How to ace an online interview

The main points in a nutshell

  • Make sure no more than three things are visible behind you, e.g., a dresser, shelf and books
  • Placing something in the background (like a guitar) is a good way to break the ice
  • Body language: use your hands to emphasize your points

Lucas Zehnder is an expert in job applications, work and careers. He sees pros and cons to online job interviews. On the one hand, we save on travel time and costs, and it’s easier to schedule appointments. But there are also disadvantages: “The downside is that many aspects of interpersonal interaction are lost. Above all, non-verbal communication, which makes up most of interpersonal interaction. That makes it all the more important that you prepare as well as you can,” says Zehnder.

  • Dress the same as you would for a real-life job interview.
  • Your background should be clean, well-lit and tidy. Try to have no more than three items in the background, for example, a chest of drawers with a decorative bowl and a few books on top of it. On no account sit in front of a door where people can come and go. You can’t control what happens, and this can be unsettling.
  • You can deliberately place some object in the background – a guitar, for example. If conversation turns to the guitar, you’ll have an opportunity to talk about your hobby, so something in which you’re expert.
  • Check that you have a good internet connection and audio quality before the call. Switch off e-mails and push notifications. Don’t let yourself be distracted.
  • Good lighting! Your face should be clearly visible. You could buy yourself an LED ring light for CHF 30. It’s best if you can position yourself against a window so that natural light falls onto your face. When it gets darker outside, switch on the LED ring light.
  • When you’re speaking, look directly into the camera lens, which you’ve ideally positioned at eye level. When the other person is speaking, look back at them – at the screen.
  • Body language is also important in a video call. Feel free to gesture with your hands to help illustrate what you are talking about.
  • Don’t forget the human factor: if your cat or younger brother or sister jumps into view – don’t let it throw you off. Laugh about it! Many of us are in home office and none of us live in a perfect, sterile world.

Be ambitious

What Zehnder most stresses, however, is that you be well prepared. “If you’re poorly prepared, you can’t ask good questions. This can totally kill the vibe in a job interview. You’re nervous, have to improvise all the time, and dream things up on the fly. So when preparing for a job interview, tell yourself: ‘My new job starts here and now.’ And then set aside several hours to prepare and be ambitious!” Remember to research the company while you’re getting ready: What does it do, what does it stand for and so on. Make a note of this basic information. Another absolute must: remember the names of the people you’ll be talking to! And if the company has a social media presence, check this out too.

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