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Posted on 3 Dec '20

6 Tips for Acing Your Online Postgraduate Interview

Given the pandemic, postgraduate interviews are increasingly being conducted online. That can mean there’s even more to worry about, such as having a working internet and picking the best spot in your house.

But don’t worry, online interviews aren’t that different from in-person ones. To help you prepare, we’ve put together some tips to make sure you ace it!

Wear trousers

Sometime ago this tip would have been called ‘dress appropriately’. But, with at least a few instances of people being caught out dressing smartly above the waste and. . . somewhat more casually below it (don’t google it), trousers are the key point here.

You may think that, as your legs out of shot, they don’t need to be dressed up, but what happens if you need to move, or, worse yet, get up? Maybe you need a pen, or a book that’s just out of reach. Don’t risk showing off your love-heart boxer shorts or Mickey Mouse pyjamas to a potential new department.

Tidy your background

A messy room will make you look like a messy person. Whether you are a messy person or not, you don’t want your interviewers to think you are. Postgraduate degrees require a level of organisation so that’s how you must present yourself.

A plain background will work fine, but if you’re really looking to impress, the bookshelf is another popular option. I’m sure many of you have seen the glamourous bookshelves of news interviewees, so take inspiration! But don't over do it. Having everything your prospective supervisor has ever written in the background might look a little implausible.

Know what software your interview is on

This is the equivalent of knowing which building you’re meant to go to, only this time there are no people around to ask for directions.

Make sure to check your emails and download anything that might be required. If you’re not sure which software is being used, then email your interviewer the day before. This is also a good time to confirm that the interview is still taking place.

Also, save any links you’re sent. You don’t want to be panic scrolling through your inbox with one minute to spare because your invite got lost!

Tell the people you live with

We’ve all seen the video of the kids interrupting an expert's interview on the news before the child carer comes storming in to grab them. As funny as that was, you don’t want it to happen to you.

Make sure people know what time your interview is, how long it might be and which room you’re going to use. Hopefully your flatmates, or children, will keep the noise to a minimum. This will not only reduce distractions for you, but for your interviewers too.

If you happen to live alone, then this shouldn’t be an issue. Unless you live next to a keen gardener who mows the lawn every day. In which case, close the windows.

Check your camera and microphone beforehand

Technical difficulties happen, and sometimes they’re unavoidable but it’s worthwhile trying to minimise the chances.

A good idea would be to video call a friend on the same software your interview will be on. This way you can check both your camera and microphone are likely to work. You can also have a play around and learn how to turn them on and off.

There’s nothing worse than reeling off the best speech since Braveheart and realising your microphone was off.

Know what you want to say

Which brings me onto my last point. Preparing answers to potential questions is just good interview practice. But, with all these additional distractions around, it’s important not to lose focus.

Organising your bookshelf so that you can only see the classics may seem like an important task, but ultimately the outcome of an interview comes down to you. How well you know your work, how interested you seem in the project, and how well you present yourself as a viable candidate. Remember, it's still an interview and most of our normal advice applies.

So, put the work in, look presentable and relax!




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