How to Do a Remote Job Interview
I now have clients who have completed a job search, multiple rounds of interviews, job offer negotiations and accepting the position, and then onboarding with the company entirely remotely.
How crazy does that sound? Would you ever have imagined that you would interview, accept an offer, and start that new job without ever visiting the physical workplace or meeting anyone in person?
Yet, that is what is happening right now with many companies, especially those in the tech industry.
What remains the same
Some aspects of a remote job interview are similar to the interview process that you already know and love. 😉
Do your homework. Extensively research the company, its latest news, the Board, the investors, the senior leadership team, your future boss, your potential coworkers, the company’s competitors, and the industry.
Find out who is on your interview team and do some background research on who they are, what they care about, and any additional information you can gather from your network about them. This info enables you to have targeted and intelligent icebreaker conversations with people.
Use the company’s product or service. If it’s a product or service that you can’t reasonably buy or try, search for customers who have experience with it, and find out how they feel about that product.
Prepare for your interview ahead of time. Spend time practicing your public speaking, presentation skills, and how you ask and answer questions. Rehearse your short elevator pitch/introduction so much that you can naturally slide into it when they say, “So, tell me about yourself.”
Record a video of yourself to tune your facial expressions and eliminate bad habits. You want to practice so much that you can improvise during your presentation and Q&A with ease. You can also hire me to help you with interview preparation and practice.
Be fully prepared to explain your work experience and answer the expected questions. It isn’t possible to predict every potential question you will receive during a job interview. But, some questions will be asked almost every time, so I prepared recommendations on how to answer them.
Prepare your own questions to ask. The answers you receive in your early interviews will inform your questions and answers in your later meetings. You learn a great deal about the company, the team, the product/service, and their strategy, which impresses people who interview you afterward.
Get plenty of sleep the night before. It’s better to be well-rested and clear-minded than to stay up late trying to cram more information into your head. You need to be able to think on your feet.
⚠️ Avoid these biggest interview mistakes.
End strongly with a positive attitude that assumes you will be taking the job. Follow up with everyone that evening to thank them for their time, confirm that you are interested in the job, and ask about the timing for the next steps and their decision.
What is different about remote interviews
However, the remote job interview is also different than what you have experienced in the past. This isn’t just an initial phone interview. The entire process is conducted remotely.
Give yourself more time to be prepared for a video conferencing interview. For some reason, an app always wants to push an update when you don’t have the time for it!
So, launch the software or test the website ahead of time to make sure that it’s working smoothly. You want enough time to check your microphone and headphones too.
Speaking of software, ResumeGo surveyed 277 hiring professionals and found that employers use a variety of video platforms:
- Zoom: 43%
- Google Meet/Hangouts: 19%
- Skype: 12%
- Microsoft Teams: 7%
- Cisco WebEx: 5%
- Other: 14%
The natural flow of conversation gets disrupted a little with video conferencing. But, do your best to practice the usual conversational manners. When you’re talking with the interviewers, let them finish their questions. When you ask them questions, let them finish their answers.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to unintentionally interrupt people when talking on the phone or via video chat. Work hard to avoid this.
If you are someone who enjoys using hand gestures when you speak, you may find this more challenging on video. I use my hands a lot when I give talks.
I caught myself doing this the other day in a video chat and noticed that my hands were entirely offscreen. The gestures looked so strange that I forced myself to stop.
Many remote interviews are being conducted using video conferencing now, not just over the phone. Speaking with someone onscreen simply is not the same as in person. You may find that your facial expressions are a little different than they would be in person.
Rehearse your elevator pitch, practice answering questions, and record the rehearsal sessions to review the video. Check that you look confident, your facial expressions are natural, and you sound positive.
For a typical interview, you would prepare the interview materials that you would bring to the office on that day (e.g., presentation, resume). But, for an online meeting, you may be asked to present by screen sharing from your laptop during the video call.
If equipment fails during your remote interview, it’s harder to recover and keep going than an in-person interview. I’ve experienced applications unexpectedly quitting (i.e., there go my notes) and my laptop crashing (i.e., there goes the whole session). Be prepared with printed notes (paper doesn’t crash) and have the interviewer’s phone number handy.
I’ve been working remotely for several years, and I’ve discovered something unexpected about video meetings. They are more fatiguing than audio-only phone calls and even in-person meetings. “Zoom fatigue” is real. If you have a full day (or even a half-day) of video interviews scheduled, be prepared to experience that and prepare accordingly.
ResumeGo also heard about these common issues and mistakes that candidates make during video interviews.
Preparing for your remote interview
The recruiter or hiring manager should provide you with the interview schedule. If you are talking with people longer than an hour or two, make sure they have given you time for some short breaks.
If they haven’t scheduled breaks, ask for them. You will want them. Trust me.
Dress exactly as you would for a job interview in person. Yes, that means that you should wear pants. Don’t be like the ABC reporter who forgot to wear them for his segment on “Good Morning America.”
You should prepare simple printed notes and refer to them if you are interviewed by phone. But, it’s too hard to read notes — or even glance at them — when you’re talking with someone on camera.
Maintain “eye contact” by looking at their video on your screen vs. constantly glancing down or to the side at your notes. They will notice.
Find a quiet place for your video interview. You want to minimize or eliminate outside noise as much as possible.
So, ask your family or roommates to be quiet and put your pets in another room. Barking dogs and sassy cats make more appearances in people’s videos that you might expect.
You should also silence your phone and place it far enough away that buzzing notifications won’t be heard. Turn off notifications and alerts on your computer, too (especially the sound).
While you are seated or standing in front of your webcam or laptop cam, check that the background behind you isn’t cluttered or showing something that isn’t appropriate for work (e.g., a half-empty bottle of tequila). If you can, it’s not a bad idea to have a neutral wall behind you.
However, avoid sitting with a window behind you. The back-lighting can make your face disappear into shadow.
Turn on your webcam and check your onscreen appearance. Make sure the lighting is right in the room. You don’t want it to be too dark, but you also don’t want glaring lights shining into your eyes.
For example, I reflect a desk light or two off a nearby wall when I host my video sessions. Natural light from a window works well during the daytime too, as long as the window is in front of you or to the side (i.e., behind the computer screen and not behind you).
You may need to adjust the angle of your webcam or set your laptop on a few books to get a better shot of your face. The camera lens should be at eye level.
If the camera is too high or too low, it can create strange shadows or a double-chin effect. However, webcams tend to display a more “flattering view” from higher angles than low ones.
Check that your microphone, headphones, earbuds, AirPods, etc. are working well (e.g., connected via Bluetooth, input levels are high enough, output volume is how you want it). Noise-canceling headphones or headsets are ideal since that will help filter out background noises.
I also like to have backup earbuds that I can plug into my laptop if the Bluetooth connection drops for some reason (I’ve experienced that before). I recommend recording a short video segment to test them before you have your interview.
For example, Photo Booth or QuickTime Player (software that comes free with an Apple computer) both let you record a movie using your webcam and microphone. On Windows, you can use the Camera app. You can then play the captured movie to ensure that the video and sound quality are excellent.
Do not use your laptop’s built-in microphone and speakers, or a phone’s speakerphone. The sound quality is terrible, picks up too much ambient noise, and the interviewers will hear the echo in the room.
Funny — sad? — story. I once interviewed someone who was walking down a city street. I do not know what they were thinking! The street noise was ridiculous, and I could barely hear what they were saying.
During your video interview
If your interview is short (e.g., 30 mins), I recommend that you stand for the meeting vs. sitting down, if you can. It’s an old tactic from people who make sales over the phone. Standing up makes your voice sound more resonant.
Standing also increases your confidence. But, for more extended interviews, standing for hours won’t be fun, so take them seated.
Did you know that about 1/3 of interviewers make up their minds about whether or not to hire someone within the first 90 seconds? So, be as friendly and personable as you can in those first few minutes of your video interview.
Smile warmly, make good eye contact, and act as if you are meeting an old friend. This technique works for me every time. I make myself feel like I’m catching up with an old friend or colleague, which helps me not look nervous or impassive on the screen.
Speaking of eye contact, it is hard to do this well with video conferencing. Avoid staring at your own video, which some people do. Focus on looking at the interviewer’s video and into the camera lens.
Adjust the window so that your interviewer’s video is placed at the top of your screen as close as you can get it to your laptop cam or webcam. This will make the eye contact look more natural since you will be looking at their video and almost looking into the lens.
It’s ok to glance at your image occasionally to make sure you’re staying in the frame, and lighting is still ok. But, seeing yourself on the screen can be distracting.
It’s ok to break eye contact when thinking about how to answer a question. You don’t have to stare into the camera lens 100% of the time!
Continue to be emotionally engaging during the interview. It is more challenging to feel the same level of emotional engagement during a video chat, so you may have to work a little harder to avoid sitting there with a passive, expressionless face (or is that just me?).
Smile, laugh, and show interest when the interviewer is talking. But, avoid grand hand gestures and arm movements. They don’t tend to work as well in video chats.
You may need to focus on speaking a little more slowly and clearly than usual. Things can get out of synch in a video chat session (e.g., with a shaky internet connection).
Also, some of the subtle nonverbal cues are lost (e.g., micro facial expressions and body movements like small shrugs). What might be apparent in person can come across as confusing online.
Job interviews are always a bit stressful. Ok, sometimes they can be very stressful. But, video interviews add another level of complexity to the whole experience.
Much of your preparation will be the same for any type of job interview. But, interviewing via Zoom, Skype, etc. does require more setup and practice. Make sure you give yourself enough time to be ready!
It does get easier, though. The more you practice, the more polished you will look and sound on camera.
Good luck with your next remote job interview!
💻 Would you like to feel more confident and prepared for an upcoming job interview? I can help you practice telling your professional story, selling yourself effectively, and answering challenging questions using video chat sessions. Check out my 1-on-1 coaching.
Larry Cornett is a Leadership Coach and Career Advisor. He lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, a Great Dane, a rabbit, and a needy cat. He shares advice that helps you become an opportunity magnet for the best things in life! You can also find him on Twitter and Instagram @cornett.