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The mighty job interview – the bane of most jobseekers’ lives. What do you wear? What questions do you prepare for? How much is too much eye contact? And now, with most interviews being conducted behind a computer screen, what the hell do you do for an online job interview?!
2020 has changed a lot of things in the world, and that includes the way we go about securing and hiring for a job role – but the good thing is, we’re all learning as we go.
First of all, you need to congratulate yourself! Give yourself credit for getting this far – it’s no mean feat when so many positions are now having record levels of applicants.
Ok, next: prepare! Go through the job application with a fine toothed comb and identify what skills you have to meet what they’re looking for. Next, think of concrete examples you can provide for each of the points you’re making. Ok, so you have ‘high levels of initiative’ – but when have you shown this in past roles? Look up the most commonly asked interview questions and have answers prepared for all of these.
This kind of preparation is the same for any role you go for, and for any kind of interview you have (in-person, online, or on the phone).
But how can you truly smash your online job interview when it’s such new territory for us all?
Read on to find out my top online job interview tips…
Still dress smartly
Obviously it’s important you look presentable on your top half, but do you really need to be in your suit trousers or pencil skirt? Yes! It will change the way you feel and carry yourself, and get you in the mindset to be the absolute #girlboss you can be. I’ll admit, most video calls I had in lockdown with colleagues featured a smart top (sometimes) and leopard print PJ bottoms, but if I was going to have a business call with a prospect, I’d always try to make a little more effort to feel more confident in myself.
Be on time
This is a no brainer really, but you MUST be on time. Make sure your Zoom or other video software is ready, your laptop is fully charged, you have a glass of water to hand, and you are ideally ready to dial in to the call one or two minutes before you are due to start. You can always guarantee your laptop will want to install updates at the most inopportune of times, so make sure you’re prepared, your laptop is updated, and you’ve minimised all distractions.
Try and avoid staring at yourself
I know, I know, this is more easily said than done. It’s widely acknowledged that most of us spend more time looking at the tiny image of ourselves when on a video call, than looking at the person you’re speaking to, but whatever you do, try to resist it!
If you’re anything like me, you can’t help but play with your hair at the best of times. For a video interview, however (and truth be told, an in-person interview too!) please don’t mess with your hair – it can be distracting for the interviewer, and can take their attention away from what you’re saying.
Have your CV printed out infront of you, and any crib notes in larger writing just off screen so it can jump out at you
Now this is most definitely a perk of not being interviewed in person – have your CV printed out in front of you, and any key points you’d like to remember can be written on post it notes and arranged on the wall behind your screen. It means you’ll have your strengths, weaknesses and concrete examples supporting your main points all to hand if you need them – and it’s these concrete examples that are going to secure you the job!
Yes, many of us stretch the truth slightly when being interviewed, but you MUST make sure you’re as honest as possible. The worst you can do is claim to be fully versed in some computer software, or foreign language, to then come a cropper once you secure the job, and have to come clean about your lies. It’s just not worth it.
Always remember, if they ask you a question and you’re not fully qualified/versed in it, tell them that’s the case, but that you’d absolutely look to fill in the gaps in your experience if you were successful. Chances are, after reading through your CV they already know you haven’t qualified in XYorZ – but they still wanted to interview you, didn’t they?
When interviewers aren’t able to pick up on the rest of your body language, it’s even more important to smile through the interview (I’m not talking creepy over-the-top grin here, but smiling, nodding, and showing your actively engaging in what they’re saying will do). You can’t teach enthusiasm and willing, but by smiling, you certainly give the impression of both.
Pick your background wisely
Make sure your background is as professional as it can be. Plain walls are perfect, bookshelves are fine providing you’ve hidden any books you don’t want prospective employers to see, but cluttered unclean backgrounds are an absolute no-go. Also make sure to avoid (as tempting as they are) any fake ones you can install, and being out in the garden is also probably best avoided.
Find a quiet room
It’s an obvious one really, but make sure you’re sat in as quiet a room as possible before your interview begins. This said, things happen (how many BBC interviews have we seen where children have stormed their parents interviews?) and your interviewer is only human – if you have any little intruders, any neighbours mowing the lawn, or any loud birds in the background – smile, apologise, and continue. They’ll relate, they’ll empathise, and in all honesty, if they can’t show their down-to-earth side, would you even want to work for them anyway?
As with all interviews, it’s important you come prepared with some questions to ask the employer – there’s nothing more embarrassing when it gets to the end of an interview and you have no questions, as it just looks like you aren’t interested in them.
My typical favourite questions include ‘what’s your favourite thing about working here?’ and ‘what do you see are the main challenges of this role?’ By asking this last question, you can then counter any challenges they identify, with experience or skills you may have.
To help guide you further, I’ve put together a download of the ‘Ten Best Questions to Ask in an Interview’ – sign up to my email list, and receive it instantly.
Closing statement – say how much want the job
For many of us, we find it a little cringe-inducing to openly admit how much we want something – especially when it’s to the gatekeeper of said want. However, as with my point above, whilst you might not be the most qualified candidate, you might be the most enthusiastic, and I’d argue this is more important than anything. By openly thanking them for their consideration for the position, and saying how much you would love this role and believe you could thrive in the company, you’re only going to sign off leaving a sweet taste.
Take a deep breath, and just do it – I promise you it’ll be worth it.
I know it’s daunting and a different way of doing business right now, but the fact company’s are looking to interview you amidst a global pandemic means you must be doing something right! Prepare, charge your laptop batteries, dress smartly, follow these online job interview tips, and show up on time – and most importantly, be enthusiastic and smile (AND LEAVE YOUR HAIR ALONE!)
And hey, on the bright side, at least you get to avoid having to do an awkward elbow bump by means of introduction!