Over and above researching the company and being able to effectively speak about your experience, preparing for an online interview brings its own unique set of dos and don’ts. Here are five key areas to focus your prep for online interview success.
Set-up is Critical
A distraction-free space is essential for both you and the person interviewing you. A quiet space is a must and the ideal backdrop for you is a blank white wall—that way the interviewer can focus on you.
On the technical side, the most optimal set-up for a video interview is a computer or laptop connected to the internet with an Ethernet cable. A headset with an echo-cancelling feature is ideal, but a normal headset is better than using a computer’s built-in speaker and microphone. If you can only connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, make sure the signal is strong.
Before the interview, close all other tabs on your internet browser—keeping other tabs open can exhaust the bandwidth, which can affect video and/or audio quality. (Plus, no one wants a video to unexpectedly auto-play during their interview!)
Pay Close Attention to Lighting
Lighting has a big impact on what others see during a video conference. The space should appear light and bright and you’ll want to strategically place lights to avoid shadows on your face (overhead pot lights are typically unflattering, so leave them off if possible).
If the room has a lot of natural light, prepare for both sunny and overcast conditions. Sunlight shifts throughout the day, so test lighting at the time of day when your interview is scheduled. You should never sit with your back to a window—the camera will adjust for the bright light source and your face will appear dark, making it difficult for the interviewer to see you.
Dress for an In-Person Interview
Even though your lower body isn’t likely going to be visible during an online interview, you should dress as you would for an in-person interview and resist any urge to wear lounging pants or go barefoot. Dressing professionally often helps to get you in the right frame of mind for the interview. Keep your attire professional and be well groomed and prepared.
It’s also important to know that certain clothing does not always work well on camera: Fine stripes can look like they’re waving, black can appear flat, red often looks like it’s glowing, and small patterns can be hard on the eyes.
Join the Meeting 30 Minutes in Advance
No matter how well prepared you are, things can go wrong at the last minute. You might suddenly need to do a software update, your router may need to be reset, or the video conferencing link might not work. Logging in early gives you time to solve problems.
If the worst happens and you can’t connect, reach out to your contact before the interview start time to briefly let them know what’s happening. (The silver lining: It shows them you’re prepared for the unexpected and calm under pressure.)
Slow Down During the Interview
Technology creates a bit of a barrier between you and the interviewer, and there’s always a slight lag when people are talking online. Slow down your speech a bit so you sound clear and are easy to understand. You shouldn’t be overly quick to jump in when you think the interviewer is done speaking—a brief pause is always preferable to speaking over someone else.