As remote working environments become more common, the interview process often involves never meeting your recruiter in person — instead, you'll do the interview over email or video chat. And because the medium is different from talking face-to-face, you need to adapt and use new strategies to ace that interview and land the job.
Whether your interview is on the internet or in person, the process of submitting a resume and a cover letter is the same, since the shortlist usually happens after an emailed CV. But just in case you have trouble with that, here's how you can fix your resume.
So now that you've sent in your resume and the recruiter is interested, the online interview usually spans two stages: the email interview, followed by the video chat interview. As a remote worker myself, I've done my fair share of these, and there are plenty of others who have some great tips to share.
Stage 1: The Email Interview
In the email interview, remember to write like you talk. Eventually, you have to have a video chat where you are going to talk like you normally do. My writing style and my conversational style are quite different, and the common feedback I received in early interviews was that I sounded like two different people between the emails and the video chat. After your video chat, the recruiter is likely to go back and review your email conversations — it shouldn't sound like it's two different people talking.
You also need to be keenly aware of what the other person has to read every day, as we put it in the tips to writing emails that get a response:
The person sending a message and the person receiving it often have two very different perspectives — while the former is looking to include as much information as possible and has a vested interest in communicating their entire idea and the thoughts that went into it, the latter is looking for brevity, clarity, and probably gets a lot of messages just like the sender's every day.
Because of this, with interview emails, I issue a "10-minute review" rule. I write the full reply, save it to Drafts, and then physically move away from my computer — usually just walking around the house and doing odd chores. At the end of 10 minutes, I review the email and see if there is anything I want to change. Why 10 minutes? It's enough to snap you out of thinking about what you wrote, but doesn't take so much time that your interviewer thinks you aren't prompt in your replies.
Brevity in an email is hard to judge, so one good way to check out whether your message is too long or not is to save it as a draft and then preview it on your smartphone. But only preview it, don't write from your phone — just don't do it! Autocorrect errors can make you look unprofessional, and you never know what kind of impression "Sent from my iPhone" will make on your recruiter.
Finally, for those who are conducting an email interview with a recruiter in a different time zone, it's a good idea to send your mail during that person's office hours. In an email interview, you can't go to their office, so even if it's a small gesture, this works as an equivalent of respecting their time and busy schedule.
Stage 2: The Video Chat Interview
If the email interview goes well, it's time for an interview over video chat. First rule: go with the service that the recruiter wants to use. Asking them to set up a new app or something will give the impression that the company will have to adjust to you in the future too, not the other way around.
Before the chat, ensure your computer and settings are ready to go. Here's a quick checklist to run through:
- Install the appropriate software or apps.
- Use an external webcam rather than the built-in one. External webcams usually have better optics and microphones.
- The lens of the webcam should be right at your eye-level and you should move back or forward enough so that the frame captures a triangle of face and shoulders. If you're using your laptop, you might need to adjust its height by putting it on a small stool or similar stand.
- Check that your broadband is working well. If possible, use an Ethernet cable to connect to your router rather than Wi-Fi.
- Connect to backup internet, such your phone's Wi-Fi hotspot, and make sure it's working. Then disconnect that but keep it around in case of emergency.
- Keep a second device set up with the same app or service you are using. Most common video chat apps will work on PCs as well as mobiles.
- Clear up the clutter directly behind you, in view of the camera.
- Get the lighting right. Remember that what you see isn't what the camera will see, so more light is always better — just remember not to shine it on you, not on the camera.
- Do a test run with a friend, using the same app. This is the best way to iron out any kinks in the setup.
- Lock the door! No, seriously. Interruptions make you appear unprofessional, so be alone in a room and lock it. While you're at it, disable the sound on all other things that can beep or ring, like your phone.
Just because it's a video interview from your home does not mean you show up in your ragged T-shirt and shorts. Photographer and writer Abhimanyu Ghoshal writes:
Whether your interview is on-site or on Skype, suit up appropriately. This will help you get in the zone, put your interviewer at ease and let you focus on the interview without worrying about that sauce stain on your t-shirt. Check out the company's team page for an idea of what you might want to wear. Don't overdo it — there's no need to wear a three-piece suit for an interview with a two-man startup (unless of course, the company deals in fine men's apparel).
Next, don't ignore your body language just because you're on Skype, says The Daily Muse. Be animated, but don't move around too much because you will appear blurry. And when you are talking, lean in towards the webcam. Paul Bailo, author of The Essential Digital Interview Handbook, has a neat trick for making a good first impression:
The first step to creating that digital chemistry? What Bailo calls a "digital handshake." Think a "slow, confident, professional, firm nod" with "a slight shoulder bend and eyes forward — the other person should not see the top of your head." When you can't physically greet the hiring manager, this simple gesture shows that you're excited to be there and ready to get down to business.
On YouTube, The Interview Guys also remind you to remember to smile and make eye contact — but not with the screen!
Smiling and making eye contact will help create rapport with your interviewer, but also make you look confident, positive and enthusiastic about the job! But remember, you should make eye contact with your camera and not your screen, just like you were making eye contact with a real person. A lot of people make this mistake.
The best part about a video interview is that it lets you cheat! You can write your questions in advance, make a crib sheet of topics or notes about your answers, and have important files like your submissions, resumes, or the company's history open on your screen without the interviewer knowing that. Embrace this ability and use it as best as you can. For example, if looking at the webcam is something you often forget, put a sticky note on your screen saying "Look at the webcam, not the screen!"
Once the video interview is done, don't be in a rush to ask if you got the job. The follow-up is best done via email, so go back to what has worked for you so far.