The art of the online interview

14 March 2023 Camilla Cicatello

During the pandemic, most research moved to be online and remote. Post-pandemic, companies have realised that this actually works well and have continued to conduct different types of research online. For those new to the world of conducting online research, the key questions remain: 

  • How do I conduct a good interview online? 
  • How am I meant to read body language if I’m not sitting face-to-face with the participant?
  • What if the technology doesn’t work?

Here are some tips on how to adapt interviews for online, and how to make the most of an online interview:

  • Have two screens: It is vital to be able to see your participant and their facial expressions so, if possible, conduct the interview using two screens. The first screen will be to see the participant’s face on the video call and the second screen to have your notes open.
  • Wait 10 seconds: When asking the participant a question wait an extra 10 seconds when waiting for their reply. As we can’t see their body language, we need to practice waiting just that extra bit of time for the participant to respond. This is so important as our tendency is to fill the silence but instead, we need to lean into it and give our participants the space to think and respond meaningfully and thoughtfully.
  • Have a backup plan: Internet connectivity issues, unexpected load-shedding or your computer crashing are all realities of technology failing us during online interviews. Therefore, you also need a backup plan to conduct the interview such as a regular phone call. This plan also needs to be communicated to the participant before the interview.
  • Avoid distractions: As you are conducting your interview on your PC, it’s likely that you may have a million different tabs open, your phone next to you, and maybe even Slack/Teams/WhatsApp open. These are all distractions during the interview so try to close these messenger applications, turn your phone on silent and be as present as possible during the interview. 
  • Be prepared: This is the same whether you are conducting a face-to-face interview or an online interview which is to always be prepared. For an online interview, you need to consider additional things such as:
    1. Is your laptop charged or plugged in?
    2. If you are working from home – have you communicated to your family members not to be interrupted? 
    3. Is everything set up and ready on your computer?

“It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” – Godfrey Reggio

Like most things, the more online remote interviews you conduct the easier, more seamless, and smoother your interviews will be. Lastly, it’s also helpful to view technology as an advantage, not a hindrance. Lean into tools that can make conducting research easier not more complicated such as transcription tools in video-calling software and Miro or other online Whiteboard tools. 

Good luck with your next interview!