Web-based interviews are changing the way America hires. This is true across industries and for both full-time and contractual appointments. Interviewing candidates remotely, using online video / audio tools allows hiring managers to “meet” and consider a larger pool of qualified candidates, without the financial impacts inherent to traditional onsite visits, i.e. airfare, rental cars, hotel lodging, and dining costs. In addition, this modern method of reviewing prospects significantly accelerates the selection process, putting candidates in front of decision-makers with very little lead time. Vacancies that took six weeks or more to fill in the past can be filled in just a matter of days. These combined factors result in a healthier bottom line, which is a consideration at the forefront of every hiring decision. So if you haven’t been invited to remotely interview for a job already, the chances are good you will be. With this likelihood in mind, I thought I’d share some tips to better prepare you.
Web-based interviews require you to register for and download special software. Arguably the most popular tool being used today is Skype. To use Skype, you must open an account, download the software, and determine whether you’ll need a free or paid account. (Skype video calling is free to personal “contacts,” individuals who’ve accepted an invitation to connect and have mutually agreed to share contact information. Paid accounts are available for those requiring additional services.) Other web-based tools work in similar fashion. Be careful to read through the directions and follow accordingly.
Regardless of the tool being used, it’s important to download the software and test your connectivity in advance of your call. I suggest doing so the evening prior. In fact, my recommendation would be to connect with a friend at least 24 hours in advance, in order to practice using the camera and audio features. Be sure to ask your friend to evaluate the following.
- Have you shared your video? Check this by asking your friend if he/she is able to see your live image. (For the purpose of this article, it’s assumed that you have a PC or laptop already equipped with a camera and speakers. While services applications are available via most smart phones, I don’t recommend using your phone for professional interviews. Rather, I suggest using a stand-along monitor or laptop, to allow for stability and adequate image sharing.)
- Are you looking in the appropriate direction? If not, make an adjustment. Eye contact is just as important during an online interview as it would be during a face-to-face meeting, perhaps of even greater importance.
- Body language is critical during an online interview. Check your posture. Slouching may send the message that you’re tired, unmotivated, or worse, that you aren’t serious about the job. Are you making rapid movements? Pauses in video and/or audio feeds are common during online exchanges. This problem tends to worsen with the increase of excess movement. Don’t be stiff in your communication; just be aware of any rapid movements you may be making. For example, try not to bounce your leg (causing your shoulders to move) or turn repetitively in your chair, etc.
- Smile! I encourage my candidates to express their enthusiasm for a job. While words help you share your interest, a genuine smile can drive the message home. Smiling also enables people to see you as warm, approachable, and enjoyable to work with.
- Are you allowing adequate time for your friend (and later interviewer) to finish their questions or statements? Again, technology isn’t perfect, and feed delays are common. I suggest allowing 2 seconds to pass before responding, in order to prevent embarrassing interruptions.
Now that you’re comfortable using the technology, let’s re-visit some standard interview protocol. Aside from physical location and format, an online interview should be approached and treated the same as a face-to-face interview. Please take a few moments to review the following:
- Dress the part. Select clothing appropriate for a professional interview, with special emphasis on the upper half of your body. (Enjoy this experience, because it will be the only time you’ll get the chance to show up for an interview barefoot!) Joking aside, this occasion calls for a suit. Ladies, be conservative in your make-up and jewelry selections. Gentleman, please consider your facial hair and take a moment to tame and tidy mustaches or beards. Again, the conservative choice is the safest choice.
- Select an area of your home (or other location) that allows for privacy, while providing an attractive, uncluttered backdrop. Remember that your interviewer can not only see you, they can also see your surroundings. If you wish to be perceived as organized, prepared, and professional, make sure you’re “setting the stage” visually.
- Be sure to turn off all cell phones, landline telephones, outlook alarms, etc. to avoid noisy interruptions. Along the same lines, don’t take your call in the presence of pets or children. (We all love our kids and puppies, but a crying baby or barking dog in the background can quickly destroy your employment prospects.)
- Have an updated copy of your resume, along with any “talking points” necessary to ace your interview. Examples might include a list of achievement highlights, corporate savings attributed to your professional efforts, keynote speaking engagements, etc. With this said, don’t refer to your documents unless it proves necessary. It’s better to have them handle, to boost your confidence in the event you draw a blank during questioning, (Don’t worry. This happens to the best of us.)
- Be succinct and impactful in your responses. You have limited time, so rather than tell a story, provide a point of reference (task at hand), your contribution(s), and achievements and lessons learned in the end.
- Remain positive. Let’s face it. No one leaves a position because they love it, and not every initiative proves to be a success. Regardless, try to couch your responses in a way that allows you to respond to questions and finish your call on a positive note. In other words, give them a reason to want you for your interpersonal offerings, in addition to your skill set.
By Brenda Adams Witkemper