How to ace an online job interview

Recruitment specialist Roy Duncan writes about how to succeed at an online job interview. Make sure you read to the end!..


Congratulations!  You have been shortlisted for a job interview.  It is exactly the sort of job that you want and know you can do! Just one issue though; the interview will be conducted online.

Although you may be fully confident in your ability to carry out the role, you may not have any experience of being interviewed online via a video link.  Saying the wrong thing or getting flustered or nervous may result in a disastrous interview, leaving you disappointed.

Although the technology has been around for several years using it for online interviews has not been pervasive. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been to trigger an immediate increase in its use.  Having the ability to handle and adapt to the new technology is essential if you are to succeed in job interviews.

Worth noting, the core interview preparation is similar to that which that you would carry out prior to a face-to-face interview.  So what sort of preparations should you make prior to an online job interview via video link?

The first hurdle is to consider the technical aspects.

The technical challenge

There are now many online video platforms. For example platforms such as Skype require both parties to create a profile in advance and then connect. This is somewhat cumbersome now when compared to other solutions.

FaceTime and WhatsApp which most people have on their smart phone are very popular. Both of these are fairly straight forward to use and set up, however you must ensure that both you and the interviewer have set them up in advance.

Finally platforms such as Zoom  GoToMeeting and MS Teams are much more sophisticated and can easily be activated on your PC, Laptop, smart phone or iPad with a few clicks!  There are many others.

Regardless of which platform you are going to use, you should certainly make advance preparation and not leave the set-up to the last minute.  Best to check your microphone and headphones are all working, ideally carrying out a test call to a friend before you carry out the real thing.

The place

In the majority of cases, the interview will be carried out in your home – although not always.  I have conducted interviews of people in stationary cars. In one case the interviewee carried out the interview in the car’s passenger seat whilst being driven! That aside, there are a number of things that can go wrong.

Basically you are inviting someone into your home so you need to present in a positive way as any negatives may influence the interviewer’s decision. So first of all, have a walk around to identify any potential issues before you broadcast your private life.

Typically you may want to set yourself up with a plain background or possibly in front of a bookshelf and so on. There are many examples of what works to be found on television interviews every day. What you don’t want is a controversial background display of political, sexual, or otherwise provocative posters that may give the wrong impression! Indeed it could ruin your chance of success.

No less important, but not so controversial; is an untidy or cluttered desk or house, which will be seen by the interviewer. It is best to clear up in advance or find a better [tidy] location.

If you share a house with friends, or family, explain that you are having an online job interview and ask them not to disturb you.

Risks from kids and pets

Anticipating the behaviour of young children and pets can be more challenging as they are unpredictable.

Some employers might be cool with kids or cats wandering into the shot. But it’s best to err on the side of caution. Make provision so you are not interrupted or distracted.

The above may be obvious advice; however I am often amazed at how many have given little or no thought to the background and how they present themselves. I have interviewed people whilst their kids are screaming in the background!

Attire and appearance

Continuing on the theme of how you present online, you must look the part. As always, when you go to a job interview, you ought to dress appropriately.  So if the interview is a professional or senior role, then perhaps you will need to wear a suit and tie.

Focus on establishing a good rapport

So your location is all good, kids and pets are under control and your best suit or costume has been collected from the dry cleaners.

Despite your best efforts distractions may occur, so you need to make sure that you listen and focus on the interview.  The best approach is to look the interviewer in the eye and listen carefully to the questions, and respond accordingly.

Should the signal break up or there is a poor connection, then ask them to repeat the question. At the same time be clear that anything that you say or ask has been heard by the interviewer.

And Finally

Working from home can lead to a very lax dress code.  Avoid the temptation to dress on top for the camera and “underdress” down below!  After all you may have to leave your desk at short notice! That is certainly not the right impression that you would wish to give.

Once the online job interview has finished, make sure that you disconnect the connection, before you continue! This has caught out many politicians and business people.

Good luck!


Roy Duncan is is an entrepreneurial chartered certified accountant with over 30 years’ experience in business, accounting and recruitment. He is owner of RG Duncan an independent, boutique, specialist recruitment consultancy.

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