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8 Do’s and Don’ts to Rock Your Online Interview

By Kylie Ora Lobell
Updated on March 18, 2021
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“Wow” the boss — virtually.

With the spread of the coronavirus, many offices have shut their doors and moved operations online. Meetings have become conference calls. Cubicle conversations have become Slack messages. Hiring, too, has shifted to the digital realm because job applicants no longer get a street address for their interview.

They get a Zoom link.

When preparing for an online interview, job hunters don’t need to worry about their handshake, or even if they brush their teeth. Instead, there are other considerations: whether they have a strong internet connection, and what corner of the room makes the best backdrop.

The rules have changed, even if many of the old ones still apply. Here are eight do’s and don’ts to rock your interview and bump your resume to the top of the pile.

1. DO: Choose a quiet place

You may have roommates or a loud pet. Maybe you live on a very noisy street or there’s some construction going on down the block.

As much as you can control it, make sure the environment around you is as quiet as possible, said Rajandeep Kaur, business development director at TeacherOn.

“Instead of taking online meetings in your living room, choose a place where you can have more silence and no distractions,” she said.

This could mean asking anyone in your house to be quiet when you’re on your call, putting your pet safely in another room and asking to do the interview at a time when it won’t be so raucous outside.

2. DO: Work out tech issues

If you click the link for your online interview as soon as it’s scheduled to start, you may find that you need to download the software before you begin. You’ll be late and it won’t reflect well on you. And what if that software isn’t compatible with your computer? What if you have other problems getting it started?

Instead, work out everything — including downloading the software — beforehand.

“Have backup options for laptop mics, speakers and internet sources,” said Allyson Letteri, VP of marketing at Handshake. “This can reduce the potential for lags in video or audio from a bad connection, and ensure that the first minutes of the interview aren’t spent navigating an audio connection.”

3. DO: Go for a test run

Experts have long recommended staging a mock interview to prepare for the real one. This helps you work out any kinks you may encounter, which can calm your nerves. It also gives you a chance to practice your answers.

The same is true for remote interviews. Enlist a loved one to stage a mock interview on the software you’ll use. Teleconferencing is a different experience than an in-person conversation. Make sure you’re comfortable with it. And be sure to address any technical issues you encounter.

“This is especially so if you have not used the program that the interviewer will be using,” said Bernice Quek, marketing specialist at Traffic Bees. “Try it with a friend or family member and familiarize yourself with the settings (video access, microphone access, etc.).”

4. DO: Dress professionally

While your PJs are perfectly fine for everyday wear in quarantine, you still need to look professional for your interview. Appearances are a big part of first impressions.

“I personally prefer to see people professionally dressed,” said James Pollard of TheAdvisorCoach.com. “It’s a show of respect. Besides, if someone can’t be bothered to dress up for an interview (because it still is a “for real” interview) then I get concerned that maybe they can’t be bothered to do a good job.”

If you don’t know what to wear, search the company’s website for pictures of their staff. This will give you an idea of the dress code around the office. If you still don’t know, it’s usually better to dress too formally than not formally enough.

5. DON’T: Rely on notes

Since online interviews aren’t in person, you can keep helpful notes in front of you. As long as your computer camera faces you and not your desk, they won’t be seen.

So print out your resume, cover letter, and any talking points you prepared. Arrange them so you can easily view all the information you might need.

However, be sure to prepare so you can speak comfortably without them — don’t use them as a crutch.

“Even though a hiring manager may not be able to tell who or what you’re looking at, they can tell when you’re reading off of your screen,” said Prepory CEO Daniel Santos. “If you plan to write notes for yourself, make sure they are minimal and large enough for you to read. If a candidate has glasses, they may want to check that employers can’t see their computer screen through their glasses.”

6. DON’T: Get distracted

When you’re teleconferencing with friends, you might check your phone or search the internet during the conversation. In an interview, that doesn’t fly.

“Never start doing things like looking at your phone or reading news articles off-screen,” said Mark Webster, co-founder of Authority Hacker. “It’s incredibly obvious when your eyes start flicking off-screen to look at your phone under the desk or you’ve opened a new tab to check Facebook while we explain things about the job. You would never do this in a real interview, so don’t think you can get away with it just because we can’t see you.”

7. DON’T: Put the screen too close

With in-person interviews, social norms about physical distance are easy to navigate. You know not to stand too close to someone, or too far away.

Online conversations are different. You have less experience, and it can be harder to get it right. But it’s important that you do.

“You only have seven seconds to make a strong first impression,” Quek said. “Ensure that the screen is of an appropriate distance and height from yourself.”

Again, doing a test run with a family member or friend should help you solve this issue.

8. DON’T: Give in to panic

A lot can go wrong with online interviews — technology is fickle. But don’t let yourself panic or get flustered. This creates a bad impression.

Instead, prepare a backup plan in case things don’t go as expected.

“Can you hotspot your phone’s data if the WiFi goes down?” said Webster. “Do you have the employer’s phone number if you can’t make contact online? What can you do to get things up and running if the worst happens? We won’t penalize you due to a faulty connection. We know that’s beyond your control. However, the way you react in such a situation is very telling to us.”

Bottom line

Online interviews can be intimidating. The rules are different — and many have yet to be written. Be sure to prepare to put yourself at the head of the pack. Many companies are doing their best to find great talent, so show them what you have — virtually.

Article contributors
Rajandeep Kaur

Rajandeep Kaur is a business development consultant at TeacherOn, a website that matches teachers with students.

Allyson Letteri

Allyson Letteri is the VP of Marketing at Handshake, the leading career community for students. She began her career at the Boston Consulting Group in San Francisco and also worked at Intuit. Allyson holds a BS in Business Administration and BA in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as an MBA from Stanford University.

James Pollard

James Pollard is the founder of The Advisor Coach, a marketing consultancy serving financial advisors across the globe. He is also the host of the “Financial Advisor Marketing” podcast, which airs new episodes every Monday.

Bernice Quek

Bernice Quek is a marketing specialist at Traffic Bees. Her expertise lies in mentoring and managing a team of like-minded individuals. She aims to adopt positive communication strategies to achieve seamless collaboration across all departments. In addition, she has a good eye for hiring competent talents to propel business growth.

Daniel E. Santos

Daniel E. Santos is the CEO of Prepory, a career counseling company. Daniel led Prepory in becoming the first and only career counseling company in the U.S. to empower its clients with an ISA to finance their career coaching service. Through Prepory, individuals at any stage in their career can effectively navigate their job search while keeping their career advisor accountable and incentives aligned.

Mark Webster

Mark Webster is cofounder of Authority Hacker, an industry-leading online marketing education company. Through their video training courses, blog, and weekly podcast, they educate beginner and expert marketers alike. Many of their over 6,000 students have taken their existing businesses to the forefront of their industries, or had multi-million dollar exits.

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