Some time ago, I applied for a tenure track professorship in Germany, and was invited to an interview. Due to the current circumstances, the interview will now take place online (via Zoom).

Having participated in a few "offline" interviews, what I have been told about the structure and contents of the interview (30 min scientific talk + discussion, followed by a 60 min discussion with the selection committee) seems to be relatively standard. The interview will take place on a technical platform (Zoom) that I am reasonably familiar with due to my online teaching activities.

I am wondering what to expect from, and how to best prepare for an online interview, in particular compared to standard "offline" interviews.

  • Are there any pitfalls specific to the nature of virtual meetings?
  • How should I best prepare for potential technical issues? I plan on having two laptops ready, but for example WiFi issues are very rare, but not impossible.
  • 2
    Don't use wifi but an Ethernet cable. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 17:15
  • I would, but the office I will be using doesn't provide LAN access, and one of the laptops I will be using doesn't have a suitable port to plug in an ethernet cable Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 12:08

2 Answers 2


I interviewed candidates in the US for a similar position, the number one non-academic tip is to pay attention to how you appear on Zoom, and go for a professional setup. I was surprised how many candidates were speaking in a relatively dark room with a visible bed (even an unmade bed) behind them.

  1. Look at the camera, not the screen
  2. Find a relatively solid, professional, not distracting background
  3. Light yourself from the front
  4. Make sure the camera is raised to something approaching the level of your head

If possible, do a practice interview on Zoom first to prepare.

  • To-the-point. I would also add a lot of practice on presenting online, if it is part of the process, since it can be a very awkward experience and some technical issues might need to be smoothened.
    – user117109
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 12:34
  • For background, what is your opinion on using Zoom's option to set the background, maybe to a fixed colour?
    – GoodDeeds
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:43
  • 2
    You could do a Zoom background, but I would test it, some people systems have more trouble with this than you’d think. Test choices with people you trust so they are professional and not visually distracting.
    – Dawn
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 16:20
  • 4
    Bed is bad because it is visually busy and distracting. Focus should be solely on you and your words. If you live in a small apartment, be creative. I recently had to do an important meeting and made a desk of boxes so I could use my wooden closet door as a background. Better than seeing a distracting living space.
    – Dawn
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 22:20
  • 1
    I am fortunate enough to live in a house with multiple fully-stocked home offices. My point was that not everyone is as lucky, and it's thus unfair to impose such standards on people at this time. The background should be made as neat and tidy as humanly possible, but ultimately one lives where one lives. (I, too, would typically suggest people without a convenient home meeting setup try to take their meetings somewhere else... if the world was not in the midst of a pandemic right now.) Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 12:11
  • provide a contact phone number in case of serious network problems (and get a phone number for your contact at the institution)
  • depending on your field, you might want to be prepared with some way to "write on the board" (low tech, paper and pen, hold the paper up to the camera when you're done; high tech, use your phone as a webcam/document camera, or have a tablet available). (The paper & pen can also provide a last-ditch backup for sending "I CAN'T HEAR YOU" messages if e-mail/chat/etc/etc aren't working ...)

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