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Q&A: 4 Tips to Prepare for a Remote Interview

2 April 2020 , by Jomiro Eming

Interviewing remotely poses a whole new set of challenges for everyone involved, and like many of us, Domina McQuade, Lead Datacenter Recruiter at Microsoft, has been involved in a lot of remote interviews lately. Not only does Microsoft hire across the US border, but in light of the COVID-19 response, all of their interviews have also had to become remote. As a result, she has learned some tricks that help her team and her candidates win at interviewing ‘virtually’. Here are some tips on how to prepare for both running and attending a remote interview.


Tip #1: Double check your internet, audio and video

Make sure the internet, audio, and video are all working prior to your interview - a good hour beforehand and on the same machine! Good lighting also really helps. The people in an interview should be able to see facial expressions - and enthusiasm is important!

Q: Why is checking internet connection so important?

Domina: Having technical issues in the beginning of the interview can rattle candidates and cause them to do worse than they otherwise could. If they know exactly what is going to happen and that it will work, it eases some of that anxiety for them. Phone interviews are hard because you can't see each other’s reactions, passion or enthusiasm - so having video helps with that.

Q: What systems/tools help you ensure audio, video and internet quality?

Domina: We use Microsoft Teams for video interviews. We also use online tech screening for coding. We are also testing and coaching candidates on the prep call the day prior as well, to make sure the first time they engage with those tools isn’t during their interview.

Tip #2: Location, location, location!

Pick a good place in your house for the video call, and think about everything that’s visible. You don’t want things that could be distracting or give off the wrong impression!

Q: Why is where you have your interview important?

Domina: If your background is distracting, the interviewer might not hear everything you’re saying! For an interviewer, it also can look less professional and organised if you aren’t intentional about your home environment. You also don't want any unconscious biases to affect your interview.

Tip #3: Dress like you normally would for an interview

Domina's a firm believer in “you look good, you feel good”. The same applies for remote interviews!

Q: What impact does what you wear have in a remote interview?

Domina: Getting in work or interview mode at home is difficult sometimes. I’ve started getting ready for the day like I normally would, just to get in the right mindset. You want to prepare the same way you would for any interview. It makes such a difference to how I feel, and how I make a candidate feel as well. Candidates should do the same - it shows you’re treating the remote interview as seriously as you would a normal interview!

Tip #4: Look at the camera when talking, not the screen

…especially if you have multiple monitors, so you aren’t looking away from the interviewer or candidate.

Q: What difference does it make if someone is not looking into their camera in a remote interview?

Domina: I’ve had people on video calls literally looking away from me, or looking back and forth between monitors. It's a bit distracting, and you don't get all the benefits of doing a video interview - things like making ‘eye contact’, seeing facial expressions, etc.

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