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Tips for conducting an effective online interview

In the Covid-19 era, remote interviews are becoming more and more prevalent, because pandemic or not, work still needs to be done, and companies need staff to do it. Remote interviews pose new challenges to the hiring process during these troubled times.

Online interviews do differ from the traditional face-to-face, on-site interviews that most professionals have gone through, probably more than once. When an interview is conducted remotely, the interviewer might have a hard time evaluating a candidate’s body language, for example, or technical problems might cause communication problems and lead to unintended outcomes.

So while the potential for issues to arise is certainly there, a little preparation and common sense go a long way, both from the interviewer’s and the candidate’s perspective.

 

Ten tips for conducting an effective online interview from the interviewer’s perspective

Proper scheduling

When scheduling an online interview, follow the same rules as you would for an on-site interview. Inform the candidate about your availability and arrange a time and a date that works for both of you (bearing in mind possible timezone differences), and be sure to give candidates clear information about the practicalities, such as the name of the interviewer and the estimated length of the interview.

Clear and unambiguous instructions

When it comes to job interviews, clarity and unambiguity are paramount. There’s a lot at stake, particularly for the candidate. Be as clear and thorough about the process as possible. If you’re using Skype, for example, share your account information and send a link for the meeting in plenty of time. 

Appropriate environment & equipment check

Conducting an online interview from the cafeteria, or near high-traffic areas in the office is a recipe for disaster. Pick a quiet meeting room, set up the equipment well in advance, and test it. Test the video and the audio, and make sure everything is ready to go.

Eye contact

Conducting an online interview can feel like an impersonal and awkward experience, as candidate and interviewer might be separated by thousands of miles. If possible, focus on the camera rather than the screen, so the candidate feels like there’s eye contact. Maintaining eye contact through a computer screen is not easy. If you need to take notes, you will look away from the camera, which can be uncomfortable for candidates and might unfairly affect the interview results.

Easy-to-access files and interview-related material

Sometimes, you will need to send the candidate some additional files, presentations, or any other relevant material. Make sure you have all this ready to go in an easily accessible folder or location. Also, if you intend to share your screen, make sure you know how to do so without fumbling around.

Call recording

You might want -or need- to record the interview, so you can share it with your team later. In this case, it is essential that you inform the candidate and obtain express permission before commencing the recording. The best practice is to inform the candidate by email and obtain written permission. Failure to do so might result in legal consequences.

Red flags to look out for

Late arrival, or no show. An applicant who’s truly interested in the position will be there at the arranged time and answer promptly. Now, unexpected events can and do happen, as do unforeseeable incidents or emergencies. In these cases, a responsible candidate will inform the interviewer as soon as possible and ask to arrange the interview at another time.

Excessive background noise or unsuitable environment

A quiet, distraction-free location is essential for conducting an online interview. People moving about, a public place, or busy or cluttered backgrounds might take your focus off the candidate. The level of preparation to avoid these issues speaks volumes about the professionalism of your candidates.

Casual behavior or appearance

Online interviews must be conducted in a professional manner. Informal expressions (e.g, “Hey!”, “Huh?”, and “Say again?”) and an unprofessional dress code would indicate that candidates are not taking the interview — and perhaps your company — very seriously.

Visible discomfort or nervous attitude

It is certainly easier to break the ice in a face-to-face interview, but online interview candidates should be able to express themselves and speak naturally about their role and their experiences. Behaviors like stealth, mumbling, and monosyllabic responses are red flags, especially for roles that require strong communication skills.

 

Ten tips for conducting an effective online interview from the candidate’s perspective

Dress professionally

While you might be taking the call from your own home, it’s crucial to dress as if you were doing the interview face to face. Wear something neat, conservative, and casual. If possible, find out the company’s dress code in advance. Wear nice trousers and shoes in case you need to get up or step away from the camera. Your appearance will show the interviewer your level of professionalism.

Set visual pin

Making eye contact during online interviews is harder than you think. When answering questions, try focusing your gaze directly on the webcam, and not on the interviewer’s face or your own. By maintaining eye contact and nodding, you show the interviewer that you are engaged and listening intently.

Be aware of your body language

Body language is harder to gauge through a webcam, so pay extra attention to non-verbal cues. Remember to smile and nod when the interviewer speaks. Sit up straight and behave in the same way you would during a personal interview. Obviously, you will not be able to shake hands when the meeting ends, so you will need to show your professionalism and good manners in other ways.

Relax

Your nerves can be your worst enemy during online interviews. Take a deep breath before taking the call, and try to remain calm throughout. If you can communicate confidently with the interviewer, you are far more likely to make a positive and lasting impression than if you appear hesitant or nervous. Remember, one of the best solutions to prevent anxiety during an interview is to have the answers worked out in advance.

Have a backup plan

Technology can and does fail, usually at the worst possible moment. Contact your interviewer ahead of time and agree on a contingency plan should technical issues arise. Switching to a phone call or postponing the meeting are good alternatives if problems do occur. And remember, don’t panic if you run into problems with your software. If the problem is out of your control, the interviewer will understand.

Post-interview follow-up

After the interview, it is good practice (and manners) to send a thank you note to the interviewer. A quick email would suffice. Wait a few days, and if you haven’t got any feedback, contact the interviewer. Ask politely if the hiring process is still ongoing, and find out if they need more information from you.

 

Final thought

Soft skills play one of the most important roles in hiring. These are the qualities that most interviewers pay attention to during job interviews because HR specialists are not always able to objectively assess knowledge in the technical fields being discussed. Instead, they focus on self-organization, communication, rational thinking, and decision-making, which can say a lot about a candidate’s skills and suitability for a particular role.

 

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