Practical tips and tricks for online applications

| Specials U-Today

Online job interviews have been studied for years, but now of course, they get an extra attention. Tanya Bondarouk, Professor Human Resource Management at the University of Twente, provides you with some practical tips and tricks for job applications.

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

Preparation for the online job interview becomes crucially important, maybe it will take even more effort than a “normal” interview, says Bondarouk. ‘If you are ill prepared, you are definitely in a disadvantaged position. Remember that it is an “inter-view”, in other words: an invitation for an inter-views exchange. Just because it is a video-enabled conversation, it doesn’t mean it can go easy on appearance.’

Whatever trends for work clothes and appearances are, it is very wise to carefully choose of attire for a video-based job interview. Some recruiters say, “It might seem strange to wear your shoes during a video interview, but it has an important psychological effect on you.” Also, solid colors will help, as stripes and complex patterns can look awful on video. The main differences in an online job interview are as follow:

All eyes on you: Candidates need to prepare the environment. Eliminate Distractions. Close the door and windows in your room. Shut off the TV and music somewhere further down the hall. Silence your cell phone and all pop-ups.

Find a neutral background: Professionals recommend more than any other tip, to pay careful attention to the background. A bedroom with a sloppy bed, a home office full of clutter, a kitchen table with steaming pans… all of these connote information about you to the committee members/ interviewers, none of it good. It’s not only unprofessional, but it also distracts the interviewer, who’ll be busy analyzing your dirty laundry instead of listening to what you have to say.

Choose a small chair: Slouching on a couch or in a big armchair will make you look less polished. And take care that this chair doesn't creak when you move.

Take care of light: Getting perfect lighting for video can be very difficult in a home environment, but ideally: use natural light where possible; get plenty of light overall so it doesn’t look like you’re cowering in the dark; position two lights, if possible, at a diagonal in front of you, one a bit to your right, and one a bit to your left. Table lamps work fine; but avoid fluorescent bulbs or other “cool” light sources.

Prioritize the camera, not the screen: This tip may sound counterintuitive, but it’s most important that the interviewer see you clearly, not the other way around. That means prioritizing the device with the best camera in your possession, not the best display.

And finally - keep your eyes forward: This takes some practice and feels unnatural, but during your interview you should look at the camera as much as possible, not the picture of the other person on the screen. Looking at the camera is as close as you can get to making eye contact with the interviewer, while looking at the screen will appear to the other side like you’re staring off into space. The good news is that, on a small phone screen, this effect is minimized.

Consider to wear some earbuds: It’s great that the interviewer can see you clearly, but if she can’t hear you, you’re sunk.

Make extra notes: Remember that the interviewer can’t see what’s not on camera, so use your interview space. Stick a Post-It Note cheat sheet with notes, questions, or needed inspiration directly to the screen or to the wall behind your camera.

And, as for the face to face interview: job seekers need to be ready to answer trivial questions. (SEE NEXT PAGE)

Preparation in advance

Ask in advance all the details about the format. What format will they be using? How long will the interview be? What online service are they using? How many people will be there interviewing you? Don't expect the interviewer to share much, so ask and call back a second time if you need clarification.

Use your desktop or laptop but not your phone. Phone connections can more easily drop the call and not have good reception when you want it most. You will not look good holding your cellphone, which will shake or move around as you hold it and be annoying to the viewer. Your desktop computer (first choice) and laptop are the better options. 

Don't start by apologizing for your being unfamiliar with online technology. That is not what the employer wants to hear. It'll make you come across as technically incompetent. Go to YouTube and watch some how-to videos. Practice several times using this technology, so

Do you have any questions? It is critical to have a couple of insightful questions ready to ask. Usually this comes at the end of the interview. It makes a weak impression if a candidate does not have questions, or asks only about next steps in the procedure.


Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.