Tips for Online Interviews

Organizations often use web tools for internship and first round job interviews. This was true before COVID-19 and it’s more true today.

While interviewing in person has advantages, time and cost often prevent candidates from interviewing in person. Here are some tips to help your remote interview go smoothly!

Note: If you are new to interviewing, please check out the Interviewing handout to learn the basics.

Location: Select the right location and background for your interview. Some tips:

  • Curate your background and be aware of wall art. Often something makes it into the frame that you don’t want to be there, like dirty dishes, unmade beds, and the like.
  • Virtual backgrounds work best when you have a blank wall behind you and uniform lighting. Otherwise, you can tend to “float” in and out of view, which can be distracting and unprofessional. Here are some WashU backgrounds and tips for using them on Zoom. It’s not necessary to use a virtual background; a blank wall or tidy room is just fine.
  • Pets and roommates should be in another room. Put a sign on your door. Give your pet a special toy. You don’t want kitty jumping up on your keyboard during the interview.
  • Some fields like math and engineering might like you to have a white board available during the interview that you could use to work through.
  • Scholars can be relied upon to scan bookshelves. If you choose to be filmed against yours, scan the titles on display to make sure they set a good impression. Don’t load up your shelf with books that you think will look impressive, though! The interviewer may ask you about them.


  • Create a separate Skype or Zoom account for professional use.
  • Microphone: Schedule a test run with a friend to check your video and microphone feed.
  • Earbuds or headphones with a microphone are excellent as they cut down on ambient noise. However, avoid the large headphones often used for gaming, unless of course you’re applying to a game design company.

Lighting: Check windows and lighting. If you have a window behind you with insufficient light in front of you, you’ll appear dark. Pro tip: Sit facing a white wall and turn a desk lamp onto the white wall so the light reflects back on your face.

Camera angle: Place your laptop on a stable surface so that the camera catches you straight-on at eye level. (Even a stack of books will do!) You don’t want the interviewer to focus on your nose hair.

Notes: Write notes on post-its and place them on the wall behind the camera so that you can glance at them without looking down. Write them large enough for you to see them without squinting. A white board is particularly helpful if you have one.


  • If possible, have a second connection available through a hotspot on your cell. If using Zoom, you may be able to call in using your phone for audio to help with a weak video connection.
  • Triple check that you have the time zone correct.

Dress for success: Even though you’ll be sitting, you still want to dress for the occasion just in case you have to rise for some reason. Also, wear solid colors and avoid stripes and other patterns. White, other than a shirt under a jacket, can cause issues with cameras.

During the interview

  • Turn off your cellphone.
  • Turn off computer alerts for texts and emails. Both the alert noise and the action of them popping up on screen will distract you and make it hard for you to come across as professional to the interviewer.
  • Do not walk around and try not to sway, fidget or swivel in your chair. These habits are amplified on camera.
  • If you can’t hear the interviewers due to the technology, let them know.
  • If something bizarre happens like a car crashes outside your window, acknowledge it. Life happens.
  • Don’t click through windows on your computer to bring up notes. It is obvious. Also avoid flipping through books or papers.


Big Interview: Online interview practice

Career Center Interviewing Handout: Provides general advice and sample questions

Zoom Help Center: Support for common questions