Dos and Don’ts in Online Interviews

26 July 2021
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By Doris Haddad – Master Certified Career Coach, M.Ed Career Counsellor

Online interviews with both Human Resources Specialists and Technical Managers have become the new norm. In the past, telephone interviews were for the sole purpose of asking simple screening questions. During my 30 years in Human Resources, it is only recently that job interviews have become mainly online via zoom, Microsoft Teams, or telephone. We must treat online interviews the same as in-person interviews. Prepare as you would for a normal face to face meeting – doing your research, getting your notes in order in front of you and keeping your CV handy for reference. Having a list of questions, you want to ask about the company and/or work environment is especially important, as well.

Here are some highlights when it comes to the Dos and Don’ts of online interviews

Dos

Do your research. Just like a face-to-face interview, come prepared with an idea about the mission and priorities of the company. Google the company before your interview to look for relevant news. Preparation will set you apart from the competition.

Be on time and prepare the technology. Arrive on the online platform 10 minutes early and make sure you are familiar with the platform beforehand, so you are not delayed when joining the call. Have a test call with a friend or family member at least a day before. Also, consider wearing a headset if it improves sound/microphone quality or cuts out background noise. Get your set up just right, including your tone of voice and how loud you need to speak. In addition, prepare your background – move to somewhere with a neutral background and good lighting, such as a well-lit plain colored wall, or a window with indirect sunlight ensuring your face is well lit. This way, you reduce distractions for the interviewer. Finally, check your posture and how everything you do and say comes across on camera.

Dress for the job. Look like you belong amongst those in the company. If you are unsure about what to wear, ask around about the dress code. It will show how much important you find the company and the level of respect you for have the interviewers. Dress as you would for a normal interview. Smart or smart casual as per the requirements for the position.

Do your homework about the Interviewer. Make sure you have read about the person interviewing you; find out what their position and history with the company is. Make sure you know something about the interviewer. See their LinkedIn or ask for a bio when scheduling your interview.

Be prepared to communicate your professional background.  Have a one-minute professional introduction (elevator pitch) that allows you to describe your background or experience with the mention of a couple of your soft skills related to the role. This is your chance to shine and to highlight your accomplishments. Conclude with what you can bring to this role or company.

Take notes. Take notes so you can remember what needs to be clarified or what needs to be answered. Let the other person know you are taking notes. It is especially important to clarify this in virtual interviews.

Ask interesting and relevant questions. Have three questions prepared about the business, the interviewer, or the role at hand. Prepare questions to show interest to the interviewer. Ask questions about the company, their business, a typical day at the office including the expectations of your role to be. 

Listen attentively. This is one of the most important things you can do. Ask for clarification if you do not understand something. If you do not listen, you will not be able to ask smart questions, nor will the interviewer think you are interested in the role.

Be conscious of your body language. Gestures and movements are amplified on camera. Be aware of your nods, voice projection, and your non-verbal signals. Speak clearly and give the other person time to respond.  Remember to make eye contact with the person on the screen.

Be clear on what you want by the end of the interview. Ask what happens next and try to define the next steps (i.e., what happens from here?).

Send a thank you note. Email your interviewer within a day or two, at the latest, of your meeting.

Don’ts

Do not ask closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are those to which the answers can only be “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe”. Examples: “Do you like the company?” “Is the company growing?” Instead, ask questions like “What do you like about  the company?”, “How do you see the company growing?”

Do not fill the silence If the interviewer does not answer straight away, do not leap in with another question. Give them time to think. Allow yourself to pause, too. Do not be panicked into thinking that every second needs to be filled with words. Pauses make you look more rather than less in control.

Do not interrupt unnecessarily. If you have asked a question, listen to the answer. Do not cut across it to get to the next question. If someone is listing three or four points, let them get to the end of the list before butting in. However, interviews do need managing and sometimes it is necessary to interrupt to keep up the momentum.

Do not answer your phone. Turn your phone off. Do not put it on vibrate, but off to silent to minimize the chances of distracting background noises. Find a quiet place and tell the other members of your household you have an important interview and are not to be interrupted. Utilize the “mute” function on the platform you are using for the interview when you are not speaking to prevent ambient noises from distracting your interviewer.

Do not jump to conclusions. Try not to make up your mind one way or the other before the interview is over.

Do not end the interview if you think there is something important that has not been brought up. Summarize what you have learned and get clarification where necessary.

Do not bad-mouth your present employer or anyone else for that matter. That is just poor behaviour and it will hurt your chances for progressing in the process.

Final Tips: Be enthusiastic and project a self-confident voice with applicable eye contact to show your passion for the job you are interviewing for. Prove to the listener that you are the right fit for the position.

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