4 Tips for Effective Online Interviews

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effective online interview tips

“While I wouldn’t recommend using it for a second round interview, online video interviews are a great way to screen interviewees for the first round,” offers Don Tebbe, an Executive Succession & Planning Consultant and Author. “It gives more texture to your interview than a phone call,” but he warns that it shouldn’t act as a substitute for all face-to-face meetings or for advanced rounds of interviewing.

Technology exists to make our lives easier: By utilizing online platforms like Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, or Google Hangouts, “…you can leverage technology and increase cost effectiveness at your organization,” according to Tebbe.

Having conducted many screenings and interviews over the course of his career, Tebbe noticed a number of variables that impacted the overall success of such interviews. Using those experiences, and combining tips from those online meeting providers, he drafted the following checklist to help all participants prepare for a successful session.

Try to be yourself as much as possible. The reason recruiters conduct video interviews is so they can get a sense of your personality and demeanor in addition to the responses to your questions. If you’re terribly camera shy, get a couple of good friends to practice with you over Skype.

Just as you would in a face-to-face interview, make eye contact. In this case, “the eye” is that little lens on the webcam, not the faces on the screen. Look at the camera, not the screen. We are drawn to look at the people on the screen, so try to have the screen image and the camera as close together as possible.

Be succinct but direct in your responses, and toss it back to the interviewer to see if they want to hear more. Say something like, “I can elaborate on that if you like,” or, “that’s a highlight of how I accomplished that goal, would you like for me to provide more detail?”

Don’t let the technology get in your way. Candidate are probably not rejected because of bad lighting, but there are some things you can do to make the technology less present and less of a distraction to the communications process:

  • Make sure you have a good, high-speed internet connection
  • Closeout any other programs that might put a drain on your computer or internet connection.
  • Make sure that the webcam is at your eye level. Looking down into a laptop is like looking down on the hiring team. You want them at your level. Moreover having the camera at eye level makes your face look more natural.
  • Make sure you have good lighting. Some soft light shining on your face from behind your webcam works best. Obviously, it should not be so bright that you’re squinting. Also, don’t have an unshaded window at your back. The camera will adjust to that light and you will be just a talking silhouette.
  • Check the video image. If your image has an unnatural color, depending on your webcam, there may be a setting under “webcam settings” to correct something called “white balance.” In most cases, you’ll want to set the white balance to “auto.”
  • If need be, invest in a good microphone or headset. Connect with a friend via Google Hangouts or Skype and ask them to evaluate the quality of the audio. If it’s muffled or otherwise unnatural, you might want to invest in a USB microphone. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Often times the earbuds that came with your iPhone or other phone will work just fine and are a better choice than the built-in mic on your computer. The rule is, the closer the mic is to your mouth, the better the sound – usually.
  • If you wear glasses and they don’t have antiglare lenses, consider taking them off unless you really need them. If you must wear them, try to tilt your monitor and/or turn the brightness down so the glare on your glasses is not so pronounced.  When the interviewer can’t see your eyes it’s very annoying. They are not going to reject you over it, but it’s another barrier to having as natural of an interview as possible.
  • Get a backup phone number from the interviewer so, if all else fails, you can at least make contact.
  • Finally, test your computer setup. Since each tool has a different way to go about this, I suggest visiting the tools help section or trying Google to find what you need.

Don Tebbe is an author, consultant. A veteran leadership succession consultant and executive recruiter, Don’s the author of the BoardSource book, “Chief Executive Transitions: How to Hire and Support a Nonprofit CEO.” 

This post was originally published on our sister site, ThirdSectorToday.

About author

Craig Van Korlaar

Craig specializes in strategy, systems, and metrics. He enjoys cross-pollinating ideas from the nonprofit, government, and business sectors (all of which he’s worked in). In addition to heading up topnonprofits.com, his passions include technology, books, social causes, and the global church.

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