Remote job interview: five tips for those who want to put their best foot forward

2021 02 26 · 3 min read

We will live in quarantine for another month. During the pandemic, almost 90% of companies conducted job interviews remotely, says a report by the US consulting company Gartner. Although technology-assisted communication has become a widely accepted tool in the labour market over the last year, recruiters note that the excitement of job interviews and ignorance of the basic rules can trip up in getting the desired job.

“Even in the IT sector, where people and technologies seem to ‘get along well’, there are many curious situations where candidates get lost out of ignorance, excitement or insufficient preparation,” says Renata Tilmantaitė, Talent Acquisition Lead at Baltic Amadeus. According to the specialist, when preparing for a remote job interview, it is important to know the basic rules and think in advance about the specifics of such an interview. Tilmantaitė shares practical advice that will be useful for those who want to put their best foot forward during a remote job interview.

Tilmantaitė is glad that specialists conducting remote surveys have freedom to choose from several widespread interview programmes. “It does not make much difference to us, which programme to use, but we always ask candidates what their preferences are. By giving a person the opportunity to tell, which app is more convenient for him to use, we try to forestall a situation where the interview becomes stuck due to technological hitches,” says the expert. However, it often happens that the candidate tries to connect just a few minutes before the interview and realises that a particular programme is not installed on his computer or is incompatible with the others settings. According to Tilmantaitė, this is a quite common situation in the IT sector, where people have powerful, well-protected computers with many specific settings but forget to install such widely used applications as ZOOM or Microsoft Teams. Tip: At least an hour before the interview, check that the application you selected for the interview is installed on your computer and is running.

Make sure that it is you who is head but not your keyboard

According to Tilmantaitė, the most important thing during a remote job interview is to see and hear the candidate. Although this requirement seems to be simple, the specialist remembers a number of cases where the interview started with the correction of technical hitches. “For the interview to proceed smoothly, we need to hear the candidate clearly. Any extraneous noise can become a serious obstacle not only to understanding the candidate, but also to the desire to talk to him. Imagine if you had to listen to an echo of your own voice or a cracking sound for a whole hour. It is distracting and annoying,” says the recruitment specialist. The solution is to take part in the interview with a headset that will reduce the effects of extraneous sounds and to make sure that the microphone is working: “It is not necessary to immediately invest in expensive headphones or a new microphone as many new computers have a fairly high-quality configuration. However, it is always worth checking that the microphone is not muted by pads and that no extraneous sounds are caused by other active programmes.” In particular, using the keyboard and mouse during the interview should be avoided – according to the expert, their sound is very easy to hear. If something needs to be noted during the interview, the expert recommends using paper and a pen, and using a stress ball to manage uncontrollable excitement.

Be visible and look at the camera

Unless otherwise agreed in advance, the candidate must be present at the interview with his camera turned on: “There should be no black screen or photo of the candidate during the interview. In a remote job interview, like in a live one, it is very important to make eye contact, even if it is only virtual. It is important not only to turn on the camera, but also to look at it during the whole interview,” Tilmantaitė reminds. If the interview takes longer, candidates forget, lose focus, start looking about, or even worse, start surfing the Internet. “Although tiredness is understandable, looking out the window during a job interview should be avoided; otherwise, it is the candidate’s profile, but not the face, that is present at the interview. It is very easy to see if the candidate decides to browse the Internet – the constantly changing lighting on the candidate’s face indicates that he is opening additional windows. In this way, you are sending a signal that the interview is not interesting. This can also raise doubts about the candidate’s desire to get a job,” the expert warns.

Avoid an interview with the chin or nape

Although we also feel good at the table, in a chair and even in bed when working remotely, it is a sitting position and a stable computer that are most suitable for a remote job interview. Tilmantaitė remembers cases when interviewees placed their computers in their laps, so when they changed their position, the image also moved, or they chose a beach chair position, while forgetting to set the right angle of the camera: “Although we are used to working with a computer in our laps, we recommend placing it on a solid surface, such as a table, chair or even the floor. There are cases when the computer screen starts to bend while the candidate is lying in bed, and it is his chin or nape but not him who continues to participate in the interview. A stable surface helps to set the most appropriate angle of the camera and avoid the moving image effect,” advises the expert.

Do not repeat “I’m not a cat” situations

Tilmantaitė reminds that using bright, moving virtual backgrounds, photos with other people, funny situations or animals should be avoided during a job interview. “I highly recommend not to use any virtual filters – they can make a joke and turn you into a cute cat rather than an experienced professional. Is it funny? Yes, it is. But there is little benefit from this for a job interview,” Tilmantaitė comments on the fun situation with the lawyer who turned into a cat. However, we may face surprises even after consistently checking all the technical settings and ensuring good audio and video quality. “Most of the candidates take part in the interviews from home, where their spouses or partners, children and pets are also present. Very often, they enter the interview unscheduled – and this is perfectly understandable to recruitment experts. It is life, and you do not have to worry too much about it. Everything happens. Even if something unexpected happens – laugh! This will show that you have a sense of humour and can respond promptly to surprises,” advises the recruitment expert.