7 Tips for Online Interviews

The Hiring Manager at the company or institution has just told you that the first interview will be online.

You feel it’s good news because it means it won’t be as serious as a face to face interview, right?


It’s just as serious and a lot more difficult.  Here’s why:

Your interviewer will still be expecting the same level of professionalism as they’d expect from you in a face to face interview but now there’s a whole lot of complicated, unpredictable and for the inexperienced, unmanageable, technology standing between you and making a good impression.

And that good impression is what counts.

Your interviewer will likely decide (subconsciously) if they like you very quickly.

How quickly?  Probably within 7 seconds:

Everybody knows how important first impressions are. But not everybody knows that the “first impression” is actually only a seven second window upon first meeting someone (Business Insider)

After those 7 seconds are up, the interviewer will:

  • If they like you: Look for reasons to promote you to the next round (or give you the job).
  • If they don’t like you: Look for reasons to eliminate you from the process.

That means after a bad first impression, your chances of saving the interview are pretty small.

And regardless of what anyone says, the interviewer is not going to cut you any slack because the interview is online.

So what can you do to be prepared?

#1 Don’t get caught in your pyjamas!

You thought it was going to be a voice call but suddenly you realise they’re calling via video – and you’re sitting there in your pyjamas…

Tip: Dress for an online interview as you would for a face to face one, even if it is 11pm at night.

#2 Eliminate noise and distractions

Noise is your enemy in an online interview.  It’s probably going to be hard to hear anyway (see bad connections below), so if you’ve got people talking or builders drilling nearby you risk mishearing questions and giving confusing answers.

Tip: Find a quite room and close the door.

#3 Check the backdrop

You want the interviewer to be focused on you during the interview, not strange pictures on the wall or some odd furniture or people walking around behind you.

Tip: Find yourself a room with a clear, non-distracting wall behind you.

#4 Check the light

You might be a bright and cheerful person with a nice face but if the light is behind you and there’s shadows across your face that’s not how you’ll look.

Tip: Do some testing to see what lighting makes you look at your best on the small screen.

#5 Set up your device on a platform

If you holding your device during the interview you may not keep it steady, especially as you get excited explaining something and if that happens you could easily give your interviewer motion sickness – not a good impression.

Tip: Set up your device on a platform that is stable and also try to find an angle that makes you look at your best.

#6 Bad connection? Have a plan B.

You’ll be lucky if you can hear clearly in an online interview.  More likely there’ll be delays or echos or even static and if it gets bad you risk sounding like an incoherent idiot.  Some might disagree but we think it is better for the interviewee to stop the interview and ask for it to be switched to voice or even to ask them to call you on your cell.

Tip: If you feel the interview is not going well due to connection problems, then be bold and ask to switch to your plan B.

#7 Make eye contact

Eye contact is important to make at the very beginning of the interview or in moments of seriousness or humour because it builds connection with the interviewer.  But of course, this is hard to do online because you’re probably looking at the interviewer’s face on the screen and not at the camera.

Tip: Think like a TV presenter and pick moments to connect with your interviewer via the camera (Edit: Or a space on the screen that makes you look into the eyes of the viewer on the other side.  Test it out with a friend – it might be that you need to look a little bit below the camera)

Update!  Lately we’ve heard of candidates doing online interviews in shopping malls during working hours.  The employers have told us with all the noise they could hardly hear the candidates and this told them that the candidates were either not serious or had really bad judgement.  Either way they were immediately judged to be not suitable and were eliminated without further consideration.  If you want the job, take the time off like you would for a face to face interview and follow those tips above.

Got more tips?  We’d love to hear them so we can share with candidates.

One comment

  1. Practice more to talk with your friends or family members before the official interview, and i did not know you can really look at the one in the eyes through the camera but not the screen… Great suggestions! Thanks:)

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