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How to Ace an Online Job Interview - Top Tips to Make Sure you Succeed

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Your Preparation, Presentation and Practice Will Impress Prospective Employers

The pandemic saw a growth in the number of people working from home and If you're lucky enough to get an interview, it's more than likely to be conducted online via Skype or Zoom than face-to-face. employers have realised that employees can successfully work from home, a trend that is expected to continue even when Covid restrictions are lifted.

Working remotely — positive for both employees and employers.

  • In the post-pandemic world, one thing seems certain: work environments will offer more flexibility than ever before.
  • Employers who hire remote employees save on operating costs, such as leasing office space, purchasing business equipment, and maintaining a stock of office supplies.
  • Remote employees whose employers provide the necessary equipment are relieved of initial costs to begin working after a period of pandemic-related unemployment.
  • Remote employees are better able to create a work/life balance that is right for each employee's needs.
  • Both employers and remote employees reduce their environmental footprint.
  • Employers reap the benefits of a more relaxed, happy, productive workforce that is better able to take on new challenges.
  • Employers also enjoy a wider pool of talented candidates who might not otherwise be restricted by their locations or unable to manage family or other needs, which benefits both the economy and society and strengthens their communities.

As someone who is well-versed in successful and unsuccessful online interviews, I want to share my insights about how you can improve your profile and the likelihood of impressing prospective employers, and achieve your objective: a job offer.

How to avoid and prepare for any technical issues that may occur during the interview

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  • We've all had those moments when we've forgotten to connect the wi-fi or are on mute, or when we've discovered the moment we're about to begin an important time-sensitive task that our computer is about to process a critical update which will drain your computers resources or must reboot, so check your systems update schedule.
  • Enlist a friend who can be available at least an hour prior to your interview to connect with you in a web meeting to help you test your equipment. They might also notice issues from the other side of the connection.
  • Test your lighting (natural, artificial, or a combination) to compliment your appearance — you want to appear fresh and well-rested — and make sure you present well
  • Turn off all other technology that requires wi-fi usage. during an in-person interview,
  • Be sure to close all background applications for the online interview, or you risk out-of-sync audio and video and transmission delays (lags) and possibly a disconnection.
  • Relocate your wi-fi router as close to your device as possible to ensure the best connection and avoid transmission delays, especially during international calls.
  • Make sure everyone in your home is aware of your interview and waits until you are finished so that all available wi-fi resources are dedicated to getting you a job.
  • And, make sure no one else in your home is hogging your wi-fi resources while the interview is taking place.

"Online interview" does not excuse you from behaving as if you are sitting across a desk from your prospective employer

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A study examining the art of first impressions found the first seven seconds of meeting people will have a solid impression of who you are — and some research suggests a tenth of a second is all it takes to start determining traits like trustworthiness.

  • Make the right impression. Wear smart, clean, comfortable, professional or business-appropriate clothing that helps you feel more confident. If you're required to stand up to retrieve a document or other during an interview, you do not want to be, literally, caught in your underpants, so fully dress!
  • Avoid wearing striped clothing or busy clothing (clothing with patterns or logos).
  • Ask your family, partner, or friends to ask you interview prep questions so that you can prepare to give more meaningful answers as well as receive helpful feedback from your 'interviewers'.

We always feel at home when we're at home, but we need to create a business-like environment to get into the role/zone

  • Look for the quietest room in the home, away from potential disruptions and disturbances from inside and outside.
  • Use your computer and webcam instead of your smartphone; your computer is a much better option, more professional, and shows stability (and a stable location for performing remote work).
  • Reduce all visual distractions in the frame, including all obstacles between you and the prospective employer — e.g., people, pets, children, robotic devices, and the distracting, possibly disconcerting, unsettling, distressing or alarming shadows, reflections and noises they might create.
  • Choose your background wisely — some people would recommend a 'book-lined shelf' to be the best background for an online meeting, but a blank wall is probably a better background, again, to eliminate visual distractions in the frame.
  • Ask a neighbour or friend to look after pets or younger children who may find it hard to keep quiet, especially if you anticipate the interview to run longer than an hour.
  • Eliminate the potential for unpredictable and unexpected distractions — it might be impossible to disconnect your doorbell, but you can place a note on your door: "Interview in progress: Please return after [1200].'
  • Mute your smartphone and turn off all other unnecessary mobile devices to avoid all unwanted notification sounds. (You will be able to view any emergency notifications on your muted phone.)

It's always best to be as natural as possible, but be especially mindful of your body language

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  • Pay attention to your posture. It can be very easy to start slouching, fidgeting and fiddling, especially when you're in a comfortable home environment, so try to be mindful that someone is watching you at all times.
  • Highlighting your positives to show how you will add value to your prospective employer's business are expected, as is some exaggeration, but do not lie or exaggerate when discussing your capabilities. (Having said that, white...ish lies have helped me!)
  • Keep your movements to a minimum, your head in the middle of the screen and your body at arm's length to your webcam at all times. Also, maintain good eye contact. These communicate self-control and discipline, confidence and professionalism. even if you're not feeling it. Remember: if you cannot sit still for a one-hour interview, why would a prospective employer believe you can sit still and work for eight hours?

What else will you need during the interview?

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  • If you provided your CV, have a copy of your CV at your fingertips. If you provided written recommendations, commendations and awards, have those at your fingertips as well. You might believe you know all of this already, but when you are nervous or misremembering, you want to avoid talking about something different to the prospective employer — embarrassing.
  • Have a notebook and at least two pens at the ready for note-taking; if you have nothing relevant to write, pretend to take notes, which will keep your hands occupied and create the appearance of interest and attention.
  • Keep a bottle of water or juice within arm's reach to stay hydrated, but always use a bottle to avoid accidental spills.
  • If you're stuck on a question, relax and keep your poise before you answer. Make a note! If you do not understand the question, always ask for clarification. If you understand but, for instance, the question asks about a skill you do not have, share a similar skill or analogous experience to show that you understand. See the bullet point above regarding exaggeration and highlights, which are expected, versus lying, which is unacceptable.
  • Back-up plan. Verify that the prospective employer has your contact details at the outset in the event you experience any technical or wi-fi issues during the online interview; this means offering to come in for an on-site interview should there be a fatal technical error: "I want to make sure you have my contact information if we get disconnected; I'm also able to come in to meet with you if that's more convenient for you."
  • Write notes you can place within view off-camera, above or behind the monitor, to remind yourself of the key points above you are more likely to forget, such as, 'Keep Head-Up. Don't Fidget,' and 'Look Confident'.
  • If possible, separately record your interview, which you can do on your smartphone (muting device notifications does not or should not mute your smartphone recorder, but test it in advance), then ask a friend or family member to give you feedback about your presentation during the interview.
  • Rather than rush to answer every question immediately, take a moment to absorb and understand the question being asked, and ask for clarification when you need it, so you can give thoughtful, appropriate, relevant answers

Remaining calm, confident and composed at all times, and showcasing your positive personality traits will give you the best odds of receiving a virtual handshake and a job offer. If you do not get the first job for which you interview, consider the interview practice for the next interview to give you more insight to make a great first impression at your next online interview.

After the Interview

You should always follow up within 24 hours of an interview with a 'thank-you email'.

Say how much you enjoyed the interview and If you forgot something to say at the interview, now is the time to ask — and let them know that you're available for any further questions.

Saving the best tip for last: prospective employers are not the only people participating in the interview. You are interviewing prospective employers, as well, and this means that you do not have to take a job that does not meet your requirements or work with a prospective employer you do not like.

Wishing you the best in your new job!

© 2021 Tony Sky

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