Success in a Remote Job Interview

Get prepared technically

You need to get all the equipment and software necessary for the remote job interview in advance. If you cannot invest in a computer camera, for instance, you can borrow one from a friend. You have to check the connection no matter whether you will be interviewed over the internet or over the phone.

It is equally important that you get well familiar with the hardware and software which you will be using. You have to know how to adjust the settings and how to troubleshoot basic problems.

Do the required research

You will have to conduct extensive research to learn as much as possible about the company and its culture. You should check not only their website, but their profile on the different social networks. You should get enough information which will help you to present yourself as the problem-solver which they are looking for. You should also get an idea of how to dress and how to approach the interviewer.

Get some practice

This is really important especially given the fact that you will have to handle the technology while focusing on the essence of the job interview. You can practice with a friend who should give you feedback on technical things like volume, light and interference and on personal performance aspects like confidence, clarity of the answers and professional conduct. Take note of any weaknesses and work to eliminate them to ensure that you will pull the best performance.

Arrange the right setting

For the remote job interview, you will need a quiet room which is well lit. You have to ensure that the background which the interviewer will see is neat and tidy. The background should be as professional as possible. Avoid having personal items like family photos behind you. Books are a much better option.

Approach the interview professionally

You should dress professionally from top to bottom as if you are going to a traditional interview. Make sure that you are on time and that your equipment is ready. You should focus on having a positive attitude and on smiling even if you cannot see the interviewer. While the person talks, you should make it known that you are listening by saying “yes” when appropriate.

Use helpful cues

Even if you use a camera, it has a limited range. This enables you to keep cues on the side of the computer. You can prepare notes with information on the company, statistical data and the questions which you plan to ask. Just remember that these are just cues. You should not look into them all the time.

Handle a Behavioral Interview

Behavioral interview questions are usually designed to match the competencies needed for success in a role (e.g., problem-solving skills, project management skills, relationship building skills, etc.). For instance, if a job requires a person to think strategically, an interviewer might ask them to describe a recent time when they had to define a business strategy.

With that in mind, it’s useful to identify what competencies a job requires so you can prepare accordingly for related interview questions:

  • Sometimes formal job descriptions will list the competencies required for a position. If not, Human Resources or the hiring manager for the role will likely share the competencies if asked. It’s certainly OK to ask about the competencies required for success in a role when applying for a position.
  • You may also be able to discern the required competencies by closely reviewing the job description and “reading between the lines”, so to speak. In my experience, most job competencies fall into the three broad categories: Thinking (e.g., problem-solving, innovating, etc.), Results (e.g., accountability, time management, etc.), and People (e.g., networking, influencing, etc.). Those categories can be used as a guide for deciphering the competencies underpinning a job description. For example, while reading the job description, you could ask yourself, “What thinking-related competencies seem needed for this role?”, “What results-related competencies seem needed for this role?”, and so on.

Once you’ve identified the competencies required for a job, the next step is to recall instances from your work experience when you evidenced those competencies:

  • Recall examples that occurred within the last year or less (the more recent, the better). They’ll be easier to remember and share details about. Further, behavioral interviewers usually require examples to be relatively recent.
  • Avoid getting caught-up in trying to identify the biggest, best, or most elaborate example you can think of. I’ve interviewed many people who had difficulty giving examples because they didn’t feel the example was sophisticated or spectacular enough to share. Behavioral interviewers tend to focus more on the how than the what in the examples you provide. For instance, you probably take a similar approach to delegating work whether a project is large or small, but it’d be easier to convey the details of the smaller project when the interviewer asks.
  • Don’t let an undesired outcome keep you from sharing what would otherwise be a good example. I see this often, for example, when asking people to describe a time when they had to influence upward (e.g., gain buy-in from senior leadership, change their boss’s opinion, etc.). They hesitate to share an example because they were unsuccessful at influencing upward. However, once they share the example it’s clear (to me as a behavioral interviewer) that their approach to influencing was sound, despite senior leadership choosing not to buy-in.

Now that you’ve identified the competencies required for a job and some examples from your work experience that illustrate those skills, the final step is to refine how you’ll communicate those examples:

  • Answer the question the interviewer asks. Seems intuitive, but I still come across candidates who give examples they believe will make them look good, rather than examples that fit the questions asked. The behavioral interview method requires clear examples from candidates that match specific competency areas, and so it’s not the time to respond like a politician. For instance, if the interviewer asks you for an example of how you dealt with a customer complaint, you won’t be able to get by with an example of how you exceeded your sales goals for the year. Similarly, if you find yourself falling back into the traditional interview habit of responding to questions with guesses about what you would do in a hypothetical scenario, be prepared to be asked again about what you did do in an actual situation.
  • Center your responses on describing your actions and involvement in the examples you provide. Remember, in most instances, the interviewer is seeking to understand what you did so they can draw conclusions about your skills, abilities, and fit for a job. For instances when you were part of a team, you can start your example with, “As part of a team I… (and then talk specifically about what you did or the role you played on the team)”.
  • Be concise. Interview time is limited, and interviewers typically have several competency areas to cover. Communicating only the essentials of each example (e.g., the who, what, where, when, and how) will help ensure you don’t run short on time. Keep in mind that interviewers can ask you for more detail if they need it, but in contrast, it’s difficult to make up for time lost on longwinded examples. Moreover, interviewers are likely to be gauging how well you communicate, as many jobs require strong verbal communication skills.
  • Practice to ensure examples are fresh in your mind, but do not over-rehearse or read from your notes during an interview. Behaviorally based interviews are not like school exams that can be “passed” by giving certain “right” answers. As alluded to previously, interviewers will likely be evaluating how you communicate, think on your feet, handle pressure, etc., while you are responding. Having a few notes (such as bullet points to jog your memory) is usually fine, but coming across as scripted, robotic, or rigid during an interview is not.
  • Finally, don’t be shy about taking time to think before responding (especially if you’re asked a question you weren’t expecting). It’s much better to take a few moments to recall an example that is fitting and straightforward than it is to respond quickly with an example that’s mismatched or convoluted.