How to Conduct an
Online Interview

Learn how to conduct and online job interview

Curious as to how online video interviews differ from traditional interviews? While the interview mediums differ (face-to-face vs. web meeting), the goal of the interviews are the same: determine whether the candidate has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to operate effectively within the role.

This guide aims to help you translate your traditional interview process into a complementary online interview process. Hiring decisions should not be taken lightly. This guide has all the information to help you select the right candidate. You'll learn the best ways to prepare for conducting an online interview and preview what's next in interviewing technology.

Before the Online Job Interview

Proposing the online Interview

Reach out to the candidate via email or phone and make sure he or she is available for an online interview. During your correspondence with your candidate, mention that you would like to move him or her on to the next round of interviews, which includes an online conference. Make sure to ask if your applicant can accommodate an online interview.

What if your Job Candidate Can't Web Conference?

“If the candidate is unable to accommodate your online interview request, there are other options available. Equipment can be shipped to the candidate for later return, or you can invite the candidate in for a face-to-face interview. A phone interview is also a good alternative.”

Harvey Daniels
Consultant at Northwestern University

Setting Up Online Job Interview Specifics

The most common mistakes occur when the recruiter is interviewing in a noisy environment, or, even worse, the recruiter occasionally diverts his or her attention to a distraction.”
– Harvey Daniels

You'll need to scout out a location ahead of time for conducting the online interview. Hopefully, your organization has a designated place for such occasions – private meeting rooms or offices. But, if it doesn't, the meeting location should be:

  • Quiet and free from distractions.
  • Inviting and well-lit.
  • A clean, positive space to represent the company.
Conducting online interviews in a public setting should be avoided. As tempting as it may be to conduct an interview from your local Starbucks, we suggest steering clear of that setting. Answers to some questions may be confidential and the session may be disruptive in that public environment.”
– Harvey Daniels

If your candidate is only able to access the internet via a public setting, ask that he or she use a headset to minimize background noise. In this case, it would also be wise to schedule the interview during non-peak hours for the location of the applicant. For example, if the candidate is interviewing from a Starbucks, try to avoid a morning interview.

If your candidate must use a public connection for the online interview, it is prudent to remind him or her of quiet public places where the interview can be conducted.

Libraries offer a quiet place to participate in an online job interview.
“ We forget that local libraries can provide internet access. Some even have secluded areas in which to conduct interviews. Another helpful venue to consider is government funded employment centers. These centers are typically well-equipped and very willing to help with setting up and hosting interviews.”

Lynda Zugec,
Managing Director, The Workforce Consultants

Help your candidate with Pre-Interview Resources

An applicant who is not tech savvy may need a little more guidance and information than those with some experience. To avoid any tech-related issues during the online interview, it may be necessary to have a short phone call with the candidate. This will ensure that your applicant has the proper technology and knows how to access the meeting. It will also put your candidate at ease so he or she can focus on the interview and not technical issues.

As the interview begins, keep in mind that the candidate's knowledge regarding online interview technology is not necessarily representative of the candidate's general technological abilities. If the job does not require being well-versed in online video technology, then it should not be considered as part of the overall assessment. Of course, most jobs do require some technology requirements, such as the ability to use MS-Office, etc., but those should be evaluated separately.”
– Harvey Daniels

If your company conducts a lot of online interviews, you should take some time to develop a few resources to help candidates prepare for the platform. A short video explaining the process can ensure that the candidate receives all relevant information. Providing a Q&A sheet with frequently asked questions for the applicant to review prior to online interview can be helpful. These resources will help eliminate platform related issues during the interview.

Some questions to consider answering:

  • Which web based technology will we be using?
  • Do I need to install anything on my computer prior to the online interview?
  • How long will the interview be?
  • Where can I conduct the online interview?

During the Online Job Interview

Interview questions to ask of online job interview candidates.

Interviewers Need to Be Prepared Too

“Many interviewers ask questions which have no scientific validity. They want more information - and that's fine - but there's often no plan for how that information will be used. Some interviewers will justify every question by saying that they just want to get a 'feeling' for a candidate. But those same interviewers almost never circle back months or years later to determine if their 'feelings' correlated to applicants becoming hires and hires becoming top performers. The reality is that many, many candidates come across poorly in interviews yet perform extremely well on the job.”

Steven Rothberg,
President and Founder of College Recruiter

Asking useful job interview questions is a science.

Sometimes the answer to a question can only be as good as the question itself. While the answers you get from open-ended questions can sometimes be revealing, they usually have little to do with the candidate's capability to perform the job. For example, if a candidate answers all of your technical questions correctly, but provides an awkward answer to an open-ended question, you may want to consider giving him or her a pass.

The more valid and reliable the interview questions and testing, the more likely you are to find the best candidate for the open position.”
– Lynda Zugec

There is a situation in which you should consider giving more weight a candidate's answers to open-ended and/or hypothetical questions. If your company places a high value on the culture of the office – be it the cultivation of a team atmosphere, a competition-based environment, or a value on self-starters – you should consider whether or not the applicant will be able to thrive in your office's environment.

Your Candidate May be New to Online Interviews

While online interviews are convenient, it's more difficult for the interviewer and the candidate to establish a personal connection over video. It's often made worse when the candidate is nervous or unfamiliar with the process.

Recruiters can be up against the clock with online job interviews.
It sounds harsh, but recruiters do not want to chit-chat about the weather or some sports game. If they're conducting online interviews with a lot of candidates, then the available time of the recruiter is at a premium. The strongest candidates will be those best adept at making a memorable first impression.”
– Steven Rothberg

It is important for recruiters and interviewers to keep in mind that some candidates may not be used to online interviews. While just the idea of an interview is stressful for applicants-add the extra worries that come with an online interview-and you could end up with a very uncomfortable prospect. It's your job as the interviewer to put the candidate at ease.

“As simple as it sounds, a smile is a signal that connects us all to warmer and calmer feelings. Use short, simple sentences when asking easy to understand questions, and your interaction will be more positive and get you relevant answers.”

Eric Goulard,
author of Body Language Secrets Revealed

Reg Flags During a Video Interview

While it's natural for candidates to be nervous during an online interview, there are some 'red flags' that could indicate problems beyond just nerves. It really comes down to your ability to 'read' a person. Although you are certainly not trying to interrogate your prospect, there are certain things to watch for while he or she answers.

Verbal variations and tone will tell you when the candidate feels stress, or if the situation becomes a little complicated for him. For example, if you notice that the candidate uses simple sentences when he is comfortable, ask yourself why these suddenly become complicated sentences during specific elements of the conversation.”
– Eric Goulard

If a candidate consistently makes these verbal slips only while talking about a certain skill or qualification, it may be an indication of a lack of confidence in his or her expertise around that topic.

Body language tips for job interviews.Body language during an online job interview is important.

Too Much "Me" and not Enough "We"

Questions that would raise red flags are too many "me" questions such as compensation, vacation time, work schedule, and benefits. Some of those are fine, especially as the candidate enters the second, third, or even more rounds of interviews, but during an initial screening interview, the candidate should be focused on demonstrating that they are the best candidate for the job.
– Steven Rothberg

Too Much Apathy and not Enough Energy

It is a concern when a candidate doesn't perform well during the online interview but has the skillsets and experience to fulfill the job. Having the skills and experience to fulfill a job is not enough. An applicant who clearly has the skills and experience to do the job, but is only projecting a moderate or even a lack of interest, may offer clues of being difficult to manage. The expression of those traits should be a very strong concern for the interviewer.”
– Harvey Daniels

The Virtual Job Fair:
A Blend of Interviewing and Technology

Of course, video interviews are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using technology in your job search. One emerging recruiting technology trend is the virtual job fair.

A step up from networking and job board websites, a virtual job fair is a persistent environment. It's an always-open recruiting center that facilitates ongoing hiring efforts on a 24/7 basis. InterCall's virtual environments can be a driving force for your organization, catapulting your company into the technological age of recruitment.

Additional Benefits of Virtual Job Fairs:

  • Instant access to a global audience, where you can engage and prospect a broader range of candidates not limited by geography.
  • Increased cost savings, where you can hold live video interviews and eliminate the expense of flying in candidates for face-to-face interviews.
  • Expanded virtual networking, where you can target more effectively based on specialties.
  • Use of environment analytics, where you can gauge a potential employee's interest in potential job openings via their logged activities within your virtual job fair.

Before Your Virtual Job Fair

You can't attract your perfect candidate without knowing what that candidate looks like. Before you begin building you virtual job fair, you need to know what kind of candidate you want to attract. You should start by building a profile of your ideal applicant. Once you have built the profile, you can then go fishing for your candidate.

If you are fishing for the ideal candidate, then think of your virtual job fair as the bait. When you go fishing, you will only catch what your bait attracts. Thanks to the profile you built around your ideal candidate, you know what kind of bait to use.

Virtual Job Fair Attendance Depends on Promotion

When fishing for job candidates, use the right bait.

So, you know what kind of candidate you are fishing for. You have built the perfect bait to catch that candidate. But, you'll never catch a whale in a pond. You have to increase the size of the pool in order to maximize your chances of attracting the big fish. Effectively promoting your virtual job fair brings the whale to you.

How to promote your virtual job fair:

  • Advertise on the Web: Online free and paid advertising across various job sites, industry-specific forums and networking groups
  • Partner with Recruiters: Partnering with recruitment firms to host a joint virtual job fair where you'll receive cross promotion across their websites and employee email lists
  • Partner with Universities: Contacting college and university career centers for free publicity on their web pages and offline on their bulletin boards
  • Provide value with Webinars: Hosting a monthly webinar series from within your environment for potential job seekers

  • Build a Community: Designing a live job seeker chat forum from within your job fair where candidates can freely chat about their job hunting experiences with others actively looking

Ideally, you will want to create a main reception area in your job fair where you can provide a menu of all other offerings and activities that candidates can easily access without having to randomly jump from room to room. If you expect a certain level of technical skill from your applicants, you should tailor your online environment to make content as easy as possible for potential candidates to access while also challenging them to utilize new technologies.

It's always a good idea to have a 'Live Chat' feature included within your virtual job fair. You'll want an HR representative manning the 'Live Chat' during office hours. This ensures you are cultivating all potential employees for next steps in your employment process while also maintaining their interest in your employment offerings.

Conducting an Interview Online - Final Thoughts

Interviews, whether in-person or via online video, will always be a crucial step of the recruiting process. When you properly prepare your interview process, you show respect for the candidate’s time, your time, and the company’s time. A good recruiter understands that he or she must sell the opportunity to the applicant just like the applicant must sell his or her qualifications to the interviewer. Luckily, the process gets easier and more effective with practice. Now, go catch that big fish.



Eric Goulard (@Non_Verbal_info), author of Body Language Secrets Revealed, is a body language and nonverbal communications expert. Eric frequently blogs at and is active on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynda Zugec (@LyndaZugec) is the Managing Director at The Workforce Consultants - a network of specialized consultants within the area of Human Resources. The network is comprised of consultants at the forefront of HR practice and research.

Steven Rothberg (@EntryLevelJob) is the president and founder of College Recruiter, the leading niche job board used by college and university students searching for internships and recent graduates hunting for entry-level jobs.

Harvey Daniels is a Consultant at Northwestern University's Kellog Graduate School of Management and DePaul University.