Tips for Online Interviews and Questions

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meeting, conference, laptop @ Pixabay

You’re feeling nervous about an upcoming interview, and you’re likely not alone. Many applicants are anxious about interviewing for positions that may be the first job they’ve ever had or their first step away from college to real world employment.

Before we get started on some interview tips, let’s take a moment to define what an online interview is. While this isn’t necessarily pertinent to your success in the actual interview, it will help you understand exactly what the interviewer expects out of you during the process. 

An online interview will generally mean one of two things:

1) The company is using some sort of software that allows them to see you via webcam as well as screen share with you during the interview or 

2) You are interviewing with a company via email and/or text (texting is considered an online interview because it happens over the internet).

If you’re feeling nervous for any reason, join the crowd. You can reduce your discomfort by doing some research beforehand and coming up with some ideas of what to say when the interviewer asks you questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “What are your weaknesses?” I’m going to share three techniques that will help you feel more comfortable during your interview as well as give you some topics that may come in handy for those often redundant introductory questions.

Only read this after you’ve scheduled your interview. If you haven’t done so already, scheduling an online interview will take care of nearly all of your concerns regarding technology malfunctioning or being intrusive during the interview. You can have a friend help you with your laptop or phone if need be. If this is a personal device, make sure it’s charged and you have a fully functioning webcam before the scheduled time of the interview.

If you’re using a company computer that belongs to your current employer, I would recommend against conducting an online interview from that device for security purposes alone, but especially because most employers can monitor their employees’ computers via remote log in during working hours. Use your own equipment whenever possible.

Also, if this is an interview you’ve been preparing for casually, I’d recommend scheduling the final pre-interview meeting at least 24 hours ahead of time so you can test your technology and run through some practice questions.

1) Define Yourself Before the Interviewer Can

I know it sounds cheesy, but this is a sure fire way to come off as confident and put together. When you answer these common introductory questions, don’t just tell them what your job title and duties at your current or most recent position were: 1) What attracted you to apply for this position? 2) Why do you want to work here? 3) Tell me about yourself [again]

Instead of regurgitating your resume in interview format, I would recommend practicing a short speech beforehand that includes both what drew you to apply for this particular position and why the company interests you. This should be less than one minute total, leaving plenty of time after it for the interviewer to ask you questions. The idea is that if they like what you’re saying, it will lead into your qualifications for the position.

2) Keep An Open Mind

Believe me when I tell you that everyone has weaknesses (even Charlie Sheen). When asked about your weaknesses or areas of improvement, don’t stress yourself out by trying to think of something really clever. If you say “I’m a workaholic” and sound like an idiot doing it, no one will take you seriously. The same goes for overused responses like “I’m a perfectionist.” Show them that you know yourself well enough to be honest with them about these topics without shooting yourself in the foot through poor choice or tone. Finally, if you’re asked for an example of a weakness or something that frustrates you, make sure it’s something that isn’t obvious to the average person. For instance, if you hate it when people don’t answer your calls or return texts, tell them why: “I set high standards for myself and I expect the same from others.”

3) The 4-6 Sentence Rule

There’s nothing wrong with giving short answers to questions during an interview. But since most introductory questions will elicit one of two responses (“Yes” or “No”) and managers assume that job seekers won’t say anything intelligent unless they’re prompted to do so, the trick is to give just enough information without rambling on and about useless subjects. It doesn’t matter what the question is, you should be ready to answer it in no more than six sentences. This means that if they ask you a yes or no question for which the best possible response would take three sentences, that’s all you should say. [I’ll finish this up soon.] [I’ll add on here!]

4) Avoid Cliches Like the Plague

You’re not going to impress anybody by using cliches and overused responses to questions during your interview. Honestly, it actually makes me think of things like “Well, duh!”

What managers want to hear from you is sincere honesty about yourself and your background. Just because everyone else says something stupid doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Feel free to elaborate on your responses as long as you do it in a way that won’t make them roll their eyes.

5) Chop, Chop!

All of this being said, the best way to impress an interviewer is to keep your answers between two and three minutes long. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out all filler words like “uhm” and “like,” but you should avoid giving one word answers or going off on a tangent about something that’s not related. Anything within those time limits will help demonstrate your intelligence, confidence, and enthusiasm for the job without making you appear nervous or anxious. Also, try not to jump from topic to topic too much during the course of a conversation unless you’re asked a question outside of the realm of what you’re prepared for.

6) Common Topics and “Hot Buttons”

Since there’s a chance that you’ll end up talking about some common topics during your interview, it’s not a bad idea to prepare in advance. While managers using this type of screening process aren’t trying to trick or trap you, they will be looking for your reactions when these questions come up. In addition to practicing responses where possible [practice is good], it’s important to be aware of what employers are commonly concerned about  so you can better manage your own emotions . These kinds of hot button issues include:

Your qualifications vs. their needs – Experience working with difficult personalities – Reasons for leaving past jobs – How competitive an applicant you are [job seeker with a ton of applications up vs. candidate who only has one application in] – Any gaps or questions about your resume [in this case, it usually helps to have an explanation ready!]

Your willingness and ability to relocate for the position – How you feel about long commutes/traveling for work – How well you’d fit into their company culture  – Stress tolerance and coping mechanisms

As I said before, prepare yourself with some answers that can help keep you from getting defensive if any of these topics come up during your interview.

7) Be Honest and Sincere

This should go without saying, but be honest about your strengths and weaknesses while still remaining confident in yourself. It helps to list a few of your “weaknesses,” or things that employers might not like, during the pre-interview phase so that you can downplay them when they come up during the actual interview. This makes it seem like you’re aware of what these qualms are before they’ve even mentioned them  and you’ve already considered potential ways to improve upon them. Another important thing is to show enthusiasm for the interviewing process rather than seeming annoyed by it all. A good rule of thumb is this: if you don’t actually want the job, it’s probably best not to apply.

8) Practice!

This is one of those things that I really can’t say enough about. No matter how much you have prepared for an interview beforehand, being asked random questions will always be a bit nerve-wracking at first. Practicing with other people is the best way to go over typical questions and scenarios so that come your actual interview, everything should feel relatively familiar. If you’re still struggling with nerves, make sure to read our tips on controlling your stress . As always, if you’d like more information on the topic, please leave us a comment below or send us an email !

9) Time Yourself During Your Interviews

You don’t want your interviews to go on longer than they need to. If you’re taking too long to answer a question, give an incomplete or vague response [reference the answer in your mind quickly before…] or ask if there’s a specific time limit you should keep in mind. This will also allow for more questions toward the end of the interview where employers usually try to uncover any gaps in your work history and sell themselves as a great company for potential employees!

Also note: you’ll sound much more confident when you can speak at a reasonable pace.

10) Have Questions Ready During Your Interviews

This is one of those things that I feel really cements whether or not you actually want the job being offered after an interview . When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, it shouldn’t be the first time you’re thinking about that topic. Make sure to find out as much information as possible beforehand so that your questions are relevant and sincere. If you truly want the job, then this should be quite simple!

11) Choose Your Battle Wisely

Remember: even if an employer doesn’t seem like a great match for you right now, they might change in the future. It’s important to remember this before you decide to turn down an offer or walk away because of something minor. Don’t make hasty decisions – weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your move . Lastly, don’t forget that employers will ask for references during interviews too! This is why it’s important to set up a meeting with your references beforehand so that they can get to know the company and their processes before being asked.

This article is sponsored by Elevate

Elevate is a recruiting and hiring platform that helps companies of all sizes hire the best talent. We provide an intelligence-driven Talent Acquisition Platform™ that leverages data to help our clients identify, source and engage with top talent across industries. Elevate’s goal is to be the most trusted partner for recruitment success by providing innovative solutions that drive real business results.

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