25 February 2021

Become a pro at remote interviewing

Louise Barker And Sarah Woodhall


Become a pro at remote interviewing

Louise Barker and Sarah Woodhall offer tips for success in this virtual environment.

When the first lockdown was introduced last March many of our operational processes needed to adapt and evolve immediately.

As part of the internal recruitment team, finding talented consultants to join the company was a vital operation that needed to continue as we moved through our continued rapid growth trajectory. We needed to adjust quickly and adapt to a new remote way of recruitment.

Due to the level of demand from Opencast clients and a specific need to support important Covid-related digital deliveries, it was imperative to keep our wheels turning and optimise our approach to support these needs. Since March 2020, we have successfully interviewed and welcomed over 40 new recruits to the Opencast family. Along the way, we have realised how different the experience can be for candidates when applying for a new role in a remote environment, and we’ve come to understand some of the challenges people can face.

Remote interviewing isn’t entirely new to our industry, but it’s certainly become a more prominent practice. People are faced with being interviewed in their own environment which brings varying levels of success. Not everyone has a home office - some people are working at their kitchen table or in the corner of a bedroom. Our work lives are more personal than ever and this can add to the nerves people already have when being interviewed for new roles.

With all of this in mind, we wanted to share with you our top tips for remote interviewing as a candidate:

The first step to a successful interview...prep, prep, prep!

These are some areas to think about when you are preparing for your interview:

  • Check your technology is working. Ensure you have thoroughly read any pre-information and all relevant links and software is downloaded if required. Test it and try not to rush around at the last minute organising this as it can cause unnecessary fluster. Join the call five minutes before it’s due to begin to show you’re keen and reliable
  • Get in touch with the recruitment team if you require any adjustments for the interview, encounter any problems or are unable to attend. Being honest with your questions and concerns is not to your detriment.
  • Research possible questions that may be asked and consider using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique to answer those clearly. As an added bonus you can place some handy post-it note reminders in your workspace if it helps jog your memory.
  • Prepare at least one question to ask the interview panel to show interest and that you’ve thought seriously about working for the company
  • Check out the people interviewing you, and the company, ahead of the interview. The perks of social media and people’s online presence these days is worth its weight in gold. You might pick up relevant talking points to bring up in the interview

Now that you have prepped, you’ve got this! Just remember...

Interviewers want you to succeed but also impress, here’s how you can do that:

  • When answering questions, take your time, be honest and professional but show your personality and passion.
  • No interviewer truly believes anyone is perfect, so talking about the challenges you’ve had in your career along with how you’ve overcome them is equally as important as the successes as it shows personal growth.
  • Try to keep your answers detailed but to the point, don’t waffle. The STAR format mentioned earlier really helps with this.
  • Maintain good eye contact and body language throughout. Try to look directly at the camera when speaking rather than at the screen images, (it doesn’t feel natural, but it helps with engagement and presence).
  • Sit-up, make yourself feel like you’re in an office environment. Don’t underestimate the formality of the situation even though you might be sat in your spare bedroom.
  • You can mention why you intend to leave your current or previous role, but be constructive without being derogatory or personal as this is not a good look.
  • If asked a question you don’t fully understand, don’t be afraid to ask it to be repeated or asked in a different way.
  • Have a copy of your CV next to you to refer to throughout the interview – this is a real benefit to interviewing remotely .

Some additional tips to create your ideal ‘at home’ interview environment

  • Be conscious of the environment around you. Make sure it’s professional, in a quiet area with no distractions and make sure the room you’re in is well lit. Lighting can enhance how your body language and eye contact comes across in a virtual setting. Consider putting a lamp behind the camera to give it an extra boost.
  • Use a virtual background if your surroundings aren’t appropriate for the interview.
  • Ensure you have a good internet connection.
  • Silence your phone and set your laptop notifications to ‘do not disturb.’ Children and pets don’t have an off switch, but technology should be muted to ensure the focus is kept within the interview.
  • Dress appropriately – not a three-piece suit, but change that top you’ve been wearing for the last four days.
  • Take the time to acknowledge the details of the interview that have been provided and read it fully (you never know, there may be some helpful information to help you succeed in your interview).

Implementing a robust remote interview process certainly hasn’t been plain sailing. We’ve learned a lot along the way and encountered several challenges, but a real benefit has been an improvement in our turnaround time on getting candidates through the interview stage. We’re finding while people are working from home they are more available and flexible to interview, meaning the process can move much faster. We have been able to reduce our hiring time down as a result.

Our company culture, values and people are what make us so successful and being given the opportunity to optimise our process during this period has been a great way to show how creative and flexible we are in our approach. Now that we’ve optimised our process we are able to show prospective candidates what our culture is like from the minute they touch base with us, without having to visit our offices or meet the team face to face.

We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences of interview processes you have been through that you were impressed by. We’d also like to hear if you prefer a remote interview or an in-person interview? Please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with Louise or Sarah at careers@opencastsoftware.com to share your thoughts.

Remember...a remote job interview is like any other interview!