How to smash your online interview!

How to Smash your Online Interview

So you have finished school, looking for your next opportunity or seeking a career change in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic… there’s no need to panic! Although unemployment might be at a record high, lots of companies are looking for apprentices to join them. The catch is you might not be invited to the office for an interview, but you might be asked to do this via Zoom or another video conferencing platform.

Interviewing online can be quite different than meeting in person but you don’t have to let that dull your shine. To help your video interview go as smoothly as possible, I’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help you out!

1. Standard Rules Still Apply

Just because you’re on video doesn’t mean you can slack off on your appearance. The trend toward casual, devil-may-care attire in the workplace does not and should not trickle down to your choice of attire for a video job interview. Dress one notch above what the company’s typical attire is. So if the office culture favours collared shirts, check that box but also slip on a jacket. Also, be sure to wear solid colours, as stripes and complex patterns can look awful on video.



2. Eliminate Distractions

Close the door and windows in your room. Silence your mobile phone and make sure your TV is switched off. Make sure the only window open on your computer screen is the video platform you are using. Silence all pop-ups. The last thing you want is to lose your train of thought.





3. Banish the Pets and Kids

You know that barking dog who haunts every business meeting? He’ll ruin your interview too. You wouldn't bring your dog to an interview in the office, so take the same approach for online interviews. The same advice goes for your children. Park them in front of a screen or ask a partner to look after them for the duration of the interview.








4. Find a Neutral Background

More than any other tip, pros said that careful attention to your background is absolutely crucial. A bedroom with a sloppy bed, a home office full of clutter, a kitchen table … all of these connote information about you to the interviewer, none of it good. It’s not only unprofessional, but it also distracts the interviewer, who’ll be busy analysing your dirty laundry instead of listening to what you have to say.

The most common advice: Set yourself up against a completely blank background (one that doesn’t clash with your shirt). If you’re struggling to find a professional backdrop, try setting up a folding table near a neutral wall or corner. It should also go without saying that this is absolutely not the time for your favorite virtual background or any type of filter.




5. Choose a Small Chair

Slouching on a couch or in a big armchair will make you look less polished. Go with a low-backed chair that doesn't creak when you move.











6. Master Your Lighting

Getting perfect lighting for video can be very difficult in a home environment, but ideally you want to aim for the following:

  • Get plenty of light overall so it doesn’t look like you’re cowering in the dark—but not so much light that it creates glare on any eyeglasses.
  • Position two lights, if possible, at a diagonal in front of you, one a bit to your right, and one a bit to your left. Table lamps work fine.
  • Use natural light where possible; if one of the above lights is a window, all the better. Avoid fluorescent bulbs or other “cool” light sources.
  • Eliminate any direct backlighting (like a window behind you) and avoid light shining directly over your head (especially if you’re losing your hair).


7. Test Your Gear

Sign up for an account on the service your interviewer is using and download the necessary software. Install a backup copy of the software on a second device (for example, install on both your phone and laptop) just in case one device fails. Now draft a friend to help you through a test run on both devices to make sure audio and video are working, and that your lighting is as good as possible. Test headphones and keep a back-up pair within reach.




8. Keep Your Eyes Forward

This takes some practice and feels unnatural, but during your interview you should look at the camera as much as possible, not the picture of the other person on the screen. Looking at the camera is as close as you can get to making eye contact with the interviewer, while looking at the screen will appear to the other side like you’re staring off into space. The good news is that, on a small phone screen, this effect is minimized. If you’re doing your interview on a laptop, you can cheat this by shrinking the size of the videoconference app’s window and positioning it as close as possible to the location of the webcam. Also, elevate your laptop to eye level by stacking books or boxes underneath it. This way, you can stare directly into the camera without slouching or craning.



9. Wear Some Headphones

It’s great that the interviewer can see you clearly, but if they can’t hear you, you’re sunk. The people interviewing you will appreciate it if you use your headphones instead of your laptop’s built-in speakers. Onboard computer audio is usually lower in quality, which is a recipe for feedback and sound distortion. As well, in general, small headphones will make you look less crazy than your oversized gaming headset.




10. Practice

Systems like Zoom let you record your meeting, so use this to polish your interviewing skills. Record yourself telling your story before you go into an interview. A strong professional story will set a confident tone that offsets the awkward start on Zoom.





11. Get in the Mood to Talk

It’s hard to answer questions cheerfully and energetically if you’ve been cooped up indoors for a long time. Interviewers can see exactly how tired and unexcited you are for the interview, which gives a negative opinion. Energy and enthusiasm are some of the things interviewers are looking for in any recruit, so make sure you at least act the part. Try doing some jumping jacks or jogging around the block before the interview to get your energy level up—and to help calm any nerves.




12. Make a Cheat Sheet

Remember that the interviewer can’t see what’s not on camera, so use your interview space to your advantage. Stick a Post-It Note cheat sheet with notes, questions, or needed inspiration directly to the screen or to the wall behind your camera. The interviewer on the other side won’t ever know.

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