As companies around the world implement social distancing measures to combat COVID-19, HR teams are increasingly recruiting candidates that they haven’t met. For many vacancies, this means transitioning from traditional face-to-face interviews to online job interviews.

Although online interviews may seem daunting, the good news is that for the most part, the rules of a successful online job interview are much the same as meeting in person. The main differences come down to the need to familiarising yourself with new technology and learning how you come across online. Follow these tips on how to prepare and succeed in a virtual interview setting.

Test run your technology.

If you haven’t used video-conferencing tools before, don’t worry. There are lots of easy to use online platforms out there like Zoom, Skype, MS Teams and Google Hangouts. These tools are currently free to individual users, and various offers exist for commercial accounts.

When you are meeting with a potential employer, they will most likely have a preferred platform they use. Once you know the technology that will be used, download the app on your computer, phone or smart device and get to know the system a little. Set up your camera and microphone, add a photo and try out the ‘test feature’ to get an idea of how you’ll come across online.

The invitation sent to you will often contain a URL that you will click on to enter the online meeting space. It’s important to only click on this link at the time of the scheduled interview.

Do your research

Researching the organisation, the company’s values, and the role expectations is an essential part of the job-seeking process no matter if you’re interviewing in-person or online. Once the company has provided the details of the interview and who you will be speaking to, jump onto LinkedIn and do a little research. What is their background? Do you have any common ground that you can reference to build rapport? Also, check out if you have any connections who already work for the company. If you do, reach out to them for some insider perspectives on the company culture and priorities.

Find a space

Even though the job interview is conducted online, it’s just as important to be professional as you would be meeting in-person. Make sure the space you choose is uncluttered, quiet and well lit. Ideally, find a spot that has a blank wall behind you so that the interviewer isn’t distracted by the background. Try to avoid sitting in front of a window. If there is light behind you, it will be hard for the interviewer to see you.

If you have children, animals or other potential disruptions, plan ahead to ensure they give you space and no background noise. Everyone is in the same position at the moment so you can assume some level of flexibility around this. If you know you may be interrupted, start the interview with something along the lines of, “Thank you for the opportunity to meet today. I have young children/flatmates, or you may hear my dog barking, so I apologise in advance if there is some noise in the background.” Being upfront about it might even help build rapport with interviewers who are in the same position!

Just before your interview is due to start, set yourself up with a glass of water, some paper and a pen. By the time the meeting starts, you want to feel relaxed and appear cool, calm and collected!

Be as professional and personable as you would be in a face to face interview. This means dressing the part, turn your phone onto silent, limit the distractions you might face and smile!

Just like an ‘in-person’ interview, body language counts, so sit up, speak clearly and maintain eye contact. Because it’s hard to tell if the sound is consistent and clear when the interviewer is talking acknowledge you are listening by making occasional small nods.

Practise, practise, practise!

Consider doing a trial run of your online interview with a friend or family member so they can give feedback on how you can adjust your camera, your volume and the speed at which you should speak, and where to look. Practising these things and recording yourself is the best way to refine your video interview technique. Believe it or not, a lot of the impact of your message comes from how you speak and your body language. So, take the time to prepare yourself as much as possible, and make every minute count. One great advantage to online interviews is that you can stick notes to the side of your screen. This works well if you get stuck answering a question. Try colour coding them, so you know where to glance without drawing too much attention.

Don’t forget to be positive and smile.