How to Ace an Online Job Interview

Unemployment may be at a record high, but—don’t look now—lots of companies are actually hiring. So, your résumé caught someone’s eye? Great, you’ve got an interview. The catch is that you’re not being invited to the office, you’re going to be doing it via Zoom or some other video conferencing platform.Interviewing via a Google Hangout is a lot different than meeting in person, but you don’t have to let that reality blow the job for you. To help your next video interview go as smoothly as possible, I’ve collected some tips from a number of experts and professionals who’ve been on both sides of the online interview dance.

1. Standard Rules Still Apply

Just because you’re on video doesn’t mean you can slack off on your appearance. The trend toward casual, devil-may-care attire in the workplace does not and should not trickle down to your choice of attire for a video job interview. Dress one notch above what the company’s typical attire is. So if the office culture favors collared shirts, check that box but also slip on a jacket. “Put your work shoes on,” says Adam Sanders, director of Successful Release, which helps felons find work after reentering society. “It might seem strange to wear your shoes during a videoconference, but it has an important psychological effect on you.” Also, be sure to wear solid colors, as stripes and complex patterns can look awful on video.2. Eliminate DistractionsClose the door and windows in your room. Shut off the TV down the hall. Silence your cell phone (unless you’re using it for the conference, see tip #7 below). “And make sure the only window open on your computer screen is the video platform you are using,” says life coach Tom Marino. “Silence all pop-ups. The last thing you want is to lose your train of thought.”

3. Banish the Pets and Kids

Photograph: Getty Images
You know that barking dog who haunts every business meeting? He’ll ruin your interview too. “I can't stand when dogs start barking in the background,” says Matthew Ross, COO of Slumber Yard, an online mattress review site with remote staff. “That tells me the candidate is not taking the interview seriously. You wouldn't bring your dog to an interview in the office, so take the same approach for online interviews.”The same advice goes for your children. Park them in front of a screen in a faraway part of the house, and give them enough candy to last the length of the interview.

4. Find a Neutral Background

More than any other tip, pros said that careful attention to your background is absolutely crucial. A bedroom with a sloppy bed, a home office full of clutter, a kitchen table … all of these connote information about you to the interviewer, none of it good. It’s not only unprofessional, but it also distracts the interviewer, who’ll be busy analyzing your dirty laundry instead of listening to what you have to say.