28 August 2020

The Art of the Online Interview: Interviewing People in a Post-Zoom Call

Written by: Elijah Olomoniyi

Something that might not be readily apparent to the average person is how much conversational dynamics shift when you aren’t able to talk face to face.

Having to have an in-depth conversation online versus in-person often means having to be able to make constant adjustments to your speaking style in order to stay focused and get the information you need out of your interviewee. Through the ordeal of having to work online, I’ve picked up on a few things that I think can really help you get the most out of your online conversations.

First and foremost, use the online format to your advantage. Being online means having access to the world’s most beautiful cheat sheet, your computer, and having the ability to look things up while on a call with someone with them being none the wiser is an advantage that cannot be understated. On top of having the internet at your fingertips to fill in the information, you also can rely a little bit more on your notes when necessary. A huge advantage of online calls is the fact that if you’re looking at your screen, nobody knows exactly what you’re seeing!

The second thing to make sure you’re doing is to make sure you remember you are on camera! I cannot stress this enough, too often people fall into the trap of forgetting that everyone else in the call you are in can see you. Remembering you are on camera is the difference between keeping things professional and looking like a fool in front of your interviewee.

The third thing to do is (and this is my personal favorite) choose a background image that will start a conversation. My favorite is the one I’m using in the attached image. It’s the album cover used for the Chinese song Yi Jian Mei by the artist Fei Yu-ching. Naturally, the image is extremely out of place, and always gets the conversation started on what exactly it is. This lighthearted start to the interview always leads to the establishment of camaraderie and rapport between me and my interviewee which I believe leads to a better interview every time.

I know this isn’t a comprehensive list of things to do but utilizing these ideas can absolutely lead to a better interview experience in the online age. Remember, nothing has changed, except for literally everything.

Enjoy yourselves!

Agency: National Park Service

Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)

Location: Rivers, Trails Conservation Assistance Program - DC Support Office

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