10 tips for how to succeed at a remote job interview

Remote job interviews are becoming more popular with employers, even prior to COVID-19.  And now, in most parts of the world, it’s the only choice for interviews.

We believe this is something that will remain a key part of the process after COVID-19 when people are back in their offices.  Even when people are located in the same city, sometimes employers are keen to test if job candidate can develop remote relationships quickly, as it’s a key part of a national/regional/global role.

Therefore it is important to be able to present yourself just as well remotely as in person.  Here are Seldon Rosser’s top 10 tips for success!

1.   Technical set up

  • Download and familiarise yourself with the technology well in advance as it may be a platform you haven’t used before. Skype is becoming less common, with Zoom, Bluejeans, GoMeeting being more regularly used.
  • Most firms will proactively suggest a test call with their IT team – if they don’t it’s a good idea for you to ask for one.  Test the shot with ‘preview’ to check how you look and that you’re head & shoulders is well positioned in the frame.

2.   Technical difficulties

  • It sometimes happens, whether it’s cameras, a delay with access, a delay on the line – be ready for it and if things go wrong, stay calm, don’t allow yourself to get flustered and deal with it in the same way you would if this wasn’t an interview.
  • Let the interviewers know if you’re experiencing problems so they are aware of it and will be understanding if it affects how you’re interacting.
  • If there’s a delay on the line, make sure you’re pausing at the end of your answers long enough for the other person to jump in.

3. Physical setting

  • Take the time to plan where in your home you will sit for the call and to choose / adjust the backdrop.  No one expects anything other than a home environment – but you want it to look as neat, tidy and well set up as possible.  Any clutter or mess gives the perception of you being unorganised.  If you can have a plain wall backdrop in any room that works well.
  • Think about minimising background noise too – eg shutting windows to block out traffic noise.  Be aware of lighting and minimising glare.

4.   Dress appropriately

  • Plan your professional attire in the same way as you would for an interview in person.
  • Putting on your pinstripe suit in your living room might look a bit much – think of the smarter/dressed up version of ‘dress down Friday’ professional attire.

5. Interruptions

  • One thing that COVID-19 has given us, which we are hopeful is here to stay, is a more human side of people coming into their professional lives and interactions.
  • Sometimes even with the best laid plans, pets might jump up onto the keyboard or children may burst in asking for something. Stay calm and deal with it as best you can – your interviewers are running the same ‘risk’ in their own homes and will ‘get it’.

6.   Non-visual cues

  • Listen out for words like ‘summary’, ‘brief’, ‘overview’ or ‘detailed’, ‘in-depth’ to give you an idea of how much detail the interviewer wants you to go into when answering a question.
  • Not sure if you’ve given them enough or they want more detail because you can’t see them? Then ask them. You may only want to do this once or twice but it gives the power back to the interviewer to control the meeting.

7.  Beware filling the gaps

  • Once you’ve finished your well constructed answer to a question, have the confidence to remain quiet. The onus is on the interviewer to guide the conversation forwards. You can give them a cue that the answer is complete with a strong summary sentence and/or visual cue.
  • When you can’t see the person interviewing you properly it’s harder to let a few seconds of silence pass – you can’t see that they’re making notes, nodding to their colleague or thinking for a moment and there’s a temptation to start talking again to fill the void.
  • Be conscious of this as there’s nothing more frustrating for an interviewer than asking for a brief summary of someone’s career and still being sat there 20 minutes later not being able to get a word in to ask the next question.

8.   Body language

This is just as important on a video call as when in person.  You need to:

  • Maintain good eye contact with all interviewers, even if one of them is taking more of a lead.  Look directly into the camera (this comes across as eye-to-eye).  If you are distracted by looking at yourself this will come across to the interviewer that you are looking elsewhere and will be distracting.
  • Maintain good posture in your chair during the interview keeping a presence of being alert, interested and engaging. Slouching in your seat or leaning forward with your head in your hands is not a good look.  Beware of moving around and gesturing too much when you speak – it’s a balance, you want to ensure you remain in the centre of the screen (you can practice in advance).
  • Display active and interested listening as you would if you were in the same room – small nods, subtly leaning in, etc. Avoid folding your arms as you will appear closed.

9. Presenting yourself in the best light on the telephone

  • Video is often preferred but sometimes you’ll find yourself on a telephone/pure audio interview.
  • We often find that those candidates who think carefully about where they will sit to take the telephone call, who still put on their best interview attire, and, who smile and express themselves physically as they would if sat in the same room as the interviewer, do well.
  • Interviewers can’t see you but these things will give you confidence and put you in a professional state of mind come across positively.
  • Also, don’t fall into the trap with telephone interviews of having a lot of papers with you to refer to. Whilst you might see it as a benefit to a telephone meeting – i.e., they can’t see you are referring to this – it means you run the risk of not being fully engaged and “in the moment of the interview” and may hinder your rapport building.

10. Smile

  • Always one of our biggest interview tips!  Be open, positive, engaging and let them get to know you.

If you’re working with Seldon Rosser we will have an interview prep call with you beforehand so any questions or concerns, we can run through these with you.  And most of all……. Good luck!

Additional reading to help you prepare for a job interview

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