In-person interview vs. online interview
Job interviews via Skype or Zoom are becoming increasingly popular in companies. But before their first online interview, many applicants are unsure what to look out for and what is important for recruiters during a video interview.
That is why we’ve put together ten tips for acing your next or first online job interview!
What is an online job interview?
Video job interview or online interview: different names, but they mean the same thing. The interview as part of the hiring process does not take place at the company (= in-person interview), but is conducted via video call or video conferencing over the Internet.
Types of online interviews
There are different kinds of virtual interviews:
Companies use various software to conduct video interviews with job seekers. However, the most common services for many interviews are Zoom interview, Skype or Microsoft Teams – which are also common for remote work. Most of the time, the applicant does not need to install the video program on their computer or smart phone to participate in the interview, but receives an individual link.
Time-shifted video interview
In addition to live video interviews or a video call, recruiters also use time-shifted interviews or a video recording to pre-select applicants. Here, you can expect application questions in text form, which you answer for the company on video platforms. Time-shifted means that the interviewer is not online at the same time and you only speak into a camera. Such interviews usually last no longer than twenty minutes. You will also need a laptop or computer, an Internet connection and a microphone.
How do virtual interviews differ from in-person interviews?
An online interview is no different from a traditional in-person job interview: After the greeting and introduction to the interview, the recruiter asks you the typical application questions, then you can ask your questions to the company, and finally you say goodbye.
Online interview process
It’s not every day that you have a video interview. Wondering how the interview will go and what to watch out for during the interview? We have some valuable tips for your video interview:
How long does a video interview take?
How long a video interview lasts depends on the company’s goals. If the recruiter only has 20 minutes for the interview, they will likely only ask a few questions about your resume, for example, because they came across a gap. If, on the other hand, the interview is scheduled for 60 or 90 minutes, be prepared for a comprehensive and intensive conversation. Be prepared for questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your motivation, your ability to work in a team, your personality, possible leadership experience and your plans for the future.
Tip: Be sure to plan a cushion of half an hour before and after the appointment in which you can be undisturbed. This will allow you to prepare for the interview in peace and avoid having someone barge in on the video interview should it take longer than planned.
Who calls whom?
Who actually gives the starting signal for the online interview? Usually, the recruiter starts the video chat and also opens the interview with some introductory words. If this is not clear from the invitation, clarify this in advance by phone or email.
Be sure to let your interviewer finish and do not interrupt him or her. At the beginning, adjust to the tone of voice and manner of speaking of your conversation partner.
Tip: Dial into the video call five to ten minutes before the conversation. Even in the digital world, being late for an interview is a no-go.
What do you talk about?
At the beginning, the recruiter introduces themselves and explains the process and the goal of the video interview. After that, it’s usually your turn to introduce yourself and the most important stages of your resume. The questions you will be asked in an online interview are the same as in a regular interview. It is a mixture of questions about your professional qualifications, your motivation and questions about your personality.
How do I prepare for online job interviews?
- Internet: Make sure you have a fast Internet connection and use the most reliable technology to avoid technical difficulties.
- Take notes: Note down your talking points.
- Dress professionally: Wear nice pants, even if they are not visible on the computer screen.
- Interview time: Pay attention to the time zone because if you miss it, you could be hours late!
- Professional backdrop: Virtual backgrounds make up a big part of the overall impression in the interview. That’s why you should choose a neutral background.
- Test run: You can practice with someone you know to get used to the virtual setting. Practice eye contact in a video environment as well.
What are common interview questions in an online interview?
- Why did you apply for this position?
- What do you know about our company?
- What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
- What has been your greatest professional success to date?
- What professional challenge have you had before, and how did you overcome it?
- How do you respond to stress?
- Why did you resign from your last company, or do you plan to resign from your current company?
- Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
What are frequent mistakes in many job interviews?
Make sure to avoid the following mistakes:
Wrong body language
For a professional appearance in the digital interview, you should pay attention to your body language and posture. A slouched back, slumped shoulders, a lowered gaze, or nervously waving your hands around signals a lack of confidence to your interviewer.
Instead, sit up straight and tall, place your hands calmly on the table in front of you, and emphasize what you are saying with appropriate gestures if necessary.
Sometimes points come up in conversation that are not entirely clear to you or that you would like to elaborate on? Be sure to take notes on these points, as this will help you to remember them. You should also write down the most important key points and data about the job and the company so that you have them ready for another interview. Use pen and paper to avoid annoying typing noises on the computer.
When are online interviews possible? – Advantages of virtual interviews
Why do companies even bother not only to advertise jobs online, but also to talk to their applicants online instead of inviting them to the on-site premises? Because in times of an increasing shortage of skilled workers, companies are expanding their search for potential new employees and are no longer recruiting just locally, but nationwide and even internationally.
Through online conversations, the best professionals are found, regardless of where they live. In addition to the wider recruiting radius, the time factor also plays a big role in companies’ decision to use online job interviews. Online interviews can measurably speed up the selection process and save both sides time and also money, as travel and possible accommodation costs are eliminated.
Consequently, the advantage of an online interview for yourself is that you save time and money on traveling, as you can conduct the interview in your familiar surroundings. Moreover, you can also apply to companies that are a little further away from your home if you are thinking of changing jobs.
10 tips and suggestions for a successful online interview
To make your online interview a success, here are our most important tips:
Tip 1: Good preparation of content is the key
Your application went well, and you were invited to a video interview? Congratulations! But don’t take the preparation for it lightly. Whether you have an in-person interview at the company, a live video interview, or a time-shifted interview, good preparation is essential. In addition, there are some technical pitfalls with the virtual option. Research information about the company, industry and their market position in advance. Also find out how your position is integrated into the company. You should be able to convincingly explain to the recruiter why you are the perfect employee for the desired position.
Tip 2: Prepare for common questions
There are questions that come up in every interview. Go through the common interview questions in advance and think of appropriate answers. You can also recite them out loud. This way, you will memorize the phrases and make a confident impression in the interview. However, beware of excessive memorization. Hiring managers don’t like that at all. It is important that you remain true to yourself and be authentic.
But you should also prepare questions for your interviewer. After all, you want to know whether the company really suits you. However, they should not be general questions for which you can find the answers yourself with a little research on the Internet. Otherwise you will come across as naive and not very professional. On the other hand, questions about current projects and challenges in the new job are permitted. This shows that you are particularly interested in the advertised position. Of course, you can also ask questions about the team.
Tip 3: Familiarize yourself with the software
Companies use video chat programs to connect with applicants online. Are you already familiar with Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams? If you’re not yet familiar with these programs, catch up before the interview. What features are relevant, how do the settings work?
If necessary, download the app and install it onto your computer or smart phone. In most cases, recruiters will simply send you a customized link that can be opened in the browser or appropriate apps without you having to launch the application on your laptop. Test the picture and sound of the tool you use in advance.
Already using Skype or another video chat service privately? Great! But: It’s not good for your future career if you use a particularly creative username instead of your first and last name, and your profile picture is a fun one. It’s better to create a separate account just for video interviews. This way, no friend can disturb you during the call.
Tip 4: Do a hardware check
Your webcam should transmit a sharp and high-contrast image of you. A pixelated image could leave an unprofessional impression on your counterpart. Even more important is a headset with a decent microphone. If you have multiple devices, choose the ones you are most comfortable with. If the image and acoustics are right, this creates a pleasant atmosphere for all participants and does not distract from the content of the conversation.
Be sure to check the following points just before the video chat:
- Is the PC connected to the power source or is the laptop fully charged?
- Is the camera working and transmitting your image? Are you also receiving the image of the other person?
- Is the headset turned on and is the sound OK? Can you hear your conversation partner and can they hear you – neither too loud nor too quiet?
- Is the Internet running smoothly and stably so that there are no interruptions during the conversation?
- Are all other applications on your laptop closed?
- Are you in a quiet room?
Important: Before the appointment, ask for the phone number and email address of the hiring manager in case technical problems occur during the call.
Tip 5: Make sure you have adequate lighting
Choose lighting that comes from the front (natural light is best) so your face doesn’t create shadows if you wear glasses, for example, to make a good impression. Avoid the following lighting mistakes:
- Bright sunlight: If the sun is shining into the room where you are conducting the video interview, this can result in strong contrasts that are difficult for the webcam to display on the computer screen. Reduce this effect by lowering the blinds or drawing the curtains.
- Backlighting: In this lighting, you are barely visible to your interviewer.
Tip 6: Dress for success
The prospect of conducting a video interview from the comfort of your own home in your sweatpants may sound tempting, but it doesn’t show seriousness. If you’re not just proverbially prepared from head to toe for the online video interview, it will help you build the necessary tension even in familiar surroundings. Rumor has it that there were applicants who wore only underwear instead of pants and had to stand up during the online interview. Save yourself and your interviewers from such embarrassment by dressing appropriately.
If you are unsure of a company’s dress code, take a look at their careers page. This will give you a feel for what outfit fits the company. If the atmosphere is more casual, for example at a start-up company, and you are applying as an online marketing manager, you are on the safe side with business casual. If, on the other hand, you are applying for a job in the finance department of a corporation, a suit or costume may be appropriate, but for a media company this would be completely over the top.
Important: Do not wear plaids or dots on your shirt. These make for an unpleasant flicker on the screen.
Tip 7: Think about the right background
Interview location and virtual backgrounds: Pay attention to what else is being captured by your camera in the background besides you: The poster of your favorite band? A basket full of dirty laundry? An unmade bed? Those are all backgrounds that you probably won’t make a very good impression with. Remember that you can score points with recruiters not only with your personal appearance, but also with your home.
Also, avoid elaborate decorations and choose a neutral background for the virtual environment instead. Don’t try to make a forced impression by making an impressive reference book or other decoration the center of attention. After all, if you’re approached about it and can’t say anything meaningful about it, you’ve already put your foot in your mouth.
Tip 8: Prepare your personal “cheat” sheet
Even if you have your education and career history memorized, you should print out the complete application materials and take notes. The beauty of the virtual interview is that cheat sheets are allowed. No one sees what you tape on the screen or put on the desk in front of you out of camera range. But you shouldn’t look at your notes too often.
Tip 9: Find out about your interview partners
Find out about your interview partners and their job titles in advance on LinkedIn or other career sites. This will give you a concrete picture of them and help you think of possible points of contact for the upcoming interview. Write down the names and functions on a piece of paper and place it clearly visible in front of you on your desk. Don’t forget the names of your conversation partners in the heat of the moment. After the conversation, you can also invite them to your network and send them a message thanking them for the conversation.
Tip 10: Practice, practice, practice
Whether you consider yourself a tech geek or a video chat with your potential employer is completely new territory for you, practice the interview as a role play online with a good friend or family member. This is the only way to lose your nervousness and gain the confidence you need over time. Practice makes perfect.
Record the role play if you have the chance. You can do this easily on Zoom by clicking the “Record” button. That way, you can watch the entire video again after the exercise and identify any problems: How did you respond to the questions? How does your voice sound? How did your facial expressions change during the conversation? Also, if you notice, for example, that you look better with the right side of your face than the other, position the camera to show off your best side during the interview.
After the online interview
After the interview is before the next one – or your backup plan. That’s why you should follow up and evaluate the conversation. Feel free to send the hiring managers an email thanking them for their time – regardless of how the call went and whether or not they have good news. If applicable, answer any unanswered questions that came up or send the company any requested information.
Also, ask yourself the following questions:
- What went well?
- What would I like to do better next time?
Take what you learned from the answers to these questions into consideration for the next interview. This will help you shine at another interview at a different company.
Tips from a career coach:
– Make sure all your technical equipment is in working order.
– Read the job description carefully and be prepared to answer questions.
– Always listen carefully.
– Maintaining eye contact with the interviewer’s face is very important.
– Communicate confidently, but speak slowly.
– Pay attention to your body language and nonverbal cues.
When attending an online interview, it’s important to dress as if you were standing right in front of your potential employer. It’s usually better to be a little overdressed than to be embarrassed later because you’re not dressed smartly enough.
Preparing for a video interview is similar to preparing for a personal interview at the company. You find out about the company, the position to be filled, the industry and your interview partners. In addition, you also have to master some technical challenges during the online interview, such as the right lighting, a good image quality of your camera or a stable Internet connection. Another tip: Eye contact is very important throughout the conversation.