Special thanks to:
CEO, JMC Legal Recruitment
Business Manager, Sellick Partnership
Director and Head of Midlands, G2 Legal
Director of Operations, G2 Legal
Talent Acquisition Specialist, Setfords
In today’s digital age, the traditional interview landscape has undergone significant transformations, with online interviews becoming the norm rather than the exception. Whether you're a seasoned professional or recent graduate, mastering the art of online interviews is essential for career success. It is therefore crucial to understand and implement the best practices recommended by recruiters to leave a lasting and positive impression. In this piece, we explore key strategies and suggestions from recruiters to ensure candidates are well-prepared for online interviews.
1. Technical checks
Before the interview, ensure that your computer, webcam, and microphone are all working correctly. Conduct a trial run on the platform you’ll be using for the interview. Familiarise yourself with its features and fix any technical issues prior to the interview.
“Address technical issues promptly and professionally. Have backup plans in case of disruptions and inform the interviewer if you encounter any problems.”
Jason Connolly, CEO of JMC Legal Recruitment
A stable internet connection is paramount for a smooth-running online interview experience. Test your internet speed beforehand and consider using a wired connection, if possible, to minimise disruptions. In the event of technical difficulties, supply a phone number to contact if you experience connectivity issues.
“Ensuring you have reliable connections, your phone or laptop is fully charged, and your signal isn’t going to drop out for any reason is crucial. Having to reschedule an interview because you didn’t check this first could result in a missed opportunity and the employer choosing a different candidate.”
Faith Kelly, Business Manager, Sellick Partnership
2. Pre-Interview research
Failing to research the company may indicate a lack of interest in the job. Research the company and its mission, values, and recent achievements. Understanding the organisation’s culture and goals will enable you to tailor your response to align with their expectations. Familiarise yourself with the job description. Review the role and its requirements and be ready to discuss how your skills and experiences make you the ideal candidate for the position.
“The remote interview format does offer the opportunity for you to present and share previous work if you think it is appropriate. It’s worth preparing a couple of tabs with work that you might feel relevant to the interview and use the ‘Share Screen’ feature to show these during the interview. It’s also beneficial for an employer to see that you are comfortable with IT.”
Andrew Cookson, Director and Head of Midlands at G2 Legal
The pre-interview preparation may vary depending on whether you are applying via direct employers or recruitment agencies. Direct employers are likely to place more emphasis on assessing a candidate’s long- term compatibility and will likely ask questions based on career growth. Whereas, finding a candidate who can fulfil the immediate short-term staffing needs of their client is essential for recruitment agencies. In this instance, demonstrating a track record of successfully adapting to new environments is encouraged.
“As we are recruiting consultants not employees, our approach differs in a number of ways. We are entering into a business partnership with our consultants rather than an employee – employer dynamic. We focus on areas such as their entrepreneurial skills, ability to work remotely, and desire to thrive with complete autonomy.”
Robert Young, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Setfords
3. Professional appearance
Treat the online interview with the same level of formality as an in-person meeting. Dress professionally to convey a positive attitude towards the opportunity. It will demonstrate respect for the process and seriousness about the role. Taking this further, you could consider wearing solid colours and avoid busy patterns that may distract the interviewer(s).
Andrew Cookson: “Consider the space that you are going to use for your interview – does it give the right impression and feel professional? Best not to conduct it in your bedroom with things strewn around, or a sleeping child under the duvet! Use the blur screen feature if you are struggling to find a suitable space.”
Location matters. Select a quiet and well-lit space for the interview. Inform those in your environment about the scheduled interview time to avoid interruptions.
It is also worthwhile removing potential distractions, such as background noise or clutter. A tidy background will aid in creating a professional atmosphere. Use a virtual background, if necessary, but choose one that is subtle. Be sure to turn off desktop/mobile notifications or pop-ups.
Faith Kelly: “If, for any reason, you are having to join the interview in an ‘unusual place’, we would recommend fore warning the interviewer. For example, we have some candidates who are on their lunchbreak from work and don’t have a suitable space to speak on camera and therefore need to sit in their car.
Most clients won’t mind this, but it’s definitely worth letting them know beforehand, or speaking to your recruiter to figure out the best way to go about these situations.”
4. Practise virtual etiquette
Jason Connolly: “Online interviews can sometimes lack the personal touch of face-to-face interactions. Make an extra effort to engage with the interviewer through active listening and thoughtful questions.”
Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera, not just at the screen. Sit up straight with good posture to convey professionalism and engagement. You should use clear and concise language and practise your pace, taking pauses when necessary to gather your thoughts. Avoid distracting gestures, such as excessive hand movements or fidgeting, and try not to talk over the interviewer(s).
Show enthusiasm and interest through non-verbal cues.
Andrew Cookson: “Arrive promptly. A bit of a no- brainer and the same that you would consider if it was a face-to-face interview. With remote interviews you don’t need to arrive 15 minutes early, but a late arrival is still a late arrival and will be viewed as someone who struggles with time management.”
5. Prepare for common questions
Anticipate and prepare answers for common behavioural questions. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses effectively.
Jason Connolly: “Avoid going off on tangents or providing overly detailed responses. Stay focused on answering the questions asked, keeping your responses clear and concise.”
If applicable, brush up on your technical skills and be ready to answer questions related to your field of expertise. Showcase your problem-solving abilities and practical knowledge and provide examples of how you have demonstrated these skills previously. Practise focused responses to avoid rambling during the interview. Be mindful of your time and the interviewer's time by staying on topic.
Faith Kelly: “Online interviews offer the chance for you to have some pre-written prompt cards or at least a copy of your CV next to you that you can quickly look at and refer to if you need to. But keep notes to a minimum as it will be obvious if you’re staring at them [...] Alternatively, you could split your screen and use one half as prompt cards.”
In conclusion, mastering the art of online interviews requires thorough preparation in advance. From technical checks to pre-interview research, your chance for success is dependent on forward-planning and organisation. By implementing these tips and recommendations, you can increase your chances of making a positive impression on your potential employers. Adapting to the nuances of online interactions is a key skill to develop which can set candidates apart in the competitive job market.
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