How to succeed in an online job interview

Published on: 7 Mar 2022

When job interviews were still held face to face, candidates had plenty to worry about. Many of us have had to navigate delayed trains, hard-to-find office addresses and untimely coffee spills. 

Candidates for public finance professional positions no longer have to worry about these pitfalls, but in a post-Covid world, video interviews are throwing up new challenges, from time lags when speaking online to losing an internet connection and assorted technical glitches. Here are our top tips for a successful video interview. 

How to succeed in an online job interview

Dress the part

Just because you’re not physically in the office doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress like it. Wear the smart attire you would normally – dress like a finance professional. And select your outfit the day beforehand, so that you are not panicking to find things on the day as the clock ticks down. 

Research, research, research

Don’t forget to research the organisation that has invited you for an interview. With Google at our fingertips there’s really no excuse not to these days. This includes:

  • What the department or organisation does and its culture
  • Who is interviewing you
  • Any latest positive news about the organisation 
  • What their most recent projects?
  • Why your skills match the job description
  • Make notes from the above points for reference.

Finding your spot

Find an appropriate location in your property for the interview where there will be no distractions from pets, children or flatmates. Ensure that the room is brightly lit and if you have an attractive painting in the background or a bookcase that would be an ideal place to sit. 

Take care of what you are presenting to the interviewer: think about the first impression you are making. An untidy or cluttered background may give the interviewer the idea you are a disorganised worker, not suitable as a public finance professional. Alternatively, Google and Zoom allow users to pick a background during a meeting – pick a neutral one which most appeals to you. 

Tackling technology 

Be on top of your tech. Test your webcam to see if the image quality is grainy. If so, move to a better lit space and increase the quality of your feed. If it still looks poor, a new webcam could be an investment for future interviews and work-related video calls: they can be bought for as little as £15.

Test your audio and the link the interviewer has sent to see if they are working properly. You don’t want to find there’s a problem one minute before the interview. Ensure the volume is turned up on your computer. This avoids panicking when you realise the interviewer can’t hear you.

All your Zoom, Google or Microsoft accounts should be appropriate, with professional profile pictures and usernames. They should clearly display your full name and shouldn’t contain anything inappropriate that might hinder your chances of landing the job. Don’t find out that your avatar is a humorous emoji when it flashes up during a job interview.

Making the most of it

Put your phone on silent mode, or turn off all notifications. Keep a glass of water nearby so you don’t have to get up during the interview. And research shows we speak louder when talking across video platforms and concentrate harder so you’ll need refreshment. 

You could also consider using the video interview to its best advantage by using it to conduct a short presentation of any relevant supporting material – some of your portfolio for example.

Time lags can be another frustration -- especially if there is more than one interviewer and the conversation overlaps. Just be patient and wait until the interviewers have stopped talking before giving your answer. 

Thrown by the bell

If you are expecting an important delivery during the interview, mention this to whoever you are living with, or warn the interviewer at the start so they are aware of the situation. Or try and reschedule the delivery!

A common mistake candidates make is not having questions ready when the interviewer invites queries. Here, you could ask if the role offers scope for progression, what he or she enjoys about working at the company, and where they see the company in five years’ time.

I’ve lost my connection!

If you encounter a loss of video during the interview don’t panic – temporarily switch to an audio call while trying to resolve the problem. Your interviewer is likely to understand that technical difficulties occur but how you handle it will be crucial in making a good impression. 

Don’t forget the follow-up

Video interviews can be even more stressful than live ones because of the technical hurdles. So after the interview make yourself a cup of tea and take notes on aspects you could improve on in future, or follow-up questions. The next day you can send these in a short ‘thank you’ email to your interviewer. Even if you are unsuccessful, these notes will help you reach your goal next time.