How to Ace an Online Interview
Updated: Apr 10
We are now in a remote/online environment. Use this guide to prepare for your interview—many basics still apply! This guide is to be used WITH other interview prep documents and posts: How to research a company; Can you describe your skills; Behavior based questions; STAR method; Mastering the phone interview; Interview questions; Illegal interview questions.
Set the scene. For video interviews, make sure your lighting, camera angle, clothing and background all help you look polished. Have a printed copy of your resume and a list of questions to ask the interviewer in front of you. Place a glass of water just off camera and set up notes to glance at, such as how your skills matched the job requirements. Put a post-it on the side of your screen of a smiley face—remember to smile! Sign into the interview web link 10 or 15 minutes in advance to make sure it is working, and take some time to collect your thoughts which will help you avoid feeling rushed.
Find a neutral background. Virtual backgrounds can be tricky, so it’s best to find a clean uncluttered space, with nothing to distract the interviewer.
Master your lighting. Best bets for lighting are: sunshine from a window that’s facing you but be careful not to be “flooded out;” a lamp bouncing light off a wall that reflects on your face softly; computer screen clip-on lights; or an inexpensive ring light. Light should be in front of you rather than behind.
Prioritize the camera, not the screen. Place your computer’s camera at eye level or slightly above and tilted down (a stack of books underneath can help). Wear a professional-looking top that makes you feel confident.
Eliminate distractions. Recruiters understand the limitations of home-based interviews. “Don’t beat yourself up” if your child wanders by looking for a snack or the dog bursts in, say the experts. The interviewer is sitting at home “dealing with the same things.” But it is helpful to banish pets and children, if possible.
Double-check the tech. Technical difficulties are understandable but do all you can to avoid them. Start by ensuring your Wi-Fi is as strong and reliable as possible. That might mean setting up your video call in the part of your home that gets the best reception, asking housemates to stay off the network during your interview or even paying for better Wi-Fi for a for a few months while you are job hunting.
Make sure your laptop is fully charged. Keep your cellphone by your side (on “do not disturb”) with the interviewer’s phone number handy in case you need a backup communication method. Close other apps on your computer so you are not distracted by pop-ups. Double-check what will be in sight, because video software programs differ in how they crop web camera views.
Be present! Practice your posture because it’s important to communicate that you are engaged in the video conversation and excited about the opportunity. A tip is to sit on the edge of your seat, which helps you to sit up straight. Pull your shoulders back to convey confidence. Even phone interviews should be conducted this way so that you’ll be less likely to start slouching, feel less engaged and be more likely to ramble. Set up a video call with a friend to check on setting, posture and to practice questions. Consider standing if you can raise your laptop to face level. This will help with air flow and mental acuity.
After you hang up. Always send your interviewer a thank-you email and make it as specific as possible, mentioning a topic you discussed or something that inspired you. If you don’t have the interviewer’s contact information, send the email to your recruiter and ask her or him to pass it along.
Each experience helps prepare you for the next. Do a “curbside analysis” after your interview. So, reflect on how it felt. Were you too nervous? Did you talk too much? Did you not talk enough? What could you do better next time?
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