Job interviews will likely continue to be conducted remotely for the foreseeable future. This can cause feelings of relief for some, and added anxiety for others. Whether you’re preparing for your first phone screen or final interview, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you feel as prepared and confident as possible. 

Can You Hear Me Now?

The interview process may begin with a phone screen where connectivity and clarity are key. There’s nothing more frustrating than a bad WiFi connection or bad phone signal.

Try these tips to ensure connectivity and clarity:

  • Make sure you’re in as quiet a place as possible, which might be a closet, a bathroom, or the car. 
  • Avoid the outdoors if any of the following could overpower the conversation: planes, trains or automobiles, sirens, power tools, barking dogs, yelling children (or adults), wind or other weather conditions.
  • Test out acoustics beforehand and make sure your headphones and phone are charged, and reception is strong. If you’re in a remote area, that could mean driving a few miles down the road or figuring out which room in your house works best.
  • Let the other people in your household know that you’ll be on a call, and not to walk in while you’re on the phone. Stick a sign on your door if need be!

Set The Scene

So you’ve been on the job search, you've made it past the phone screen, and now it’s time for video interviews. There are a few things you can do to help interviewers focus on the conversation and not what’s behind you. 

Keep It Simple

Pick a plain wall and position yourself in front of it. It doesn’t necessarily matter what color the wall is, but limiting distractions will help both the interviewer and you focus on the conversation and not the decor. 

Or Don’t! 

You might have a wall of plants, a gallery of art, or a bookshelf that can’t be moved. If that’s the case, try to keep the wall at least 3-5 feet behind you so your interviewer isn’t close enough to read titles as you’re presenting your work. It’s okay to showcase your personality and interests with your background, but don’t allow it to be distracting.

Test The Frame

If you have objects in camera view, look at how they crop against your profile. If your houseplant looks like it’s growing out of your head, you should probably adjust. Same with photos, books, furniture, etc. 

Remove Any Clutter

If you’re interviewing in your bedroom, make sure the bed is made and the pillows fluffed. Your interviewers don’t need to know that it’s laundry day or that you were recently rearranging your closet.

Be Thoughtful if Using a Zoom Virtual Background 

We love using Zoom virtual backgrounds on internal calls. It’s fun to pretend you’re in a more exciting location than you actually are. But if you’re going to use a virtual background on a job interview, make sure to keep it simple. Also, be sure to use the same background throughout the interview process for consistency. Be mindful of any distortion when you shift positions or gesture, as it can be distracting, so practice beforehand to make sure the focus is on you and not a glitchy screen.

Consider Your Lighting

The typical office has many (maybe too many) bright, overhead lights that, for better or worse, make sure you can see everything in fine detail. Your kitchen may not. For video interviews, ideally you want lighting that’s in front or to the sides of your face. Avoid having windows or bright light directly at your back, which means your interviewer is staring at a dimly lit shadow with a halo effect. Time of day and weather matter, so what works for a morning interview may need to be adjusted for early evening. 

Dress For The Job You Want

Just because this is a remote interview doesn’t mean you shouldn't dress like you would an in-person interview. While wardrobe is usually up to you once you land a remote role, it’s best to err on the side of caution while interviewing. You may be tempted to wear the same sweatpants you’ve been lounging in for the last six months, but in the slim chance you need to stand up and walk off camera, you need to look professional.

Look at the company’s website and social media to get a general idea of how dressed up or down the staff typically are. If you’re applying to a UX design role at a bank, you may want to dig out that collared shirt. If you’re applying to a product design role at a small design firm however, it might make sense to show off a bit more personality. 

For hair, makeup, and accessories, the rule of the game is to be comfortable and professional. You don’t want to look totally washed out (see lighting tips, above), but also not like you’re auditioning for a Broadway show. 

Dressing up in work appropriate clothes may also put you in a better state of mind for the interview, and every little bit helps. 

Minimize Digital Distractions

Multitasking is often an important skill on the job, but multitasking while interviewing is not a good idea. You want your interviewers to feel that this conversation is the most important thing to you, and if you have notifications and reminders going off every few minutes, that’s not the impression you’re going to leave. 

Use this checklist to minimize digital distractions before your next remote job interview:

  • Make sure your laptop and headphones are fully charged.
  • Close all browser tabs and apps other than the ones being used for the interview.
  • Turn your phone off, or put it on Night Mode/Do Not Disturb/Airplane Mode.
  • Have your portfolio and any work you’re presenting open and ready for discussion.
  • Turn off or mute any robot devices (Sorry, Alexa).

Remote Job Interview Best Practices

For the most part, the same rules that apply to in-person interviewing are applicable to remote interviewing too. Keep these best practices top of mind throughout your upcoming interviews.

Make Eye Contact 

To appear as if you’re looking at the speaker, you need to look directly into your camera. This can be disorienting and feel totally unnatural, but practice makes perfect. Try positioning the speaker’s video window directly below your camera, instead of at the bottom or off to a side, so that when you’re looking at their video you’re at least looking towards the camera.

Do Your Research

Once you know who you’ll be speaking with in the interview, look them up on LinkedIn, search for their portfolios, articles, or presentations, and take note of things of interest and potential questions you’d like to ask.

Act Natural

Feel free to move around, look up, take a sip of water, jot down notes, and otherwise act as you would if this were an in-person interview. 

Be Up-Front 

If there is a potentially disruptive scenario that you can’t avoid, address it head on at the start of the interview. Perhaps your child is coming home from school and they may hear voices, or your neighbor is doing construction, or something else is happening out of your control. Preparing your audience in advance will help them remain focused on your words, not the distraction. 

Interviews of any kind aren’t most people’s favorite activities, and doing them remotely can add an extra layer of complexity to the process. But keep in mind that if you’ve made it to the interview stage, the company genuinely sees something in your application and hopes you’re the answer to their hiring needs. Wishing you happy (or at least less stressful) remote interviewing this year!

Towards the end of our UX Academy program, we offer unparalleled career support to students. If you’re looking to break into the UI/UX Design industry in 2021 with the help of mentors and career coaches (like Nicole) we encourage you to reach out to

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Nicole Locklair

Talent Partnerships and Career Services

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