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The advantages of interviewing people online means the practice is probably here to stay. (Dean Mitchell/Getty Images/ iStockphoto)
The advantages of interviewing people online means the practice is probably here to stay. (Dean Mitchell/Getty Images/ iStockphoto)

TECHNOLOGY

Mastering the online job interview Add to ...

So, you’ve managed to land an interview for your dream job. You review the job description, rehearse answers to probable questions, select an appropriate outfit, arrive in plenty of time, and double check to make sure you’ve turned off your smart phone.

But what if your interview is being conducted online? Turns out the checklist is even longer, stretching to include Internet connections, camera angles and the tricky issue of how to make online eye contact.

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While nothing compares with an in-person, face-to-face interview, the advantages to employers of interviewing prospective employees online – it’s cheaper than flying in candidates and allows the company to see more prospects in a shorter period of time – means the practice is probably here to stay.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to put your best face forward.

Newbies to video interviewing need to know that there’s more than one kind of online interview. In addition to the live, two-way interview, which replicates the face-to-face experience on screen, some employers are also using “one way” video interviews, where job seekers are e-mailed a video link and use their webcams to record a response. (While you can do these on your own time, you often get just one chance to record your response, so the process can be just as nerve-wracking).

Another challenge is the growing number of platforms. While Skype is still widely used, U.S. companies like Jobvite Inc., Spark Hire Inc. and Toronto-based Kira Talent offer recruiter-specific software – which means you may need to brush up on the technology as well as your problem-solving anecdotes.

Whether you’re recording your answers or participating in a live video interview, technical preparation is key.

Pamela Skillings, a New York-based executive interview coach who founded a company called Big Interview to help clients practise their online interview skills, notes that the most flattering camera angle is slightly above eye level. If the webcam is attached to a laptop, elevate the entire computer by putting it on a stack of books.

Lighting should ideally come from a natural source. Too much light in the background can cast you in shadow, but direct light can make you look shiny or washed out, so you should test the setup beforehand.

All that preparation, however, will be for nothing if your technology fails. Ms. Skillings recommends using a more reliable wired connection instead of WiFi whenever possible.

Daisy Wright, a certified career management coach based in Brampton, Ont., recommends you ensure that your batteries are fully charged on all equipment, and that you download the specific software required beforehand. “Ask which platform will be used and get familiar with it. Often, you’ll be able to sign up for a trial version,” Ms. Wright said.

She also emphasizes the importance of decluttering the background. “Job seekers have to remember to make sure they have a clear work space, so that there’s no clutter on the desk or behind them. Make sure they’re in a quiet room with clear lighting” where they will not be disturbed.

Kimberley Kasper, chief marketing officer for San Mateo, Calif.-based Jobvite, agrees that it’s important to minimize distractions. “You want to be sure you’re in a professional environment, so don’t do the interview in the kitchen, and make sure there are no dogs barking in the background.”

After you’ve got your technology and space prepared, it’s time to devote some attention to your appearance. “When you pick out an outfit, take care not to clash with, or match, the background of the video. You should also avoid very bright colours and busy patterns, as they might not translate well on camera,” Patrick Beggan, marketing strategist for Spark Hire, based in Northbrook, IL., said in an e-mail interview.

While you probably can get away with wearing more casual attire from the waist down, Ms. Skillings warns against it, recalling a story about a client who wore sweatpants and had to stand up to fix some technical glitch.

Once you’ve started the interview, remember to look at the webcam, even though it feels more natural to look at the video window that shows the interviewer’s face. To make this more automatic, Ms. Skillings recommends positioning the video picture screen as closely as possible to the webcam.

Ms. Wright reminds job seekers to be patient. “Don’t rush answers – be mindful of transmission delays, speak slowly and give your words enough time to reach the interviewer,” she said.

The most common advice for mastering the online interview is to practise. This is particularly useful for older job seekers.

“Clients in their 20s tend to be more comfortable with video because they’ve seen it all their lives, but others who haven’t seen themselves on video need time to get accustomed to it,” Ms. Skillings said.

You might also make use of the one advantage that online interviews have over face-to-face: the ability to keep a cheat sheet nearby. “You can have some of your answers, or points that could remind you about what you need to talk about, somewhere close to your laptop,” Ms. Wright said. Just make sure the prompt doesn’t become a distraction.

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