.

Note: We've put together advice on our Membership Library about Working from Home, Managing Virtual Events, and Be a Presentation Powerhouse.

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

1. Before the Interview

Treat the interview as if it were going to be a regular face-to-face interview. While you might not be physically in the same room as your interviewer(s), you will still be making a first impression, and that should be a positive one.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice: We can’t emphasize this enough. An interview is a slightly artificial situation at the best of times. You’re the world’s best expert on yourself and your experience, and you are used to describing your career in a clear and transparent way with friends. But, can you drill down past the high-level descriptions of your previous work experiences when you’re in a high-pressure situation with people you don’t know - to articulate current and past roles or handpick situational examples that best represent your skillset? The honest answer is No! Not without practice. Now is a good chance to have a look at our Interview Preparation Toolkits to get you ahead, or research further online to find sample practice questions and other tips. You can never be too prepared!
  • Technology: Because you’ll be relying on technology to present yourself, discuss the role, and make the best impression, you must ensure everything is working beforehand. Test your Wi-Fi/broadband and ensure that you have a strong internet connection. If your Wi-Fi is not reliable, a tip is to hotspot off your mobile phone to ensure a steady connection. Have a backup plan if Wi-Fi fails during the interview: make sure you have shared your mobile number with your interviewer and have their number as well in case you need to call them. If a link has been shared to join the interview, make sure you see what might be needed to connect to it. For example, some platforms may require you to install additional software and/or an app or use a particular browser, so make sure you have this done long before the interview is due to happen.
  • Location: Try to find a quiet space in your home and consider what will be visible in the background. You don’t want any doors open or distracting pictures on the wall.
  • Lighting: Make sure you have good lighting in the room. Avoid sitting with a window behind you as this could cause some glare on camera, and don’t sit directly under a light source. You can find lots more tips on positioning yourself online, like in this New York Times article.
  • Picture and sound: Ensure that your camera and microphone on your laptop, device, or phone are both working correctly and that your equipment is either plugged in or fully charged! Carry out a test run with a friend or family member to ensure that you can be seen and heard.
  • Clothes and makeup: Try to dress appropriately for the interview while still being comfortable. It will help you feel more professional and, remember, first impressions last!
  • What to say: If this is your first interview with the company, take the time to research carefully the business and role that you are interviewing for. Having research done will demonstrate your genuine interest in the role and help you find interesting questions to ask during the conversation. You could also have some questions ready about the company and role, based on the research, or even some standard questions that you have ready to go, like from this list.
  • Research: Study the company’s About Us page on its website as well as all its social media platforms. Also, make sure you study the detailed job description for the role you have applied for.
  • Online Check: You should also have checked your own social media profile, as many companies now do some research about you before an interview. You can use our Online Reputation Checklist to think about and manage how you appear to others online.
  • Presentation and CV: In advance of the interview, it’s a good idea to share your CV again with your contact. If you have been asked to deliver a presentation, make sure you read the questions/scenario carefully, and if you are unsure of anything, ask for clarification. (This can demonstrate you are not afraid to ask for help). Create the best presentation you can. Have a look at our useful webinar on Presentation Skills which is specially designed for anyone presenting virtually, and consider using this template to structure your presentation. If you are delivering a presentation that has animations or has required you to demonstrate a live feature, make sure you test this feature first. As with a CV, it is important that you spell-check your presentation. You might want to share the presentation with your contact in advance of the interview, and you may also be asked to share it from your screen, so make sure you test this in advance with a friend to make sure you know how to work it.

2. During the Interview

  • Get yourself ready well before the interview, ensure all your technology is ready and working. And be on time for the interview!
  • You may be asked to run through your application so ensure that you have your 'elevator pitch' ready to go.
  • When sharing a presentation, try not to read from the slides: the purpose of the slides is to provide the highlights and your notes will provide additional insights.
  • Allow time for questions and answers between each section of the interview, checking in with the interview panel during the presentation. You should also factor in any time delay on internet connections.
  • If you don’t understand a question that is asked, ask for clarification.
  • When talking make sure you are looking at the camera as this will replicate eye contact. On many video call applications, your own image might appear in a box in a different part of the screen so move that box as close to your camera as you can.
  • Be prepared to deal with interruptions (this applies to both interviewer and interviewee) given the current working-from-home situation; everyone's home situation is different and can pose challenges so it's important to be mindful of that. We all remember that famous TV interview with an interrupting toddler.
How to do a Successful Interview - Online

A note on communicating via video call

Experts say that speaking on a video call is very different and more difficult than natural human communication, and this might affect how successfully you think you have managed your interview. Speaking through a screen makes it harder to process non-verbal cues - like facial expressions and tone of voice - as well as there being a different flow of natural silences in the conversation. We are also more aware of being watched, as you are looking at yourself while you are speaking.

Read more about these issues on this story from the BBC website.

3. After the Interview

Generally, at the end of an interview, the interview panel will outline next steps and a timeline to the process. Alternatively, this can be a question that you can ask the interviewer(s).

Dropping a thank you email is always a nice touch. This is a useful way to keep you in the minds of the interview panel, and also show that you are passionate about this role.

Follow up appropriately. In most instances, an interviewer will tell you when they will be in touch. If you are told there is a specific date that they will be contacting you, it is important that you wait until that date has passed before you make contact yourself. At that point a gentle email saying hello will do no harm. 

If you have been unsuccessful in being offered a role, it is always important to ask for feedback. This is a great opportunity to find out areas that you can improve on, and will allow you to be better prepared for the next interview.

Check out some of our videos in our Career Section including this one giving you Top Tips for Interview Success.

From all of us at DMI, Good Luck!

“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared” Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability

Orla Stack
Orla Stack

Orla Stack is Head of Human Resouces at the Digital Marketing Institute

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