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How to Prepare for a Remote Interview

Posted August 17, 2021 By Convene

Remote interviews have become the norm as more companies adopt hybrid or entirely remote workforces. While many of the expectations of a job interview may remain the same, there are new nuances candidates need to consider in an effort to make an impactful (virtual) first impression. With this in mind, becoming a master of your on-screen presence may be the first-step towards landing your dream job.

From hosting hundreds of virtual events and working with even more virtual presenters, we have seen which details help leave a lasting impression on an audience. Using this experience, as well as the insight from our Recruiting and People & Culture team, we’ve highlighted some of our insider tips on setting up the perfect virtual interview, as well as additional ways you can make yourself truly stand out on screen.

Before The Interview

Schedule the interview. The first step of the interview process is to schedule the time and date it will take place. Always provide several options to show that you are flexible, and pay attention to the time zone differences to be considerate of your interviewer’s time.

Prepare your space. Are there any potential distractions, such as an open window, that can take away from the interviewer’s focus? If there are objects in the background that show off your personality, make sure that they strike a balance between conversational and neutral. The fewer distractions there are, the better. Also, remember to silence your phone and desktop notifications, seat yourself in a quiet area, and arrange for pets or children to be supervised during the interview. Treat this as if you were really going into an in-person interview – dress the part, check the lighting, and be prepared.

If using a filter, go neutral. If you’re planning on using a filter or background, make sure to pick one that is not too distracting. It also may be worth noting to your interviewer why you are choosing to use a background – such as living in a limited space without a separate office.

Block out your calendar. In addition to the calendar invite you’ll receive from your potential employer, create another event in both your virtual and physical calendars (if you have one) and invite your roommates or whoever else you think may need to know that you’ll be unavailable. This will ensure that everyone knows you cannot be reached and you can focus solely on your interview.

Try a test run. Testing your equipment and internet connection with a friend will help identify audio, video, or connection issues beforehand. Going through an actual practice interview with that same friend may also prepare you for your virtual meeting, as you can get used to speaking to the camera and see how your movements look on screen. Record yourself, take notes, and keep practicing.

Have a backup phone number handy. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a poor connection and staring at a frozen face before losing connection. If you do happen to run into issues, have a backup phone number ready, so you can continue your conversation over the phone.

During The Interview

Stay focused. Remember that no matter how prepared you are, the interviewer may be on a tight schedule, may be distracted by their own remote environment, or be sharing your attention with other time-sensitive projects. Stay focused on your interview, slow down to think through answers and avoid speaking too quickly. Use body language to emphasize your points and maintain eye contact. We also recommend that you avoid touching your face or hair to limit distractions. Be sure to speak clearly and assertively.

Use notes as a reference. If you want to reference your CV or have notes prepared for the interview, make sure that they are already pulled up on the screen so that you are not toggling tabs during the interview. Another option is to simply have your notes printed and ready. Remember that your interview should be conversational and that you should be personable by sharing anecdotal experiences. Only refer to notes when absolutely necessary. If you are taking notes, use a notebook and pen as opposed to noisily typing on your keyboard.

Highlight your best qualities. Just like any other interview, show that you are prepared by researching your position, the company, and what you can bring to your role. Is the position full-remote? Remote work qualities differ from in-person positions – you have to be self-motivated, flexible with schedules, and resourceful when working alone running into issues. Demonstrate these skills specifically and have examples ready of how you’ve exercised these skills in the past. If the position is hybrid or in-person, be sure to stress the experiences and qualities that align with the roles and responsibilities to showcase the strength of your candidacy.

Discuss your role. Many companies are toying with the idea of permanently shifting towards hybrid or remote work, and understandably, this situation will be fluid as world events continue to change. Bring up the topic about working in a hybrid or virtual setting, and make sure to reference the job description for clues as to what will be expected for your role. Many employers will be looking for flexibility as they revise their policies, so show that you are willing to work with them. If you have any limitations (i.e. you need to work from home on Fridays for childcare reasons, etc.), be sure to express those as well to offer full candor during your chat.

Ask questions. The best interviews involve candidates who are willing to ask thoughtful questions about the interviewer’s experience working at the company, which can help spark an honest dialogue for both sides to get to know one another better. Try to imagine yourself on the first day of the job, and ask questions that show interest in the role and company.

  • Get a clear handle on the expectations of the role and ask what success metrics the role will be working to meet.
  • Ask what the team’s typical hours are, and if this role’s working hours are consistent with that timeframe.
  • Learn more about where the position’s other team members are located, and in which time zone(s).
  • If you have particular needs (i.e. if you’re looking to relocate in the future), see if the team would be open to addressing those concerns.
  • Ask how the company is ensuring that employees are onboarded successfully and connecting to the rest of the team.
  • If the company plans to be remote or hybrid, ask how they have worked to maintain a positive company culture for remote employees.
  • Ask how the interviewer personally has dealt with working remotely.

After The Interview

After the interview, follow up promptly with a thank you email curated for each interviewer. This should be thoughtful, personable, and an opportunity for you to share your enthusiasm about the position and any other points that you left out of the conversation.

Remember, each remote interview will get easier with time, and the key to perfecting them is practice. For additional resources on remote work, meetings, and events, read more on Catalyst.


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