Laptop with an image of a consultant in a online interview

Online interview: Three steps to a successful client interview

In this article, experienced IT consultant Jacek Biliński shares his best advice on how to prepare for the client interview. He covers the technical aspects, shares advice on how to present yourself, including tips on how to keep your nerves in check as well as how you can prepare for optimal results.

By Jacek Biliński

Over the last two years, a vast majority of job interviews have been conducted online. Online recruitment interviews have become a common occurrence in companies. Although job interviews conducted via Skype or Microsoft Teams do not differ significantly from the traditional physical meetings, there are a few elements that IT consultants should keep in mind in the preparation process.

Man preparing for an interview with a mobile phone as camera

Always practice. In terms of video and webcam, look around you – what else can you see in it apart from yourself?

1. Start with the basics

The first step is to check the internet connection and whether the webcam is functioning correctly. It seems obvious, yet it is not uncommon for the sound to suddenly disappear, hear crackling noise instead of a clear voice, and see a blurry image. If you are having connection problems in the middle of the interview, inform the client.

Remember that technical issues may negatively influence how the client perceives you. Therefore, it is a good idea to test everything beforehand.

Additionally, it would be best to place your laptop or camera a bit higher so that the camera captures your whole face and neck at an appropriate angle. It is essential to maintain "eye contact" during an interview. The client wants to see more than your forehead for the duration of the interview.

Good lighting is crucial, as you must be visible in the video. Add a lamp if necessary and make sure to reduce brightness from outside if the weather is sunny.

While choosing what to wear during an interview, select something that looks good on camera. IT consultants are not usually required to wear a suit or tie during an online job interview, but do your best to look presentable and make a good impression – a neat shirt might be all it takes for you.

Online interview - a preliminary checklist:

  • Camera, microphone, and headphones
  • Image quality
  • Sound quality
  • Frame quality (what is the camera capturing)
  • Inform family members of the meeting
  • Turn off notifications on your computer

Make sure you have informed other household members of the meeting. Also, it's a good idea to mute your phone and switch off any potential automatic notifications and pop-ups on your computer.

Male consultant looks in a camera which is shown on laptop with more participants int the interview

During the online interview, your job is to elaborate on your skills using examples from your previous tasks.  Keep it short and to the point.

{   ... For the interview, the best antidote to stress is preparation...   }

2. The interview

Proper preparation is a necessary element to a successful presentation of yourself in any job interview, regardless of its form.

Keep nerves and anxiety in check

The stress levels experienced by a job candidate before and during an interview are generally high. Tense nerves will play a part in all interview formats, regardless of whether the interview is a physical or an online meeting.

For the interview, the best antidote to stress is preparation. Stress before an interview is generally caused by the unknown. You cannot know the specific questions that will be asked or anticipate how the recipient will respond to your answers beforehand.

If you are aware of your strengths, learn how to demonstrate them, and practise various interview scenarios, you can predict your responses to specific questions. Furthermore, it will allow you to contain much of your anxiety.

Focus on the hard skills

It is crucial to know that good preparation requires much work to figure out your professional style. Do not worry about open questions, such as, “please tell me something about yourself”. Clients mainly focus on hard skills in the interview with IT consultants. They are there to determine whether you are the one that can help them solve their problem. Remember, they already know a lot about you and your skills from companies that have recommended you.

In the context of an online interview, it is not uncommon for IT consultants to worry about questions concerning their competencies as they cannot demonstrate them in practice.

However, the focus of online interviews is not to analyse code fragments. A more technical discussion may happen in an additional interview with a technical expert, or a specific task to write a piece of code may be given to the candidate.

During the online interview, your job is to elaborate on your skills using examples from your previous tasks. ‘What was it about, what was the complexity and, and your role.’ Keep it short and to the point. For instance, the client is not interested in all details describing the business environment. The client wants to know what you did in your role, the challenges you faced and how you reacted, in addition to what the project taught you.

In essence, when the discussion falls on your skillset, you should provide a minimum of context and be specific about the role you played.

How to deal with questions about competences:

  • Understand which skills are of crucial importance.
  • Read the assignment description.
  • Ask which skills are the most important for the client in this role.
  • If you do not have the critical competence for a given position, be upfront and honest.
  • Bring up an experience where you dealt with a similar issue. State that you are eager to expand your knowledge in this area and leave the final decision to the client.

Ask questions to uncover expectations

It is always worthwhile to inquire about a client’s expectations of the project at hand. How will the client implement the project successfully? What effects should be visible after three months, six months, or a year?

This part of the interview will allow you to become aware of the expectations, even if they turn out to be high and conditional on teamwork (not only your contribution). It is essential to learn about them so you can determine whether you are the right person for the job.

Man sitting in a private home on camera during a job interview

Try to look at the camera to connect with the viewers. Even in an online job interview, good practice, manners and self-presentation will be noticed, appreciated and taken into account throughout the recruitment process.

3. At the end of an interview

It is always a good idea to ask whether a client would like to have a link to your portfolio at the end. It can be in a profile format (e.g. LinkedIn) or a file format (e.g. PDF) with a description of projects or a link to your website created specifically for this purpose.

Your portfolio is compiled to create a credible image, but keep in mind who your audience is. Decision-makers are usually the key recipients. Therefore, project descriptions should be kept short. Do not forget to write about the effects of your work. Although it is rare in the IT sector, you can write a thank-you e-mail. Send it after a business day or two.

Worth considering

While preparing our IT consultants for the client interviews, the following question is often a common a one:

What if the person on the client side I am talking to has different skills or is not a technical person?

Such situations are rare. The person on the part of the client that you are talking to is usually the so-called hiring manager, i.e. somebody who will later be your manager or with whom you will directly work on the project.

Be prepared to adjust your presentation

When you prepare for the meeting, it is necessary to understand to whom you will be talking. Knowing this will allow you to organise and adjust your style to the client at hand. You will often find yourself with a decision-maker who is not a technical expert. Even if the person is not from IT, you should not be surprised that she is not proficient in a given technology.

Final advice

Successful presentation of yourself during an online interview is not very difficult nor impossible – it simply requires good preparation. Even in an online job interview, good preparation, manners and self-presentation will be noticed, appreciated and taken into account throughout the recruitment process.

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... The client's very reason for conducting an interview is to determine whether you are the one for the job. Therefore, you should be able to professionally demonstrate that you are the right candidate by understanding the task while in the process showing how you will accomplish helping the client.

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End the interview on a positive note and mood, and remember to log out properly after the interview.

If you have questions about preparing for an online interview, or if you want to start as an independent IT consultant contact ProData Consult.

Jacek Biliński

Jacek Biliński 

Digital Technology Consultant and Project Manager with ProData Consult Poland. He has been a freelance consultant since 1993 and has worked for brands such as Shell and Microsoft.

Jacek Biliński is an Engineering major and graduate of the Warsaw University of Technology and the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH). He has worked with ProData Consult since 2020, and he has been on assignment in implementing projects for Volkswagen Bank.

linkedin.com/in/jacekbilinski/

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