How to prepare for an online interview

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How to prepare for an online interview

The conversation by phone or Skype is the first contact with a potential employer. The conversation can be short – just a few clarifying questions and a brief description of the vacancy, then an invitation for an interview at the office. But it can also be a long full-fledged interview. Recently, this option has begun to be used more and more often, due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19 for a certain period, it became the only possible one. So, how do you prepare for telephone and online interviews? What do you need to be aware of? Let’s talk about it.

A short telephone conversation can take place with or without a preliminary agreement on the time of the call. True, many recruiters, guided by modern rules of business etiquette, before calling, prefer first to clarify (for example, in a messenger) whether it is convenient for you to talk.

If the call was a surprise, you can politely say that you can’t speak at the moment and offer to call at another time (it would be nice to tell them the appropriate time convenient for you). In the case of short conversations, there is usually no serious cause for concern: you will most likely be asked how relevant the vacancy is for you, and, possibly, they will ask a couple of clarifying questions about your resume. It is also better to postpone a sudden call if it is not a problem for you to talk, but the noise around you may prevent you from hearing the interviewer.

Of course, in any case, it is better to first agree about full-fledged interviews in the same way as about personal meetings. A preliminary arrangement allows you to prepare. Remote interviews have their characteristics.

Bad Tips for Failing a Sudden Interview

Abruptly interrupt the recruiter and ask him to recruit you after hours. Best – after 21:00.

A little explanation: yes, HR experts sometimes adjust to the candidate’s schedules so that they call even at 6 am, even at 1 am, if it’s comfortable for a candidate. But this happens when they “hunt” for a unique specialist. Moreover, they show the initiative themselves. If we are talking about standard vacancies, then recruiters try to deal with them within their working hours, which, most likely, are approximately the same as yours. So, whether the recruiter agrees to call you at a later time depends on the availability of other candidates.

Helpful Hints: Preparing for a Scheduled Interview

Once you’ve agreed on a time to call, you have the opportunity to prepare.

1. Choose and prepare a place for your communication

Ask the interviewer in advance how long will interview typically take. If you call from home, warn your family, that at a certain time you should not be disturbed and you need silence (household background sounds distract and spoil the experience). If you have small children, it is ideal to have a remote interview while they having a walk, sleep, or having quiet activities.

Note: Of course, this is the rule for the ordinary course of life. When restrictions on movement on the street were introduced due to the threat of a pandemic, we all found ourselves in a difficult situation. Just warn that you will not be able to provide silence at the moment. Even if your child appears in the frame once, it’s okay. A recruiter or your future leader may be in the same position himself.

When phoning from home is not an option, usually, the first idea is to talk from a cafe (again, in normal life, not in quarantine). But this idea is far from the best. First, you still need to try to find a cafe without background music. Second, take into account the time of the call: if it coincides with the business lunch, then you will also receive the hum of voices and conversations at neighboring tables as a sound background. At the same time, given the confidential nature of the conversation, you will speak in a muffled tone so that others do not hear you, and as a result, the recruiter will not hear you either. Therefore, when choosing a place, think about how many people are there at this time, and noise levels there will be appropriate for your interview. And, of course, you need to check in advance,  what if there is a problem with Wi-Fi?

Other options: inside the car (yours or a rented one) or just a quiet street (of course, subject to suitable weather). Of course, this option is also for the ordinary course of life, when you can go outside without restrictions.

2. Take care of the appearance

This applies to video calls and applies not only to your appearance but also to the background behind your back. What will your interviewer see? It’s not great if it will be your kitchen stuff or the “creative mess”.  After all, a business conversation requires a business spirit. Better to let it be just a wall. Keep it simple!

The same rule applies to your appearance: since you are having a business meeting (online), pajamas and other indoor clothing are unacceptable. A shirt, a tie, and only panties at the bottom – a long-standing anecdote among recruiters. What if you suddenly need to get up (for example, to take documents or fix your router)?

And one more thing: the remote interview format is sometimes relaxing. It seems that there is nothing “like that” if, during a conversation, you drink tea and coffee, have a light snack. Think: would you do this at a business meeting? It’s one thing to take a sip of water if your throat is dry, and quite another to sip regularly. By the way, even if it’s not a video call, such things are perfectly audible.

3. Set up and test the connection

When the money on the mobile or for the Internet connection ends immediately before the call, it is not funny at all. Especially when it comes to your dream job.

Skype or other communication methods that you agreed on (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.) should be tested in advance – on the eve of the call, and another 15 minutes before, so you have time to fix the problems. Check the microphone and camera. By the way, if you were offered an interview on Skype, then this, of course, involves a video. You won’t be understood if you choose not to turn on the camera – it’s like coming to an interview but communicating through the door.

If you are not very familiar with Skype or any other program in use, learn it beforehand. It’s better than poking around during a call or calling for help from loved ones during a conversation.

If you intend to call on the phone, then it may be easier to speak through the headset – this will free your hands so that you can write down something important. The sound is distorted when the phone is held against your ear.

4. Prepare everything important

At a minimum, you will need your resume and job vacancy description, as well as a piece of paper for notes. Ideally, you have to make a list of the questions you are interested in, as well as a sketch of a plan for telling about yourself beforehand.  Put together a sheet with information about the company that can be useful during the conversation.

By the way, remote interviews are convenient precisely because you can make notes that are important to yourself and look at the notes less noticeably than when you meet in person.

If an interview is via Skype, and your job is one of those that involve a portfolio, be ready to send examples of the work that will be discussed immediately. At least, remember in advance in which folder you have these files, so as not to waste time searching during a conversation.

Recommendations of Ben Jones, career consultant: “I recently spoke with a client who went to Switzerland for an interview on Google,” says Ben. – Most of the first interviews there are on Skype. The candidate turns on the screen demonstration and writes the code directly into GoogleDoc. The expert from the other side is watching. It seems to me that this is no longer a new tip for developers, but it is useful for others to master this function to show presentations and descriptions of their projects right at the online meeting. “

5. Consider your answers

This rule applies to any interview format. Surely, you will be asked to briefly tell about yourself, your last place of work, what you were responsible for or are responsible for, what you achieved, the reasons for leaving there. They will ask about salary expectations and other wishes for work. There are typical questions that are most common in job interviews.

Taking even a little time to prepare for the meeting will help you feel more confident.

6. Be courteous and kind

Of course, this rule is always important. But with a remote conversation – essential. Even if you use video communication, it does not give the effect of face-to-face communication (not to mention the fact that the image may lag behind the sound). You are in a situation where your voice creates an impression of you – the tone in which you communicate with the interviewer has great importance. Same as your choice of expressions.

Some studies show that the first impression of a person is formed by 55% of non-verbal communication (body language and appearance), 38% – from the voice, and 7% – from words. But when speaking on the phone, the impression of you is formed by your voice (70%) and the words you use (30%).

According to an unspoken rule, the candidate calls at the appointed time, unless otherwise agreed. And this is the case when even a five-minute delay is critical (regardless of whether you are calling or they are calling you). It is in your best interest to be punctual.

Try to speak in a friendly tone, clearly and not too quietly. Pause periodically and ask if you think they can’t hear you well. There are unpleasant situations – when it seems that the interviewer has been silent for a long time because he is delighted with what you say, but in fact, you have been talking into emptiness for several minutes, because the connection has disappeared.

Smile. Even if your interviewer does not see you, a smile is always felt when you speak. And this is one of the easiest ways to win over the interviewer.

After completing the conversation, thank your interviewer with a personal message. This will show your good manners. Not everyone adheres to it. Let it set you apart from the dozen candidates the recruiter talks to.

For some reason, most of the applicants never think that even if they did not fit each other with this vacancy, this recruiter might have other more suitable vacancies in the future. Leaving a good impression of yourself can be useful.

The main advantage of the remote conversation is that it saves time. You don’t need to spend it on a round trip. If in the process of communication, it becomes clear that this work is not suitable for you, then it’s okay. The time saved can be spent looking for a better job. Good luck!

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