Tips for Preparing for an Online Interview

Remote interviews are not uncommon and are not only for remote internship opportunities. An online interview is a handy way for you and a potential host company to meet and is easier to organise than a face-to-face meeting. It could be done via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp or another platform.

For example, when we identify a host company interested in interviewing you for a placement, you might not be in the same location as them at the time but could still meet with them through a remote interview online.

As the interview is not done in a physical location, you’ll need to prepare to impress the host company virtually. Here are some tips on how to succeed at an online interview.

Research the host company before the interview

Before the interview, it is important to review the host company’s website and look at what they do, their values and mission, what projects they have worked on and get familiar with the organisation you might be interning with.

It is also important to go over your resume and think about the skills and attributes you have that may interest the company and how you can apply your technical knowledge and learning to the internship tasks provided by the organisation.

You know yourself best, but you need to consider how you will show your interviewer that you can provide value to the company. You also need to show during your remote interview that you are excited about the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the industry you have studied.

Preparation on the day of the interview

Choose the right background. When it comes to remote interviews it’s easy to only focus on your appearance and forget about your online surroundings, such as what is showing on the background.

How you appear on the screen, including your background, contributes to first impressions. Choose a neutral background. Your interviewer shouldn’t see any posters, unmade beds or other personal belongings. Instead, a neutral background is better.

You can consider having a smart looking virtual background, like an office scene. But it’s possible that the interviewer will want to see you in a natural state, rather than with a virtual background, which means you need to prepare your interview spot accordingly.

Having just a blank wall or another neutral surface behind you is a good idea. Also, make sure that you have sufficient and good lighting. It’s a good idea to test your interview spot at least once before the interview.

Prepare a quiet environment

If you are living with other people such as family members or roommates, tell them in advance that you will be having an online interview on the scheduled day and time. This is important as you don’t want to be distracted during the remote interview and you shouldn’t have a noisy background.

If you don’t think doing the online interview from home is going to work because of noise from your roommates or from street traffic, try to arrange a quieter space in advance. You might be able to use a suitable space in your local library or a study room in your university, anywhere where you know it will be quiet.

Dressing for an online interview

Better overdressed than underdressed. Even though you might only be at home when having the online interview, you still need to wear the right clothes. Your clothes should look tidy and professional. And this does not only apply to the top half of your body, the part above belt that shows on the computer screen.

You should be fully dressed from head to toes. You want to look professional, so it is better to wear a suit or, depending on the company, casual but neat tops AND pants. If you have to get up from your chair during the interview and you are wearing pyjama pants, that would be very embarrassing.

Technical preparations before the interview

Make sure you have a strong wireless connection. You might use headphones and a microphone to prevent feedback. Check your camera settings before the interview and if technical problems still occur, stay cool! If you cannot sort them out, suggest rearranging the call.

Practice for the online interview

Even if you feel weird about it, try to train your body language and speech in front of the camera. You could ask a friend or a family member to do an interview with you. This way, you can get a feeling in advance of what being interviewed online is like. You can record your practice run and see how you come across on screen and where you could improve.

Be on time for your interview

Being late destroys your first impression! Have everything ready at least 10 minutes before the interview. Test your camera and mic and make sure you have pen and paper at hand in case you need to take notes during the meeting. Log in to the meeting at least 5 minutes before the interview and wait calmly, as if you were waiting in a company reception to be called in for the interview.

Ace the interview

Sit up straight, smile and keep eye contact! We tend to look on the screen when having video meetings. Now, from time to time, try to look into the camera instead. You can switch by looking into the camera when you talk and looking on the monitor when the interviewer is asking you their questions. That way, you can keep eye contact without looking like you’re awkwardly staring at the other person. Another crucial tip is to speak clearly.

During the interview, in addition to answering the interviewer's questions, make sure you discuss the details of the internship, including duration, days you are available, what tasks you will be undertaking, and a preferred start date. Also, find out when the host company will inform you of their decision.

At the end of the interview thank the interviewer for their time. If your online interview was organised by CareerDC, once the interview has finished, call or email your internship coordinator from CareerDC to advise that you have had your interview and to give feedback on the interview. If you have any questions, you’ll be able to go them over with your internship coordinator at CareerDC.

Good luck!