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5 Tips for Acing an Online Interview During a Pandemic

Online interviews usually put people into either one of two camps – firmly for or staunchly against – as some swear that they ‘come across better in person’ or that online interviews take some of the pressure off. No matter your view, the global pandemic has meant that a lot of companies are conducting interviews online. Think of this as an advantage – you save money on transport, you can be comfortable in your own space, and you get to wear pyjama bottoms (if you so wish).

You might be wondering if interview etiquette differs when online or perhaps if they are less formal. This will depend on the company, but generally the basics are the same. So whilst you could wear pyjama bottoms as no one will see past your top-half - it may help you to ‘get into the zone’ if you do dress smartly. As always, being early can never be a bad thing, and rehearsing mock-interviews with friends or family before can also help.

Believe it or not, interviews (whether online, recorded or in-person) don’t have to be nerve-wracking or vomit-inducing. After all, you want the job, and this process is designed to help you get it. Don’t forget to keep in mind that the company you’re interviewing with is also keen to fill the role!

So how exactly do you ace an online interview during a pandemic? As usual, we’ve got you covered with these 5 tips. 


Every job interview, much like every job role,  is different, and the outcomes can be dependent on a number of factors, such as prior research, etiquette, contingency plans, ‘connection’ and more.

1. Research the Company

This is our top tip - and it’s for a reason. We’re not even going to pretend that you can get away with not knowing a single thing about the company you’re applying for. When that ‘why do you want to work for us’ question comes up, it’s better to be prepared with facts, stats and prior knowledge. Invest in researching as if you were really to work there, and if there’s anything you can’t find out, it can make for a good question for the end of the interview. Think outside of the box as well: look at their company blog, social media presence or annual reports. You’ll be surprised how much you can find out about a company apart from their mission statement.

Our top tip: Weave you research into your answers. For example, ‘I saw that you switched over to using a new Stack, I have some experience with such and such a language, so I’m ready to hit the ground running.”

2. Have a conversation

Remember, whilst the company is finding out whether you would be a good fit, an interview also helps you to find out more about the company, culture and team too. We know it can be daunting, but try your best to be conversational and not stiff. Whilst the interviewer will be asking you questions, feel free to pick up on what they also say to find out more about the company. You don’t need to go off topic here, but you’ll already be more memorable if you are an active listener and engage the interviewer(s) too. For example “You mentioned earlier that …. I definitely agree and wanted to ask you if ….”.

Our top tip: Don’t be afraid to summarise or repeat the question they’ve asked you to make sure you answer it succinctly. Sometimes we can go off on a tangent or forget what was asked, so clarifying what’s being asked before giving an answer can help to cut this out.

3. Set the Scene

We might not all have degrees in cinematography, but you can still ensure that you set the scene well for your interview. If you don’t feel you have the best Work-from-Home background, feel free to use the backgrounds provided by Zoom, Google Meets and Skype. There’s no need to go overboard by using backgrounds like beaches or outer space; keep it simple. At the same time, don’t necessarily feel as though you have to hide your humble abode. We’re in a pandemic and a lot of us have now been working from home for quite some time, so it’s okay to show you’re human.

Our top tip: Clear the area in which you’ll do the interview and do a test run to make sure lighting and audio are optimal and that you won’t be disturbed. Don’t forget to test the meeting link prior to your interview, just in case it’s not working from your side.

4. Have a backup plan

We’ve all been there - your laptop was just working but now in your hour of need, it’s decided to pack up and go on holiday. It can be very frustrating however instead of getting flustered on the day, be prepared by having a contingency plan. Think of the worst-case scenario and set up alternatives that could help you. For example, if the worst-case scenario is your laptop not switching on - make sure it’s fully charged, or that you have another device that you can access the Interview link from. Can you borrow a partner’s or flatmates laptop? Can you use a tablet? Check that everything is working 30 minutes before the interview to put yourself at ease. 

Our top tip: Have the interview link ready across devices, so you don’t get flustered and can join the call. Don’t be nervous about having to join from a phone or tablet, interviewers are very sympathetic to the situation at hand and this will not phase them.

5. Practice makes perfect!

You don’t want to sound like a robot or that you’ve rehearsed your answers but we don’t recommend absolutely winging the interview. Similarly to our first point about research - a little goes a long way. Even if you just have a few bullet points of examples that you can bring up during the session (Situation, Task, Action, Result of course), it will ease any nerves on the day.

Our top tip: If you live alone or don’t want to practice with someone, you can practice in front of a mirror, read your answers to yourself, or record yourself  to see how it sounds ahead of the day.

Bonus Pointers

Create a checklist and run through before the day.

  • Does all your technical equipment work? Sound / clarity of image / no lag / lighting?
  • If you’ve shared a portfolio or CV, do you have this up on your screen to refer to?

Follow up post-interview

  • There’s no need to be overly eager by ringing up every few hours, but it can be a nice touch to send a thank you email, ideally within a day of having the interview.

On the day, do some of your favourite things like having a nice breakfast or going on a walk

  • It’s normal to be anxious about an interview, so make it easier on yourself by doing things you enjoy too.

Online interviews are not that different from in-person interviews, but with these techniques and tips, you can really put your best foot forward. 

If you like these tips and would like to apply them to your next interview, sign up to hackajob where companies reach out to you, or if you’ve faced an outcome you weren’t hoping for, read our advice blog on What To Do When You’ve Been Rejected here.

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