Hiring during the pandemic: 5 tips for a successful online job interview

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Experts foresee that online interviews will soon become the norm because of the pandemic. If you’re applying for a job and your online presence needs improvement, here are a few tips to help you make a good impression virtually:

An interview is an interview

Whether in person, over the phone, or online the success of your job interview will depend on the same best practices. These include:

  • Punctuality. Be available at least 10 minutes early for the appointment. Ensure that your account shows that you’re available. If possible, leave a polite text or chat message saying that you’re ready. You can write: “Good morning! I’m ready whenever it’s convenient for you.”
  • Dressing professionally. Dress the part and make it a complete outfit – you might have to stand up or move. Avoid contrasting colours, bold prints and busy patterns (like houndstooth for example) as they do not work well on screen. Dressing neatly and simply is the best way to go.
  • Showing positive body language. To make good eye contact, look at the webcam, not the monitor. Also, try to avoid looking at yourself on the screen, this will make you look self-conscious. During the conversation, nod, make sounds and use facial expressions to show that you are actively listening. Don’t stay stationary for a long time because your interviewer might think that the screen is frozen.
  • Communicating clearly. Explain how you fit the job description and impress them with what you can offer. Be prepared to answer the usual questions but put your own personal spin to it. Express that you are enthusiastic about the prospect of joining their company clearly and often.
  • Being gracious. Sending a thank-you email after the interview shows good manners. It will also give you the opportunity to reiterate your enthusiasm for the position. This is a great way to make yourself memorable to the interviewer.

The technical side

One thing that’s different for a virtual interview is that you have to handle digital technology. This may not be a big deal for you having been introduced to the wonders of Zoom, Face Time, Skype and other video conferencing platforms during the pandemic. But whether or not you are a videoconferencing pro, you should do the following ahead of time:

  1. Prepare your equipment and apps. It always pays to prepare ahead of time when it involves technology. Do a dry run when you have time. Test your computer, internet connection and the software or app you’ll be using. This will allow you to iron out any audio or video issues that can disrupt the interview. It will be smart to have a back-up computer, tablet or smartphone nearby so that if you do experience issues, you can shift quickly. It will also impress the employer when they see that you’ve planned for contingencies and that you’re a person who handles challenges well.
  2. Set-up in a quiet and uncluttered area. Despite the world becoming less judgmental about kids and pets stepping into the frame since the pandemic, it will be to your advantage to minimize interruptions. Choose a room that has a door that you can close to prevent surprises and to screen out noise. Inform your housemates that you will be in an interview at a certain time. Also check your background. Strive for a clean back-drop and remember: This is not the time to experiment with Zoom features (see Lawyer can’t turn off kitten filter during Zoom court appearance).
  3. Use a headset to eliminate background noise. Using a headset will help improve the audio for you and the interviewer. Use earbuds if you don’t have a headset.
  4. Have good lighting. Set your laptop in front of a window (or set a table lamp) for proper lighting. Avoid having a light source behind or directly on top of your head – this will be unflattering.
  5. Turn off additional programs or apps. Exit or minimize other programs on your computer on the day of the interview to avoid distracting alerts. This will also help your computer run better.
  6. Choose a simple and professional-sounding user name. Use your name, or your name and profession (ex: analopez_engineer) so that it will be easy for your interviewer to find you.

Adapting to the new normal

The hiring process is changing as we speak. Employers are experimenting with new ways and adapting to the situation to make hiring safe and efficient. Candidates can be asked to go through phone interviews, a series of online interviews, or even record a video introduction of themselves. There’s no standard process anymore. But don’t be discouraged. Follow the requirements as best as you can. Ask questions so you’ll be clear about what is expected. Stay positive, be flexible, and show that you’re the best person for the job. Good luck!
Article updated November 15, 2021.
Sources: Job Hunting During COVID-19? 6 Things You Need to Know About Remote Hiring Right Now, Jaclyn Westlake, The Muse; Video Interview Guide: Tips for a Successful Interview, Indeed; and How to Ace an Online Job Interview, Christopher Null, WIRED. Accessed May 28, 2020.

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