The Young HPC guide to online interviews

Brilliant! You’ve been invited to an online interview. Even if you’re not meeting an employer in the flesh, this is still a perfect opportunity to show why you’re the right person for the job. Read our guide to feel prepared, relaxed, and ready to make your best impression.


First steps

Getting an online interview is a sign that an employer is interested in your skills, experience, and what you have to offer. It’s great news – and the first step is to make sure you have all the information you need.

For instance, do you know the date and time of the interview? Do you know who’ll be on the call? Many people find interviews nerve wracking so if you have the list to hand, you’ll avoid some of common interview stresses – like remembering who’s who on the call.

Also, it’s important to know which video platform the employer will be using (more on this in Get the technology right! below).

Why didn’t I get a face-to-face interview?

Don’t be put off if an employer suggests an online or telephone interview – it doesn’t mean they’re less keen to see you! Since Covid-19, online interviews have been the only option for employers wanting to meet potential candidates. Even after lockdown – and the easing of travel and distancing measures – employers are likely to continue with online interviews. It also saves you the expense and trouble of travelling too.

Prepare to succeed

The key to doing well in any interview is to prepare. Spend some time going through the employer’s website. Make sure you understand what the company does and where it operates. A large project such as Hinkley Point C (HPC) involves many contractors – so make sure you learn about the right one! There’s lots of useful information on the Young HPC pages

Take time to research everything there is to know about the HPC project too. Have a look at EDF’s website but also, take a look at Start Profile and some of the films on YouTube to get an idea of what it’s like to work here.

Look on the employer’s website. Their About us page should give you a good overview of their mission, or goals such as sustainability and inclusivity. Try to think about how these align with your own goals or actions. Look also at any news page, blogs or social posts. What does the company talk about? Which charities does it support? Identify the things you have in common.

Next, focus specifically on the job you’re applying for. Ask to see the job description if you haven’t already been given one. Study the roles and responsibilities of the job. And consider how your training, skills or experience will help you meet or exceed them. See our skills and behaviours pages if you need more help on identifying these. And think ahead of examples to demonstrate your key skills and behaviours, like problem solving and resilience.

Plan ahead how you’ll answer common interview questions. For instance, what things on your CV might an employer ask about? If you spent a summer working as a holiday rep, can you talk about the experience? What did you do, what did you learn, and how it might be relevant to this job? Get more advice on interviews in our interview techniques section.

And if the employer has given you an exercise to complete, or presentation to prepare in advance, make sure you do this in good time. Share it ahead of the interview, just in case there are any technology hiccups on the day. As one HPC recruiter told us: “I had to give a presentation recently during an online call, and I sent it through earlier – just in case the technology let me down. It was a good idea, as screen sharing failed to work on the call!” 

Talking of which… Get the technology right!

There are two main types of video interview. Live video calls are most common, but some employers might ask candidates to record and upload answers to a set of questions instead.

If this is the case, you’ll probably get a set amount of time to record your answer to each question. Make sure your voice is clear and that you answer without waffling. It may help to make notes beforehand, but be sure you spend most of the time looking at the camera while talking.

For a video meeting, it’s vital to make sure you can join without an unexpected technical hitch. If you’re new to video conferencing, the first step is to make sure you have a computer or device that can run the software.

Install the necessary app or browser extension, and create an account if necessary. HPC interviews might be carried out on Skype or Zoom. Be familiar with both and download the app version for desktop if you’re not using a phone or tablet. These tend to have extra functionality – like answering polls in Zoom. Make sure your account name sounds professional, and that you fill in any profile fields with your real details – avoid emojis or nicknames!

Netiquette: how to avoid an online gaffe

It’s important to join the meeting a few minutes before the allotted start time. And unless it specifically says otherwise, assume you’ll need to have your camera on. Unmute as soon as the call starts. Remember not to fidget, and be certain you’ve left the call before punching the air in celebration!

Once you’ve set up your device, have a test call with a friend or family member. Check basics like whether they can hear you, and be sure you can hear them clearly too. If you have a headset, or a pair of unobtrusive headphones, try using them to see if the call quality is better. Check that your WiFi signal is OK – does your test call drop out or stutter?

If the app doesn’t perform well, try a different device or broadband connection. Assuming everything is fine, get to know the settings for turning your video off and on. And how you mute and unmute your microphone. Hold as many test calls as you need until you become familiar with the software.

If you’ve been asked to give a presentation, practise sharing your screen and running through that too. To avoid accidentally showing anything you’d rather keep private, close all other software and browser tabs on your device.

How to avoid common technology problems

  • Can’t find the interview? Make sure you’ve got the link and any password you need
  • Poor sound? Try a headset instead
  • Poor call quality? Check in advance that your WiFi and device work well
  • Low battery? Plug in before you start

Spare a thought for how you’ll take notes during the interview. It’s not a great idea to type on the device you’re using, as it can interfere with the sound. It may be better to take handwritten notes. Or make the call on a phone while typing on a laptop.

What are the differences between online and face-to-face interviews?

The main difference is that you’ll probably be at home for an online interview. So find a quiet place with a blank or professional-looking background. Check the feed from your own camera: are you well lit, and free of background noise? Have you framed your head and shoulders properly?

Be sure that your family or housemates know you have an interview. Put a note on the door to avoid interruptions, and ask them to avoid the internet if they can. Go to the toilet before the interview starts, and make sure you have a glass of water to hand.

While you’re likely to be asked similar questions during in-person and online interviews, the tone online may be less formal. The conversation may feel less natural, though, particularly as often only one person can talk at a time. Uåsing a headset could improve this. And be sure your interviewer has finished their question before you begin your reply.

Once you’ve started talking, watch the screen in case they need to interrupt you. You may want to refer to notes during an interview, but try not to rustle the paper – background noise can play havoc with sound quality. And do NOT be tempted to do anything else in the background – it’ll be obvious if you’re not paying attention!

Remember that you can’t bring along a portfolio as you would in a normal interview. So if you’ve got something to show, share the document or a link to an online portfolio in advance.

Interview timeline

  • Get the details
  • Test the technology
  • Research the company and position
  • Prepare and rehearse your responses
  • Complete any exercises or presentations


On the day

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Test the technology again!
  • Wash and dress smartly
  • Eat a proper breakfast or lunch
  • Prepare your notes
  • Toilet and a glass of water
  • Join the video call five minutes early



  • Tie up any loose ends
  • Provide any requested information
  • If unsuccessful, politely ask for feedback

Go the extra mile

At a minimum, you should research the job thoroughly, be punctual and polite, and make sure you dress as smartly as you would for an in-person interview.

Think also about what you can do to stand out from other candidates. If you have a blog, YouTube channel or another feed that’s relevant to your skills or work, talk about this. If you’ve been asked for examples of your work, make sure you’ve sent them in advance.

It may be appropriate to follow up on any unanswered questions after the interview. For example, if the employer asked to see any samples of work. If you have any questions you forgot to ask, don’t be afraid to contact the recruiter or HR person coordinating the interview too. Be considerate of other people’s time though, and don’t bombard them with more than one email.

If you aren’t successful, always ask politely for feedback. Employers are usually happy to provide help to unsuccessful candidates. But don’t take it personally if you don’t hear anything further – recruiters are busy people and it takes time to give feedback. So always be appreciative if you do get some, and try to respond constructively. Taking feedback on board will improve your chances at your next interview too.

Good luck!

Useful links

  • Hear from a successful candidate about her experience of an online interview on the Youth Employment website
  • This article from LinkedIn has some good advice on online interviews
  • BBC Bitesize has a few general tips about preparing for interviews
  • This site is really useful for sample questions – and you can practise recording yourself in advance!