Yes, it’s possible to stand out negatively in a variety of ways. Some of these are the same mistakes you could make in an in-person interview, others are unique to the online experience.
When you know what the mistakes are, you can prepare yourself better. Here are some common interview issues and how you can avoid them.
Earlier we mentioned how important it is to familiarize yourself with the video conferencing technology beforehand, but it’s worth repeating. Play with the system beforehand, make sure your webcam and microphone are both connected and working, and memorize where all the buttons and settings are.
Do your best to ensure there are no “hiccups” during your interview. If you’re going to be on wi-fi, get as close to the router as possible to avoid drops or lags. If you can hard-line into the router directly with an ethernet cable, do that to ensure uninterrupted service.
Of course, there may be other kinds of interruptions not related to the internet - family members, pets, phone calls. Try to schedule during quiet periods if possible, and try to keep your family in the other room.
Unfortunately, the work from home era means letting your interviewer and coworkers see a glimpse into your home on a regular basis. This means, yes, cleaning your house can have an impact on your performance. A cluttered background offers an opportunity for the interviewer to get distracted and lose focus on what you’re saying.
Try to have as visually neutral of a background as possible - but still one with plenty of light. Plain-colored walls or open (clean) spaces work the best. Experiment beforehand to see how you can look your best and keep the attention on you, not the posters hanging on your wall.
Sounding Like A Victim
We all know that you shouldn’t bad-mouth a previous employer during an interview. But there’s a more subtle form of negativity you should watch out for - a victim mentality.
There are plenty of reasons you might feel you’ve been dealt bad cards in your career - especially if you’re coming off a layoff or a toxic environment. No matter how justified you may feel your grievances are, an interview is not the place to mention them.
Remember, from the interviewer’s point of view, if you’ve had nothing but a string of bad luck and bad experiences in your work history, the common factor is you. If you use your time to complain or gossip about a former employer, it can make your interviewer question your emotional intelligence.
Making It All About You
In the early stages of the interview process, your goal should be to make sure the position is a good fit for you - that’s what the other side of the desk is doing.
That means at this point, their primary concern is what you can do for them - and you need to show that you know that. While it’s important to be up-front about your needs and expectations, focusing too much on those aspects too early without first demonstrating your value is a major red flag.
You need to ask questions about the company’s challenges and problems that need solving. You can ask about benefits and pay alongside these questions if you want, but remember not to focus too much on these aspects prematurely. You’re both learning about each other.
Later in the process when an offer is closing in, that’s a different story. But early on, the main focus needs to be on what you can do for the company.
Making It All About Your Shortcomings
Most people have something in their resume that they’re concerned about. This could be an extended gap, a degree that was never completed, or maybe just a lack of experience.
Be careful not to talk down on yourself when these issues come up. Remember, you’re getting an interview because someone thought you were qualified. Now’s the time to promote yourself, not be defensive.
There’s a tightrope to walk here: You want to address any potential concerns a hiring manager may have, but you don’t want to highlight your weaknesses. Therefore, you want to make any explanation you have very succinct and ready to move on to the next topic quickly.
Whatever you do, don’t offer an unprompted explanation. If they’re really worried, they’ll ask. You don’t need to put concerns in their head.
As always, the best thing you can do for an interview is to practice and prepare. Do your homework, practice your responses, and try to avoid these pitfalls and you’ll have a successful interview wherever you do it.