Online interviews – Get yourself prepared!

It’s been about a year since Covid reared it’s head and affected the lives of everyone!
Of course this not only affects our daily lives but also directly affects us in the context of job applications and interviews.

It is no longer the case that on seeing a school you like or one that sounds great you can ring up the school office and wander along for a “look around”, have the opportunity to ask a few questions and sort of size up the place. No – this is now not going to happen.

Likewise with interviews – the usual attended interview is no longer happening and it is the case that schools are setting up online interviews with candidates via such applications as Zoom, Google, Microsoft teams etc.

So how does this affect things and how do we need to change our approach?
Aside from stating the obvious – you won’t be going into the school either to look around before you apply or if your application is successful for the interview itself…..the thing that you can count on is that everything will be dealt with over the internet – so you better get prepared!

This means that you need to get things ready – here are 9 things to think about to make sure you’re fully prepared.

1. Test your technology
The minute you agree to an online interview, test your technology to ensure you’re set up for success.
Check your internet connectivity, and confirm that your camera and microphone are working properly. 
Also check that you can actually connect to the particular software that is being used for the interview, just in case you need to make any adjustments to your settings or install supporting software beforehand. 
On the day of your interview, test your equipment and internet connection again. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of not being able to connect at the crucial moment! 

2. Check your setting 
Find a room with optimal lighting, preferably near a window, and ideally with a blank wall behind you to guarantee that you’re the focal point of the conversation. Ensure that your surroundings are neat and tidy. 
Check that you won’t be shrouded in shadow or washed out by glare – the interviewer needs to be able to see you properly to establish any sort of rapport. 
Choose an area that is free from all noise distractions. 
And remember, if you were attending an interview in an office, you would turn your phone off. So ensure your phone is switched off or on silent! 

3. How should you dress?
Dressing the same way as you would for an in-person interview will put you in the right frame of mind. It will also avoid any embarrassment if you need to move mid-interview! 
This may be the first impression that the interviewer has of you, so it is imperative that they see you are taking the interview just as seriously as you would if you were sat in the same room as them. 

4. Research and plan ahead
Like any other interview, make sure that you have researched the School (website, newsletters possibly newspaper articles etc….you could browse the latest OFSTED but its not really for you to comment on this but it may be a basis for a question or two) and have prepared any questions you have for the school about your job / support etc. 
Print out a copy of your application form and personal statement and have it to hand, so you can refer to it if necessary.

5. Engage! 
You can’t firmly shake anyone’s hand nor is it as easy to show enthusiasm via video. But you can monitor your body language and remain engaged with the interview panel and especially the person asking a question. The main way to communicate confidence is to sit up straight, smile, and keep the camera at eye level. 
Looking at the camera, rather than your image on the screen will help you look as engaged as possible. 
And while you’ll want to keep your posture straight, leaning slightly forward towards the camera can help increase eye contact and allow the panel to get a better sense of your enthusiasm. 

6. Be yourself 
This could be the first time that you have ever conducted a video interview, but it’s important that the school gets a real sense of who you are. The panel will be looking to see that you are not only capable from a practical and educational perspective, but that you are also the right fit for their school. This can be challenging during an online interview because there is a physical disconnect. It’s harder to feel your enthusiasm through the screen, so make sure you’re expressive when talking and answering questions. 
Make sure you emphasise not only with your skills and experience, but also your own particular approaches and interpretations – in other words your personality. 

7. Address any technical gremlins
If you experience a technical glitch like a weak connection or interference, always ask the interviewer to repeat what they were saying or asking. 
If the problem continues, politely mention it and suggest that you reconnect – you don’t want to miss any crucial information, or let technical problems get in the way of giving your very best performance. 

8. Think practically 
• Your username – you may already have a username for personal video calls, but is it suitably professional?
• Notes – have any notes or documents you might need at your fingertips, ideally printed out and therefore easy to refer to. To avoid looking down at notes these could be placed on the wall or a board directly behind your camera or screen.
• Headphones – always advised as they tend to minimise feedback when on a video call 

9. Prepare!
It doesn’t matter what the interview format is,  preparation is still key!
Good interview preparation will also give you that all-important confidence that could really set you apart from other candidates. You will feel more in control and relaxed and confident that you can answer whatever is asked. From this strong foundation you will find that your personality and confident interactions will show through and will no doubt impress the panel.
 So there you go – advice on the practicalities of preparing for your online interview. In my next article I will pull together all the examples kindly submitted by colleagues that they experienced at their online interviews.


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