If you are planning to go to college or get a job chances are that you will have to do some sort of online interview at some point. There is a lot to consider anytime you have an interview scheduled and particularly so if you are doing the meeting over Skype or some other online service. I usually feel a little more nervous about an online interview rather than an in person one. I don’t really know why though. Maybe it’s because you just never know if there will be technical problems or if your personality is really coming through or not. It can also feel like you are talking into a black hole and you wonder if anyone is out there!
(***This image does not in any way condone wearing a pepto bismol colored shirt in an interview…)
As I’ve practiced and researched this myself I have come up with a few tips to help you be prepared and do well.
Where you sit matters. When you choose your location try to find somewhere in your home with a blank wall in the background. Your desk should be cleaned off and neat. Make sure there is nothing distracting in the background, including noise. Just ask your family to be quiet and close your door. And you might want to shut your cat out of the room.
Once when I was interviewing someone for TeensGotCents my cat hopped up right on my desk in front of me. I was so embarrassed…right until her cat did the same thing about 5 minutes later! Obviously, it wouldn’t be so cute or funny if you are trying to get into college or land an amazing job.
Decide if you are going to use your desktop or laptop for the interview. If you choose your laptop I recommend sitting it on a desk in front of you. If it’s on your lap the frame is going to move around as you move. You want the picture to be steady and professional so put it on a desk or counter. It is also wise to plug your computer directly into your modem/router. An important interview is not the time to test how stable your wireless connection is at home. Just not worth the chance.
At the very beginning ask the person you are speaking with if they can see and hear you clearly. If they can’t then make the needed adjustments and go from there.
Do a practice run in advance with a friend who will help you make sure you look good and sound good. They can help with things like how close you should sit to your screen, what clothing looks best for the interview, if there are any distractions in the background, etc. Ask them to come up with a list of questions as well so you can practice.
Remember that you can have any notes you have prepared in advance pulled up on the screen. If you position them well you can discreetly look at them as needed. Just be careful to look into the camera directly for most of the time. Keep your hands down and try not to itch your nose or scratch your ear during the interview. Some organizations record the interviews and watching you play with your hair when they watch the recording is not going to give a good impression.
As you are practicing (and during the interview) make sure that you are not talking too fast. This can be difficult especially if you are feeling nervous. Another mistake to avoid is talking over the interviewer. Let them finish before you start speaking!
What will you do if you lose the connection for some reason? When you schedule the interview ask about a Plan B. You should have the phone number of the person so that you can continue your interview over the phone if the video doesn’t work out for some reason. It also helps to be prepared in case something does go wrong so you don’t freak out when the video freezes. And watch what you say! Just because the video freezes doesn’t mean they can’t hear you!
After any interview, online or in person, you should write a simple thank you note. Not over email, not with a text. With a pen. And paper. And a stamp. Believe me, this is a crucial step. To be honest some of the biggest opportunities I have gotten with TeensGotCents is because I followed up with a thank you note.
Putting a little thought into the interview beforehand will make a huge difference in how you do and how you are perceived. As time goes by online interviews are going to become more and more common and you definitely want to stand out from the crowd! Good luck!