How to shine in your next remote interview

The shift in work-life balance enabled by working from home has been one of the few positive changes to have come out of the pandemic. It doesn’t work for everyone, but 85% of current home-workers say they would like to carry on with some mix of office-based and remote working.

Companies see the appeal too, with 24% telling the Office for National Statistics that they plan to increase the amount of remote working in future.

Since remote working means you could be based far from the company’s offices, there’s an increasing chance that your next job interview might be over Zoom or Skype too.

It can be tricky and stressful enough to project the confident, capable image you want inside the interview room – so how do you manage it in a video-chat window on a prospective employer’s screen? We checked out the views of experts to bring you some tips.

Set the stage 

In an ordinary job interview, you just need to worry about looking smart. But on a video call, you want your whole environment to project a professional image. Well before the interview starts, fire up your computer’s camera and check out what your interviewers will see in the background.

Clear away any distractions. “Try to avoid having any ‘non-office’ like items in the camera view – keep it simple. A pen, a notebook and a glass of water,” says Rebecca O’Keeffe at jobs website Jobbio. Make sure you dress the part too – exactly the way you would for an important in-person interview.

Check your tech

Technical failings can create a really bad impression – after all, your future employers want to know that communication with you will be reliable. “Technical savvy is one of the top 10 traits employers are looking for,”says Lauren Landry at Harvard Business School Online.

Make sure your video-chat software, internet connection, camera and microphone are all working as soon as the interview is scheduled just in case you need to order any new equipment. Test it all again on the day of the interview.

Make eye contact

Nailing a job interview is about making a connection as much as giving the right answers: you want the employer to feel you’d be a great person to work with. That’s much harder through a computer screen but getting eye contact right can go a long way.

That means avoiding looking at your interviewer – or yourself – on screen as you talk. Instead, move your eyes up to look directly at the webcam as you make your points. You’ll look more confident and direct.

It also means you’re less likely to get distracted by monitoring your own performance on screen. “Staring at a face — especially your own — will make you lose your train of thought,” says Art Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Print out your CV and notes

Preparation is an all-important when it comes to making a good impression an interview. With your laptop in front of you, it might be tempting to have your notes up on screen to read when you need to dig out a key fact or example. But former Apprentice star and entrepreneur Bianca Miller Cole suggests that scrolling through text on screen as you stare through the webcam can create a bad impression.

“It may look like you are distracted flicking between different screens throughout the interview,” she writes in Forbes magazine. Instead, she suggests keeping your notes and CV on paper and letting the interviewer know you may be briefly referring to them. Glancing down at printed material will look more natural as you talk.

Make it a conversation

Research into remote interviews suggests the best candidates engage the interviewer’s interest by asking relevant questions as well as delivering on-point answers. Professor Ben Laker at Henley Business School, along with fellow researchers, says 89% of successful candidates made their interview into a “natural, candid” conversation.

“How? They showed genuine interest in their interviewer by asking questions,” he writes. He suggests asking about how the team communicates, the collaboration tools it uses and whether there are remote events to meet colleagues. Google the company and interviewer to find common interests and ask about them to fill any lulls in the conversation, he suggests.