With the prevalence of remote working activities, it’s only logical that interviews are increasingly shifting online too. Yet it is just as important that you prepare for these interviews as you would any face-to-face assessment. From one-way interviews, in which interviewees answer to pre-recorded questions, to live video conferences in front of an interviewing panel, there are a number of techniques used for conducting online interviews, yet the traps in which interviewees can set for themselves are all too familiar. Here are five common pitfalls which are to be avoided when approaching your online interview:
#1 Not considering your environment
Good interviewees use all available information to make a call on whether to hire a candidate, and this will be as much as what is going on in the background in the case of an online interview as what you are doing or saying. So, first thing is first, select a suitable space for completing the interview. What does a suitable space entail? Arguably it should be as plain and simple as possible, so do not select a backdrop which is cluttered, or tries to say too much. Consider what can be seen behind you, so remove any posters that reveal too much. A simple painting would suffice. The rule of thumb should be to make it as plain as possible.
Secondly, ensure that your space is quiet. Loud background noise is far from suitable, not just to the interviewers who may not be able to adequately hear your answers, but it may also affect your concentration when considering questions. Either way, it will seem unprofessional.
Thirdly, try to avoid all possible distractions and interruptions during this time. Consider it as work time, meaning that your phone is switched off, and anyone close by understands what you are doing. Also, do not limit your time, as although you will probably be given a guideline time for the interview to be conducted, things naturally run over, so you should remain available as long as possible to show how serious you are about the job.
“Your environment may say as much about you as your appearance or even your answers. Interviewers will consider how much thought you put into these details before the interview began, so make sure it reflects well on you, rather than poorly,” advises Sheila McArthur, an HR manager at 1day2Write and Writemyx.
#2 Not preparing yourself the way you would for a face-to-face interview
There may be a misconception that an online interview does not hold the same weight as a face-to-face interview. This is a huge mistake. You should approach an online assessment with the same sense of urgency and seriousness as any other interview. It may be that this particular assessment is a screening interview, meaning that follow up interviews will take place if you succeed in convincing the interviewers of your qualities. Yet online interviews are increasingly just as likely to be used to make a final selection, so have it absolutely clear: this is just like any other interview, despite the fact you may be sitting in your bedroom.
It may be that the familiarity of your surroundings relaxes you, which is a good thing, but do not let it lull you into a false sense of security: you must still do everything that you would do for an interview conducted in the offices of a business. So, what does that mean? Consider your appearance. How much of you will the assessors be able to see on the screen? Arguably it does not even matter as you should make the effort to do everything that you would do in a face-to-face situation, thus getting you in the ‘zone’ for the interview. So dress smartly, brush your hair, and be prepared to smile. Be punctual, this remains as crucial as ever. And prepare yourself with knowledge of the company that you are interviewing for, and anticipate some of the questions you may be asked.
#3 Not testing equipment adequately, or not having suitable equipment at all
It is of course understood that we can all suffer from a poor internet connection from time to time, but a job interview is not the time for ill-prepared technical equipment to hamper your chances. If you know that your internet connection is inadequate, then you should take yourself to a place where you know that it will be better. If your laptop is slow loading, then you will need to get access to one that isn’t. Headphones are an important aspect of speaking online as they obviously make hearing easier, but also block out external noises for those who are listening to you speak. Test all equipment before the interview takes place, because this is really all about preparation. Of course there are still things that can go awry, but if the interviewer understands that this was totally out of your hands, then it should not affect your chances. Poor planning, however, is poor planning, and really does not reflect well on your organizational capabilities.
#4 Not looking directly at the camera
Body language is vital in a face-to-face interview, and so it is online too. The most common mistake to make is to fail to acknowledge that the camera in this case is the eyes of the interviewers, so just as you would try to make eye contact when meeting someone face to face, look at the camera for the most part when completing an online interview. This gives across a sense of confidence and personability that will be an important consideration for the interviewers.
“Do you want to give the impression that you are more interested in something else which is happening off-screen? Look at the camera, it’s the first rule,” advises Trenton Oliver, a career expert at Britstudent and Nextcoursework.
#5 Not "being yourself"
This is not a performance. You should not play to the camera. Be yourself as much as possible, and let the familiar surroundings relax you. Move around: you are not chained to your chair (but remember to remain in shot!). Once again, the golden rule here is to treat this like any other interview: the method itself should not be important.