Lights, camera, interview!

You might be a master candidate with years of experience and many interviews under your belt, but there’s a real chance that you haven’t been through a virtual interview before, the truth of the matter however is that this is how things are going to be, and if you want to keep your career on an upward path, you’re going to need to be a BOSS at online and virtual interviews. Especially if you have e-Merge as your recruitment agency.

On the plus side, it means you don’t have to shake hands, or leave the sanitised sanctity of your home, but on the downside, it can be brutally intimidating and unnerving. Fear not, with good preparation, and a little practice, we’ll turn you into the Ed Sheeran of interviewing, and ready to find your next job of a lifetime! Gingers get more jobs!

Here are a few best practice tips on making online interviewing second nature. 

Interview Preparation

You need to do a little homework in the week, and day prior to the interview. It’s crucial, and not going through these steps is going to leave you vulnerable to tech flaws and failures, and looking particularly weak in tech. Not great when you’re applying for an IT job!

    • Make sure your tech is ready
      • When you set-up the interview, check with the interviewer whether it’s going to be a video meeting, or just audio. 
      • Prioritise the camera not the screen. It’s more important that you look good on the interviewer’s screen, than what you are seeing on yours. That means you need to use the device with the best camera you have. There’s a real chance that the camera in your iPhone is way more powerful than the webcam in your laptop. Spend some time working out how you’re going to keep it at solid, straight and at eye level.
      • Check your audio and microphone. It’s crucial that you can hear the questions clearly, and even more important that the interviewer hears your responses.
  • Masterclass Tip: don’t use your enormous gaming headphones, but do consider using ear buds. And keep a back-up pair close. 
    • Find out what platform the interview will be on (e.g. Zoom, Skype, Google Meet), make sure you have an updated version downloaded and that you are familiar and comfortable with it. Masterclass Tip: have these ready on both devices, phone and laptop, as your back-up in case of tech fail.
    • Check your internet connection and data are great.
    • Have a back-up plan
  • Pick the perfect spot
    • Do this the day before the interview, so you can prepare it and not be rushing around on the day.
    • Find a quiet, clear space, free from distractions, and clutter, preferably with a a neutral background. A clean, light wall is best. Wherever it is be conscious of what’s in the background. If you have your old posters from your varsity dormroom on the wall, now might finally be the time to get rid of them. And NO, a virtual background of Zanzibar, or a scene from Game of Thrones IS OUT OF THE QUESTION.
    • The couch is ALSO out of the question. Get a suitable chair and sit at your desk, or a table. And make it quiet, a chair that creaks everytime you shift positions is going to get distracting really quickly. 
    • Your lighting is crucial, as it’s going to impact how you appear on camera, and today it is ALL ABOUT YOU. If possible, sit near a window and natural light. Alternatively have overhead light, but not glaring flourescents, especially if you wear glasses, or are thinning a little on top. Alternatively play with a couple of table lamps, off camera, in front of you. Masterclass Tip: don’t have a bright direct light source behind you, which is alternately going to blind your audience or silhouette you on camera. 
  • Do a mock interview with a friend
    • With meeting platforms like Zoom you can record your dummy interview, and review it to identify mistakes, idiosyncrasies  and weaknesses and work on them. 

The Interview

  • Eliminate distractions, and I mean all of them. When you’re sitting at the desk, and feeling nervous, even a yellow Lego brick is going to distract you. Before you now it, you’ve picked it up, and are fidgeting with it. Make sure the tv is off, and you can focus only on the screen and camera ahead of you. Be ultra present
  • Banish kids and pets. Now is the time to lock the dog in the backyard, put the cat in the bathroom, and load the kids onto the couch with Netflix, Pringles, popcorn and fresh batteries in the remote. In a.n.o.t.h.e.r. ROOM. 
  • Dress professionally. The fact that this interview is taking place in your study or diningroom, doesn’t mean you get to show up in your tracksuit. You’re still in your potential boss’s office and your appearance counts. Dress to suit the role, a clean, smart shirt, pressed trousers, and even your shoes make a difference – you’ll feel smarter. Nothing wrong with adding a jacket. Masterclass Tip: stripes and patterns can play havoc on camera, so go for something simple, and solid in colour. 
  • Calm your nerves. Practice your main talking points, and prepare answers for likely questions, so that you’ve got your key points down smooth. And consider using a cheatsheet, with important points, questions and inspirational messages . It’s not going to be on camera.
  • If you’re nervous you’re going to make basic errors, which are going to amplify in the intimacy of online. A common mistake is talking to quickly and talking over the interviewer. Be conscious and slow down, even waiting an extra second or two to respond.
  • Get in the mood. If you’ve been indoors and at your computer for a couple of hours prior to the interview, you might find your energy sagging, and your enthusiasm low. This is going to translate into “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Pep yourself up with a short run, or a few exercises, to get the oxygen levels up and the blood flowing. 
  • Turn off everything. Your phone ringing is as unprofessional in a virtual interview as it is in a face-to-face one. Make sure your WhatsApp alerts are silenced, email alerts on your computer, even your watch! And make sure you close all other apps and programmes running on your computer. Alerts and notifications can easily break your concentration. Usually at the most important point in the meeting.
  • Check in with the interviewer prior to the meeting and discuss back-up options in event of tech failure.
  • Masterclass Tip: Put your laptop up at eye height. You’ll look better on camera if you’re sitting up straight, and looking directly into the camera. When you look into the camera, it gives the impression that you are looking the interviewer in the eye. Looking into the camera can feel awkward though, maybe put a photo of a friend next to the camera, it’ll feel a little more comfortable. Alternatively minimise the app window, and drag it as close to the camera as possible, which will reduce the impression that you’re peering behind the interviewer.

Follow up

  • Send a thank you note to the interviewer. It’s the polite thing to do. Flowers not so much. 
  • There’s no harm in expressing your interest in the job, by following up occasionally to find out what the status is.

In closing, you’re going to need to get used to the idea of remote, virtual interviews. They’re going to be with us for some time, and if you look bad in the interview it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s just not going to work for you. If you’re not comfortable with the mic and camera, practice, practice, practice. And feel free to reach out to your specialist career champion for help and advice. They’re here for you. [Meet your e-Merge career champ]

[You can check out our list of latest jobs here]


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