Online Interview

How to ace an online interview – Nikki Murran, Director | Grocery Retail

Post-Covid, online interviews have become a much more commonplace occurrence. Here, our Director of Grocery Retail Recruitment, Nikki Murran, shares her top tips to ensure you create a positive impression during your online interview

There have been many residual factors left in our post-Covid lives, from the normalisation of working from home to a nostalgic fondness for homemade banana bread. One of the main shifts we saw in the recruitment industry was the acceptance of online interviews.

Pre-Covid I can’t think of one client who would have been satisfied to move to the job-offer stage without looking the candidate in the eye and shaking hands. But now, we still have about 35% of our interviews held online. Of that number, 20% of those are concluding their process, whether it be an offer or rejection, without having ever met the candidate face to face.

In March 2020 I was scrambling to understand the world of Zoom and Teams. I had used them previously but was by no means an expert. One of the first interviews I had set up was for a candidate who was amazing at baking and could run a high-volume, fast-paced bakery with his eyes closed but could absolutely not work email. I had to talk him through every step, and this was his first ever time using a laptop – I promise we laughed more than we cried but I think we have all become so much more proficient around online meetings now! (He got the job by the way!)

So, it would seem that online interviews are here to stay, in some capacity anyway. In many ways, they offer countless benefits to the recruitment procedure. They allow candidates to interview on lunch breaks or shortly before or after their shifts, they speed up the entire recruitment process, and they cut down on travel time and cost. But is there a downside? Do candidates who travel to interviews and attend in person have an upper hand over those who log on? Our figures would show that they do. Often the candidate attending in person has made more of an effort and thereby indicates more of an interest in the role and ultimately, in a potential hire, this is always more attractive.

So, the question remains – Do candidates really get a full chance to get their skills, experience, and personality across through a screen? I think this really depends, so, over the last couple of years we have been compiling the following tips for online interviews to help candidates bridge that gap between the real world and the digital one!

Suited and booted: When it comes to what you wear, the same rules apply as an in-person interview – well at least for your top half!

Profile picture: This is your new handshake! Make sure it is appropriate as this will be your first impression while they wait for you to log on!

Accept invitations: If the interviewer sends you an invitation on MSTeams – click to accept in a timely manner – not mere moments ahead of the interview. It confirms your attendance and interest. You can also add a note when replying saying thank you for the invitation and that you are looking forward to meeting them.

Can you hear me? This is frustrating for everyone – test out your platform (Teams/Zoom etc) with a pal and make sure you are up and running on audio and video beforehand. Technical issues nearly always cause candidates to fluster and throw them off before interviewing.

Technical issues: If you do have technical issues – don’t get flustered. If they can see you are trying to log on most interviewers are happy to bear with you while you get sorted or re-arrange if you can’t. Just be sure to contact them in real-time to let them know you are trying to log on.

Eye contact: It is very tempting to watch yourself or your interviewer during an online interview, but looking directly into the camera is the only way to appear as though you are keeping eye contact.

Backdrops: Ideally choose a neutral backdrop, a plain wall without lots of pictures, try not to sit in your childhood bedroom with your boy band posters surrounding you, or opt for the space backdrop with shooting stars behind you! If you have no blank wall – just opt for the blurred background setting.

Close all other apps on your computer: Getting email notifications during your interview is distracting and can make noise causing you to lose sound. Close everything!

Prepare, prepare, prepare: The level of preparation that is done for an in-person interview is the same level that should be completed for an online interview. Investigate who you will be interviewing with, research the company via their website and be aware of the latest news about them. Visit their stores and their competition. Have a copy of your CV, the job description, and questions you would like to ask. Be prepared for questions about your salary expectations, reasons why you are leaving your current role, length of your notice period, your motivation to move on (if employed), your career ambitions, etc. (Know your CV!)

Bad habits: Don’t eat, chew gum, smoke, or vape – this is still an interview!

Avoid interruptions: Be sure all pets and small children are locked up. Well, no, but perhaps ensure you have a quiet space where you will not be disturbed or distracted by snack requests.

Body language: Don’t slouch or squirm too much (it comes across as disinterested) even if your chair is uncomfortable.

Pick a comfortable chair.

Before you say goodbye: Ensure you’ve expressed your interest in the role and thank them for their time – oh and keep your fingers crossed!

You can check out this feature in the most recent addition of ShelfLife magazine here. You can view all our live jobs here. For more information call us on 01 814 8747 or email

Aislinn Lea, Head of Fashion & Non-Food, Excel Recruitment

How to do a great SWOT analysis

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis is a common and important part of job interviews for retail management but often interviewees can struggle with where to start or what to say. Our Head of Fashion and Non- Food Retail Aislinn Lea tells us everything we need to know..

A strong SWOT is a fantastic way of showcasing your experience and skills, along with your commercial awareness and can put you miles ahead of the other candidates. We’ve broken down each section of the SWOT and (provided handy templates) in detail here, but this blog will take you through how to approach you SWOT, what to look out for and what to avoid.

Where do I start?

Preparation is key with a SWOT. Your consultant will be able to tell you what the interviewer will be expecting- how to present it, the depth of analysis required and what store (if there’s more than one) you should conduct your analysis in. It may be a good idea to visit the store two or three times during different trading times to get a full picture of the store’s commercial day. Look at both the store and the surrounding area and visit other stores in the area, to see the differences. Make detailed notes about what you see/ don’t see and if possible, take pictures.

What am I looking for?

Break your SWOT down into the four sections and deal with each separately. For the Strengths section, break it down into store strengths and company strength and then again by customer service, visual merchandising and overall store standards. Deal with the weaknesses section in the same way. This ensures you don’t miss anything and show the interviewer you notice details while being a well-rounded manager.

The opportunities and threats section of your SWOT will come directly from your observations on both the store’s weaknesses and the surrounding area. Split this into short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives with clear, actionable suggestions on how to address/ capitalise on them. The most important thing is to keep store-specific and makes reference to the location, customer profile, local market and nearby competitors that affect the individual store directly.

How do I present it?

This will depend on the company you’re interviewing with, some will want an elaborate and engaging Powerpoint while others will simply want you to have a few notes that you then talk through verbally. Either way, use bullet points rather than chunks of text and elaborate on them at the interview. Have an action plan to hand, discussing how you would tackle what you’ve highlighted in your SWOT and a timeline.

What should I not do?

Don’t be too generic in your analysis and ensure the points you are making are specific to the store and the role you’re interviewing for. Your SWOT analysis should be conducted with the individual store’s location, demographics, resources etc. at the forefront of your mind.

Another thing I often see is people try so hard to not be overly-critical that they end up leaving out key issues. While it’s important not to be too harsh about the business or the brand, if there is an issue the interviewer is aware of but you don’t discuss, they’ll presume you missed it in your observations.

How to Be Fired- What to Do If You Lose Your Job

Hands up who has heard of Lucinda Chambers? Until a few months ago, the former Fashion Director of British Vogue would have been famous to only those with a keen interest in high fashion and publishing. Then came her dramatic departure from the magazine after 36 years, an outspoken interview in which she left nobody in doubt of the how and the why of her leaving, “It took them [Vogue bosses] three minutes to do it. I didn’t leave. I was fired”, and a wholehearted bashing of the entire fashion industry. Discussing her honesty on the topic, she said-

“I don’t want to be the person who puts on a brave face and tells everyone, ‘Oh, I decided to leave the company,’ when everyone knows you were really fired,” she said. “There’s too much smoke and mirrors in the industry as it is.”

Ms. Chambers’ departure and how she handled it has sparked a lot of debate within the industries of fashion, business, and recruitment. Some praised her frankness when describing just how un- mutual the decision was, others felt it was unwise to burn so many bridges so quickly across the entire fashion industry. So looking at Ms. Chambers, what are the do’s and don’ts of getting the sack?-

Should she have been honest about being fired? Yes. Ms. Chambers decided to be completely frank about being let go, which was the right. She had been successful in her job for over 36 years and with a new Editor, the magazine decided on some new blood and a new direction. She has no reason to lie, and choosing to lie makes it look like she does. What is less recommended is how publicly she spoke badly of her former employer. No matter how aggrieved you are, it’s important to remember to stay cool, calm and collected and not say anything that could come back to haunt you later when looking for a new job.

Things You Should Do if You Get Fired

Don’t burn bridges- Not only do you’ll never know when you need a reference but most industries, particularly in Ireland, are small. Everybody knows everybody and if you handle your dismissal badly or aggressively, in public at least, word could very easily reach a potential employer and turn them off hiring you.

Ask for the specific reason, in writing- You need to know and clearly understand why you were fired. Being able to explain to future employers why you were fired is a must. If you are specifically asked if you were fired, you need to answer yes. Lying WILL on a job application is grounds for dismissal at any time in the future.

Be prepared- When it comes to applying and interviewing for new jobs, it’s important you’re ready and able to discuss how and why you left your last job. Honesty truly is the best policy and any interviewer will see through any attempts to bluff or avoid it.

Tips for Senior Level Job Interviews

Job interviews can be nerve wracking at all levels, but interviews for senior management jobs can be particularly challenging, often requiring a deeper level of insight and preparation. Here at Excel Recruitment, our consultants interview candidates for senior positions right up to CEO every day and understand fully exactly what our clients are looking for. Below are some of our consultants’ top tips to succeed.

Don’t rest on your experience

When it comes to interviewing for senior positions, it won’t be enough to just take the interviewer through your experience and skills. You should leave the interviewer with no doubt about what you can add to the company you’re applying for. Outline your plan for yourself and the business when you get the job and the positive contribution you would make, whether that taking steps to fix a current problem, troubleshoot against a future one or simply improve on what the business is already doing well. Which leads us nicely to our next tip……

Do your research really, really well

‘Research the company’ is one of the most obvious, and important, interview tips around and for good reason. But the higher up the food chain you go, the more prep is required. Knowing the basics won’t land you a senior management job, you will have to delve further into the business’ goals, culture, strengths and weaknesses. Then when you’re in the interview, use this knowledge to your advantage by explaining how you and your skills will fit into and improve the business. You should also be aware of recent news stories, successful campaigns, annual reports and what their competitors are doing.


Chances are, if you’ve been invited to interview for a significant senior position the hiring manager has already deemed your experience suitable for the role. Often the purpose of the interview is not to discuss what you did, but how you did it. The personality fit is a crucial part of the success/failure of any new hire and one companies’ will but the time and effort into getting right. Get your personality across and build a rapport with your interviewer, getting across to them how well you get on with people and how this helps you manage people.

Know what you want

Before you even get to the interview stage, have it clear it your own head why you want the job. A job interviewer will want to know that you’re passionate about the company and their work and that you really want the job. Be prepared to discuss your ambitions and goals, along with your reasons for wanting a move. Think about why this company in particular would be a good fit for you, and you for them, and get these reasons across to your potential employer. Be clear on these before you go, and when you get there, be sure to ask questions as well as answer them.

Remember it’s an interview

Even if you’re a fantastic candidate with tonnes of experience, loads of awards and a stellar reputation in your field, this is still a job interview and you still need to sell yourself as the best candidate to the job. Rather than regurgitating broad, bland platitudes about your achievements, be prepared with a couple of real-life examples of your successes in previous roles e.g. “In my previous role, we had a problem with X, so I decided to do X and as a result X was improved and the issue was resolved.”

And finally, no matter how casual the interview setting or how senior a candidate you are remember the basics- dress well, be on time, and be nice to everyone you meet there. Follow all our above steps, and you’ll be one step closer to your dream job.

Dealing With Interview Nerves

Going for a job interview is always an anxiety provoking event. The best way to control your job interview nerves is to thoroughly prepare in advance. It is important to get advice and tools on how to ease the tension and make the job hunting process easier and the interview more enjoyable. Here are some tips and advice on how to calm those nerves and be composed and confident on the day.

The 5 minute surf

Understanding the organization’s business and the issues it faces will instantly impress the interviewer. A quick 5 minutes web search can throw up a wealth of insight and knowledge. Do the same across their social media channels, most companies at the very minimum are on Facebook and Twitter and allows you to quickly learn about the company and culture. Knowing about the latest company news, award nomination etc. that is readily available through Social Media will impress from the outset.

Put yourself on the spot

Focus on those elements of the interview which are in your control – i.e. you and what you already know. Spend 5 minutes writing down the most challenging questions you could be asked, then focus on answering one each day in the countdown to interview.

Adapting your language

Most organizations have a definite corporate language used to depict the company’s structure and processes. Spend 5 minutes studying the job spec to get a feel for how they describe your role and what you will be doing. If you can adapt your own language to that of the company and include some key phrases in your interview you are instantly going to make the interviewer feel comfortable and illustrate that you clearly understand what it is they are looking for.

Why should I work for you?

An interview is not a one-way affair; it is also your way of finding out more about the company and your employer so it’s important you ask questions too. Spend some time thinking about what drives you ethically, motivationally and idealistically. Developing questions which allow you to test your motivations will very quickly help you work out what sort of organization or department they are and whether they will suit you.