Dummy’s guide to Online Interviewing

online interview for job

Useful tips for interviewees to ace online interviews

I run a boutique investment banking firm based out of Mumbai and Bangalore and we have been doing a fair bit of recruiting, coming out of the pandemic and I would like to share some key takeaways that would be useful to the interviewees for online interview for jobs, especially at the entry level.

First, describing ourselves would help set the context. The firm is a financial advisory company – and it’s organization structure is consistent with that of a professional services company.

Typically there are three levels, first of directors, then the middle layer of fanciful titles like Vice Presidents, Principals etc. and finally the execution layer of Analysts to Senior Associates. Like in most professional services firms, the structure tends to resemble that a pyramid and the execution layer is larger than the other layers. In our case however, over the last two years, the company had become mid heavy. Now that we are emerging out of a very difficult period (that perhaps should best be titled Covid B.C. ), and seeing green shoots of recovery and growth, we have gone on a recruitment drive for the last two months specially for the execution layer.

This has been an excellent opportunity for us to observe some of the dos and don’ts and share how the aspirants should prepare for an online interview for a job in the hope that it will benefit them. Remember that this is happening where all decisions are taken based on virtual sessions.

How to get ready for an online interview for a job?

Wondering how to prepare for an online video interview?

PositioningHow do you look at the other end?

My first advice to folks appearing for an online interview for job is that they should keep in mind the positioning of the device and your positioning vis-à-vis the device. It impacts how you look on the screen. The interviewee today took the call on his zoom app on the phone and he cradled the phone between the legs facing up which was quite awkward. Others have taken it, keeping it on the floor and that does not help either as one is not able to see the person well. Using the phone for a call is not uncommon, but the positioning so that you are visible properly is important.

So, stick to a table and sit upright so that the other person can see you well. Try and use the laptop or PC if possible. Get someone to check out and give you advice on which position – distance from the device, how well you fill up the screen etc. so that you maximize. I am reminded of Tom Cruise who we would never think of as a 5’7” because he has mastered the art of filling up the screen as well as gestures which give a sense of a larger presence.


Thinking what to wear for an online interview?

I think the larger point is about knowing how you look and how to ensure that you make a good impression. Now, I for one can make out night clothes when I see them. But then, if you are wearing a round neck T-shirt, I could make a mistake relying on my System 1 thinking that it is a night dress. My suggestion is – dress such that it is obvious that the other person recognizes that you have put effort for this meeting. Wear a shirt – and this can be a unisex comment! – Or something that is more formal.

Background Screen

It is quite likely that in the course of your conversation, someone else in the family will decide to come into the video. Please get yourself a background screen. Now the challenge with that is that if you have a tendency to move your head a lot, it tends to look like a science fiction movie. Either you could recognize that you need to keep your head still and choose a cool café background (and play on the sub conscious of the interviewer soothing his senses and making him think more positively about you) or just blur the background behind you.

The interview – how to attend an online interview?

Tensed about how to prepare for an online video interview? Here are the steps for you

Ice breaker

The interviewer would have gone through his trials and tribulations through the Covid period. Before he can start asking his questions for your online interview for job, the interviewee could take the initiative and ask him on what this period has meant in terms of change in his life and his view about it is. This should get him started for at least 5 minutes and what he says will give a lot of cues for the interviewee.

Contextual questions

The fact that the organization is now looking to recruit is typically a sign that it has found its way out of Covid. I think it would make sense for the person being interviewed to ask the interviewer questions about his business with this assumption in place. It would be a more focused conversation and the recruiter will also appreciate that he has not been subjected to a standard checklist of questions that the interviewee has picked up which does not have contextual reference to the current situation. You could ask him on how it has come out of this difficult period, the change in the business model because of it, and the strategies used by them and what does the fundamental shift to digital transformation augur for their business.

The changing office paradigm

If the current approach of working from home or a hybrid approach continues, it raises a lot of questions on what it will mean for teams, culture, innovation etc., for which there are no clear answers. The interviewee would do well to have a few of these questions as a part of your online interview for job. The purpose is handing to dish out and put the interviewer on the mat. The answer is really not relevant; the fact that the question was asked would be the takeaway.

The art of listening

Doing online interviews can be challenging for maintaining focus and listening attentively. This is one key area that the interviewee should focus on. He needs to be able to listen aggressively – which is key to asking the right questions. In the physical interviews, one’s adrenalin tends to ensure that, but in online calls, I have noticed that after 15 minutes or so, the listener tends to start switching off. Taking notes during the call helps and creates the right impression too.

Wrapping Up

I hope this is useful for those getting ready for interviews and trying to develop an understanding about online interview for job,. The rest of the suggestions would be the same as what it would be for an offline interview and I think you will find a lot of material on that in the online world – so won’t repeat all that ! Best of luck!

You might also like learning about the first experience of appearing in a job interview from one of our mentors.

Sumir Verma
Co Founder at Merisis Advisors | [email protected]

Sumir is the co founder of Merisis Advisors, an leading investment banking firm focused on Tech & Consumer verticals, and he works closely with the driven intelligent and resourceful entrepreneurs that are shaping the new India, helping them decode the capital raising challenges and grow. Sumir is a passionate entrepreneur in his own right, focused on building Merisis into a leading institution.

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