Online interviews are on the rise as COVID continues to reshape our lives and employers are continuing to explore new ways of recruiting and engaging with a wider range of candidates. The range of digital solutions now on offer bring both economic and strategic benefits, reducing time, resources and cost involved in selecting the perfect hire. But how ready are you for dramatic shift in recruitment?
There are two things to consider when preparing for online interviews – situation preparation and personal presentation. You need to nail both to maximise your chances of getting the job you want – The golden rule is this – minimise distractions.
The Zoom interview check list
Location, location, location – usually this is out of your hands as the employer decides upon the setting but, with online interviews the onus is on you. Choose a spot that’s neat, tidy and neutral. Ideally steer clear of intimate spaces like a bedroom as this is too personal for a business meeting.
Unintended soundtracks – consider what may fall within earshot. For example, you really do not want the sound of a distant washing machine to feature as the theme music to your interview. If the home phone rings, can you hear it? As you switch off your mobile, consider also temporarily disconnecting your landline.
Let there be light – ensure that the light falls on your face. It is best to sit facing a window, about a metre away from it. Avoid having your back directly to the window, as sunshine from behind can form a halo effect. Have a lamp that you can switch on, if your potential employer says it is too dim to see you properly. The amount of luminescence in the room is not always the same as that transmitted via the screen.
Connectivity and technology – check your internet works and the WIFI speed is good in the place where you site your computer. Some have been caught out by poor connection in certain areas. Verify the audio, video and mute functions. Just as you would arrive 10 minutes early for an office interview, log on before the scheduled start to deal with any last-minute mishaps.
Max headroom – too much headroom means that the interviewer will mainly see your background. You are pitching yourself, not your choice of wallpaper. Your head should appear 1/4 down from the top of the screen to maintain the right proportions.
Right height – placing the computer too low can distend your neck and over-emphasise your chin and nose. Position the screen at eye height, balancing on sturdy books if required, to give prominence to your facial expressions.
Dress well – avoid anything with a small design as the print can seem to waver, slightly but noticeably, on the screen. Whilst white clothing may sparkle in a traditional situation, on a screen ensure it does not reflect so much light that it leaves your face dull by comparison. Stick to simple, structured clothing and dress professionally. Accidentally revealing pyjamas or jeans under more formal upper attire is a clumsy approach.
Body language – given that things become magnified on screen, even minor tics can distract. Fidgeting can give off an unhelpful vibe of shiftiness. Refrain from over-gesticulating to the point that your arms move out of screen, as this is disruptive and gives the impression of flailing. Beware also of making strong forward gestures with your hands, as this can come across as jabbing. You don’t have to freeze like an Easter Island statue but be mindful of your movements.
Moving eye – you may have reduced the number of disturbances at your end but this may not be true of your prospective employer. They may perhaps be in a setting that inadvertently shows people walking past or undertaking office activities in the background. During an online interview keep your focus on the interviewers. A loss of eye contact can break rapport.
Trial run – it can be uncomfortable to watch yourself on video but a mock interview is essential to highlight any aspects that may require attention. Preferably do this online with a knowledgeable person who can make an objective assessment and give you honest, constructive feedback. Are you making one of the errors listed here or are you inadvertently speaking at an unexpected pitch or speed? If nothing else, at least record yourself and replay to figure out what to improve on.
Ideally an online interview should feel as natural as a face-to-face one. It’s definitely a skill that candidates need in their repertoire. But don’t get too fixated by the fact that there is a screen in front of you. With practice, you can pull it off.
By Samina Kiyani and Cheney Hamilton
Cheney Hamilton is CEO and Founder of Find Your Flex.
Samina Kiyani is a regular contributor to the job platform and provides communication and online interview training at www.saminakiyani.com.
FindYourFlex.co.uk, which includes Mummyjobs.co.uk and Daddyjobs.co.uk launched in 2017. Find Your Flex believes that flexible working should be the norm in all jobs in the UK. Cheney Hamilton, CEO and Founder and her team of flexible working warriors came together to get employers and the Government to recognise flexible working as a viable and essential, working way of life.