9 kick-ass tips to nail an online interview for a remote position
Interviews are challenging by default, so adding any sort of electronic equipment in the equation will only make things slightly harder. I don’t want to discourage, but rather prepare you with a few do’s and don’ts, that can turn the odds to your favor.
You’ve applied for a remote position, so be prepared the interview part of the job to be remote, as well. That would be some kind of a test drive, a rehearsal for the job. Most remote interviews for digital jobs are performed over Skype or Hangouts. Lately, Zoom has also been a good option.
Less and less frequently interviews are performed over the phone, which is rather unhelpful for either side (interviewer and interviewee). People want to see each other during the interview, to show emotion and make more correct judgements. If you’re asked for a phone interview, then you should be concerned and not keep high expectations for that interview.
In any case, for the purposes of this post, let’s talk about the event of an interview with video on.
What should you do then? One word: prepare. Prepare yourself for it, like you would for a traditional interview. Do your research on the potential employer/client, prepare examples on your past experience, rehearse your answers in front of the mirror, think of a few clever questions to ask, etc.
And since the interview will be online, make sure you take care of these things, too:
Go to a quiet place
Obvious move. However, what’s quiet before the interview doesn’t mean will remain as quiet during the interview. It depends on your flatmates and neighbors. Has your partner suddenly decide to vacuum the place? Is your kid in the mood for playing? Has you neighbor started any renovation work?
It’s that external factor that can create a really bad impression to the interviewer. And it’d better not be out of your hands to deal with. Otherwise, the interviewer will assume that this kind of distractions could happen if you got the job and your performance would be sub-optimal, so you won’t get the job.
Find the quietest room, ask not to be disturbed for an hour or so, hang a “do not disturb” sign at the door, if you have one, and lock yourself in that room.
Also, a big no-no is choosing a coffee shop to do the interview. Coffee shops are noisy, even during off-peak times. Plus, you don’t want random people to pass by behind you as you talk. It’s distracting for the interviewer.
Prepare your backdrop
I suppose you don’t want your interviewer to see your messy bedroom/living room or the laundry basket full of clothes, that’s just sitting there behind you during the interview. What you do in your house is your own business, but keep in mind that first impressions are crucial. You wouldn’t show up at the interview (if it was done offline) in your dirty sneakers and ripped jeans. Why would you show your dirty laundry or ripped couch then?
The most suitable backdrop is a blank white-ish wall, with nothing hung on it. Your face needs to be the focal point of that video, so anything distracting should be eliminated.
Test your connection and have a back up plan
Things that can go wrong will go wrong. The most likely thing to go wrong in an online interview is the internet going down or your connection being spotty. Make sure you test it thoroughly and eliminate bandwidth waste. In the unfortunate event of the connection getting lost, have a back up data plan, connect it right away and call the interviewer again. Do not waste time saying “hello? can you hear me? hello? I can’t hear you, can you hear me?” or clicking on buttons and reloading pages frantically.
Have questions ready
Be smart about it; you applied for a remote position, so have at least one question related to that aspect. Questions about the way remote teams collaborate or tool sets, that are used in the job you’ve applied for, are good candidates.
Besides position-related questions, ask about the culture of the company and how it applies to remote work. Enquire about the policies and the rules that are followed by the team.
Another thing you could ask about would be some practical issues, like the equipment (whether it will be provided or not), work schedule and team structure.
Another obvious thing to flag and yet a big pain point. If you’re traditionally late, then you have a problem, my friend. You can’t be late and then blame it on technology, either. It’s your responsibility to be on time and ready to roll.
One major drawback with remote interviews (and remote work in general) is the time zone difference. Make sure the interview time is correct and you have converted it to the correct time zone. It’s silly how many interviews have been missed due to time zone miscommunication!
Your interviewer will likely be a few minutes late. Once connected, he/she will apologize for that delay. That was really some extra time to get you prepared or to stress you even more, depending on whether you see the glass half-full/empty. It doesn’t matter if the interviewer is late. What matters is that you aren’t.
Dress appropriately from the waist up
A traditional offline interview requires you to be all dressed up from head to toe. How formal the attire will be depends on the nature of the job and the culture of the potential employer (which you researched extensively, so you know).
Luckily, the online interview is only half as difficult to nail, in this regard. Before the interview starts, you won’t be standing and shaking hands and when it starts, you’ll already be seated. Therefore, what the camera will capture is you from the waist up. Actually, it’s probably gonna be from a little higher up.
Ideally, you should pick a nice, flattering top in a solid, neutral color. An hour or two before the interview, try a few different options and test how they look on the camera. Like I said, your background should be clean, so the combination of the background and your outfit should match and be as toned down as possible. Nothing flashy is gonna impress the interviewer.
If it helps you get into the role, then go ahead and just prepare a complete outfit, even if not all of it will be visible on screen.
Sit up straight
Have a good posture that shows confidence and respect. Don’t cross your arms; it’s too defensive an attitude. Moving your hands is not bad, unless you do it constantly and intensely like a psycho. Your posture will either add or remove points from the focal point of the video, which is your face, so make the most out of it. And be natural, otherwise you’ll just look weird and awkward.
You may be super-stressed and the last thing that crosses your mind is to smile, but trust me when I say this: smiling will put the interviewer at ease and more positively predisposed to like you as a candidate.
Don’t type while the interviewer is talking
I can’t stress that enough; it’s extremely annoying to start typing when someone is trying to talk. While the interviewer is talking about the company culture or the job or anything really, you should pay attention! Taking notes or googling at this time is the opposite of advisable. If the interviewer lays out a case scenario, as a challenge for you to respond to, then he/she will probably have it written down already and will provide it to you.
Imagine this scenario too: the interviewer is trying to ask you a question and in the meantime you start typing a couple of keywords in the google search bar and hope to find the answer. Sneaky! But it will definitely backfire for 3 reasons:
- The interviewer will know. You’re not fooling anyone, only yourself.
- The chances you get a good, correct answer are slim. Not every answer is stored in the 1st google result.
- Even if you find the answer, it could be a long one and you’d need some time to scan through. Then you’d need time to form your verbal answer, unless you read it like a robot from the page you found in the search results.
In any case, it would be humiliating. Frankly, you can do better than this and prepare properly ahead of the interview.
I hope all those tips help! Feel free to share yours, if you have any!