Interviews can be stressful; you never know when you’ll get a curveball. Luckily there are a few high-impact preparations you can make to stay ahead of the game, to ensure that you maintain your best professional demeanor and convey the most relevant information.
You may already have encountered one type of curveball that has caused many candidates to swing and miss — the behavioral question. These are the questions that start out with something like “Tell me about a time when . . .” and lead you into some knotty scenario that you then need to gracefully talk your way through. There's a method you can use to knock these out of the park. It's called STAR, for Situation, Task, Action, and Results, and it's basically a format for telling an effective story.
Here's how it works. When you're given your question, you first lay out the scenario (situation), and describe your role in it (task). This sets the stage for you to then describe in detail each step that you took or would take to deal with the issue (action). Finally you tie everything up by describing the outcome (result). As you can see, this is not something you'll want to do off the cuff. It really pays to set up some STAR stories in advance.
Your preparation could go something like the following. Say you’re interviewing for a customer service position. You think you may be asked about a time that you had to deal with a difficult customer. Think of some examples of this from your past experience and break one down into the STAR format. Write out your notes to create talking points that clearly summarize the situation, lay out the tasks you were expected to complete, detail the actions you took, and end with the results. Then review your notes a few times before your interview.
Keep in mind that not every question will be intended to elicit a positive outcome. Interviewers may want you to describe a time when a project failed, to discover how well you used that as an opportunity for improving future outcomes.
Most of the time, your video interview will only show you from the chest up, but put yourself into the right mindset by dressing right from top to bottom. The act of preparing yourself as if you were going to do the interview in-person can help your brain get into the right mode for peak interview performance.
For many professional roles, the normal dress code for remote work has relaxed a bit; you may still want to consider what the in-office expectations would be, and dress for that.
Well before you’re due to join the meeting, take some time to try out the webcam on your computer and look over the whole picture area. You want to project the right image, and that will include everything visible in your space.
If there’s a stack of books or papers in the frame, consider whether that might be sending the message that you’re not a well-organized person.
Photographs aren’t a problem, but think about what’s in them. A photo of you and loved ones at a family gathering is probably fine, but anything you would refrain from putting on your desk at the office should be out of sight during a video interview.
In general, visual clutter that may distract the interviewer from focusing on you should be organized or hidden altogether.
The same applies to audio distractions, and these can be more difficult to predict and handle. For example, you may not be expecting your neighbor to mow their lawn during your interview, but if they do, you won’t be able to control that. Have a second location ready if possible, one that won’t present the same problems.
The more you take these three preparation measures, the better your remote interviews will go. You’ll find, after the first few times, that your preparation will get easier and easier.