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Tips for a Successful Online Job Interview

By Tamara Ritsema, PhD, MPH, MMSc, PA-CJuly 22, 2020

Credit: Shutterstock

Interviewing for a job during a pandemic requires some special considerations.

Your students have made it through PA school. Now it’s time for them to show prospective employers what they can do. Some of the advice that would apply to an in-person interview also goes for an online interview. But here are additional tips, compiled by a PA educator, to help them put their best virtual foot forward.

  1. Test your technology. Computers in general are better for online interviews than phones. They send a sharper picture and are less likely to drop a signal than phones. If you have the chance, practice with a friend ahead of time using the technology that you intend to use so you are not struggling with it on the day of the interview. Check out the angle at which your webcam “sees” you. No one wants to look up your nose for an hour.

  2. Think about where you want to sit with your computer on the day of the interview. The room should be quiet. Kitchens or living rooms where housemates or pets can walk by may be less than ideal. Try to find an area where you can sit in front of a neutral wall (with non-descript decorations) or a professional (bookcase) background.

  3. Dress professionally, including professional trousers or skirt. You don’t anticipate having to stand up during the interview, but if you do have to, you don’t want them to see your SpongeBob pajama bottoms. Avoid clothes that are heavily patterned — they can appear blurry online. Stick to neutral, plain clothing that won’t distract. A suit with a simple shirt or blouse is probably best. Keep jewelry to a minimum.

  4. Pay attention to your hair and face. They have the potential to be very large to someone who is watching you on a big screen. Make sure your hair is clean and neat. Make sure any makeup is simple.

  5. Practice an online job interview with a friend and get them to give you feedback about your online presence. Do they notice you fidgeting or moving a lot? Does it seem like you are projecting warmth and friendliness? Is the lighting in the room good? Does it light up your entire face? Is that angle of the webcam flattering?

  6. When scheduling the interview, get the details about the format of the interview. How many people will be on the call? How long do they expect the interview to last? Will they send you a link for the call?

  7. Turn off all other technology and any apps on your computer that might interrupt you. You want to be focusing only on the interviewer. Texting or phoning or dismissing alerts during an interview is just as big an error online as it would be in person.

  8. Look at the camera. This one is really hard. It is very tempting to either look at the image of the interviewer or to look at yourself. Try to move the image of the interviewer right up under the lens of your webcam so that you are looking directly at the interviewer instead of down or off to the side.

  9. Attend to your non-verbals. Smile, maintain good posture, don’t fidget. It is harder to project warmth online than in person, and you are interviewing for a PA job — people want to know that you are passionate and compassionate.

  10. Take a second to respond to questions or statements. It is easy online to accidentally talk over the interviewer. By waiting a second before responding, you can be sure that they are finished and that there is not just a lag in the technology.

  11. Thank the interviewer at the end. Also, follow up by writing a thank you email. Good manners never hurt anyone’s job prospects!
Tamara Ritsema
Tamara Ritsema, PhD, MPH, MMSc, PA-C

Tamara is on the faculty of the PA programs at George Washington University and St. George's, University of London. She is a member of the PAEA Grants and Scholarships Committee.