For the last couple of years recruiters have been switching to the use of online interviews (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams), particularly at the earlier stages of the recruitment process. With the advent of COVID19 this approach has become the main form of interview assessment and is used at all stages of the process, including the final stage. Feedback from employers suggests that greater use of online interviews is here to stay, so your ability to adapt to, prepare for and perform well in this online environment is key to your success.
Remember this is still “an interview” and as such there are many things you can do to prepare for the interview that are just the same as for a face to face appt.
Research the company and the role: Ensure you have checked out their social media, their website and gained a good understanding of the challenges this sector is facing through some detailed and relevant research. (This can also help you with your Questions for Them bit later in the interview!)
Be clear why you want this job AND why you are such a good fit: Understand the qualities you can bring and your motivation for applying to this company and for this particular role.
Go through the skills/competencies asked for in the Job Description: Prepare your STAR examples of when you have demonstrated the qualities they are looking for. Competency questions are still frequently used in interviews for Graduate/Placement roles.
Think about your strengths/weaknesses and what motivates you: These Strengths type questions are being increasingly used by employers keen to understand more about what makes a candidate “tick”.
So what’s different about an Online interview – and what do I need to know?
In preparing for any interview there are always practical issues to be sorted out and online interviews have their own – go through these carefully, well in advance of your interview time. Last minute technical problems are a stress you could do without.
Check the Tech – Adapting to a range of different interview packages presents its own challenges. Ensure that you have a good internet signal and that your webcam and audio/microphone are working well. Become familiar with the software you have been asked to sign in to. Where possible carry out a short mock interview with a friend/relation and check your sound and microphone are functioning. If you are also expected to do a presentation then try sharing your screen with someone so you are familiar with how to do this and to ensure this function is working fine. On the day don’t leave it until the last minute to do a final check. Be confident you are set up and ready in good time.
Optimise your environment – A well-lit and tidy room (check behind you) will ensure the employer focusses on you and is not distracted OR drawing their first impressions about you from any debris in the background! Ensure you cannot be disturbed at any point during the interview, dress professionally and have a drink of water at your side.
Look at the Webcam and…Smile – Compared with a face to face interview it can be tougher building a rapport with employers quickly online. Aim to look at the webcam rather than the screen and remember that the simple act of smiling allows the employer to see you expressing emotion in a positive way and can help build a connection. Avoid looking at your notes: Whilst you COULD have key words written down as prompts it is easy to tell if someone is reading from notes – aim wherever possible to avoid doing this by preparing thoroughly and practising answers in advance.
Adjustments – should you need them – Please be aware that any employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments within the recruitment process should you have a disability or learning difficulty that requires these. Aim to give the employers as much notice as you can of any requirements you have regarding the interview process and if you are unsure about how to proceed with this please get in touch with us here at Careers and Employability.
Prepare to succeed – Covid 19 has confirmed to recruiters the usefulness/efficiency of online interviews and therefore they are likely to remain a key element of the recruitment process well beyond 2021. Whilst the practical issues may well be different, much of the advice around preparation for the interview remains the same. Do your research, be clear about why you really want this role AND why you are such a good fit. Get your professionalism, motivation and enthusiasm for the position across and ensure you are evidencing the qualities they are looking for.
Remember that for SHU students and gradutes we offer Practice Zoom Interviews: These are 45 minute appts offering a mock interview of approx 20-25 mins based around the job you have an interview for, followed by useful advice and constructive feedback. You can book these yourself through Unihub. All the best!
Philippa Fairfax, Employability Adviser, Sheffield Hallam University Careers and Employability Service