By Anne Evenson
Interviewing for a job can be a little different during the pandemic. Make sure you prepare accordingly!
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish-born inventor credited with inventing the first telephone
As the coronavirus pandemic continues and social distancing remains the norm, many hiring managers are using virtual interviews to screen candidates for employment. Though some aspects of virtual interviews are similar to face-to-face interviews, others require special consideration and modifications. Virtual communication can be tricky, so if you’re on the hunt for a new job, follow these tips, and you’ll increase your chances of being asked to return for the second round of interviews.
Set the Stage
First impressions are everything, so take time well before the interview to set up your space. Situate yourself in a clean, quiet and well-lit area. If you don’t have a bookshelf to act as a background, place your computer and webcam in a position that displays a blank wall behind you. Think professional setting rather than an unmade bed or random clutter. You want the interviewer/s to focus on you and nothing else.
Limit distractions or interruptions from family members, pets, partners and roommates. Turn off radios, televisions, phones, tablets and other sources of external noise that could interrupt your interview or cause you to lose concentration. And most importantly, test your technology as far in advance of your interview as possible, so you have time to update your equipment or upgrade your internet service if necessary. Find more information about successful video conferencing here.
Research and Rehearse
Just like with any in-person interview, come prepared with answers to common behavioral interview questions. Predicated on the idea that past behavior is the best predictor of future action, this type of question is standard for most job interviews.
Don’t worry about memorizing your responses; instead, use storytelling to remember specific work situations that showcase your skills and experience. Cue yourself with Post-It notes around your computer monitor, providing you with reminders at a glance.
The feeling that interviewers often get from someone’s physical presence is often lost in a virtual interview. Because the hiring manager can’t feel your energy, it’s critical to research the company and the position, so you can demonstrate your enthusiasm by asking questions and detailing your qualifications, skills and experience.
Set up a mock virtual interview with a trusted friend or family member, someone who will be honest with you, and perform a few trial runs. Practicing is a great way to find out how you look and sound, whether the lighting is flattering and if you appear prepared, professional and engaged. Choose a few different people so you can rehearse with varying types of personality and answer various questions. Remember to keep your responses clear and concise; not every query requires a long-winded answer. Mock interviews are a safe way to learn from your mistakes, so you’ll be less nervous and better prepared.
Mind Your Body Language
One of the things people struggle with the most during video conferencing is making a clear and confident impression. First, remember to smile; this might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget if you’re anxious. Just try to keep it natural; if you seem amiable and sincere, you’ll make a great first impression. Video chatting can drain your energy quickly, so avoid frowning or staring; you don’t want to appear bored or lethargic. A pleasant resting facial expression includes a moderate smile with slightly raised eyebrows.
Avoid touching your face to calm nervous energy and sit back from your camera a bit if you use hand gestures while talking. Project positive energy by maintaining good posture and looking directly into the camera to make eye contact. Refrain from looking down whenever possible and try to keep a relaxed vocal pitch, just like you would during a face-to-face conversation. Remember not to talk over the interviewer. If there’s a technology lag that causes you to speak simultaneously, apologize and let them take the lead.
Find Common Ground
In real life, humans often rely on shared experiences to bond with each other. We’re captivated by the strange things people bring to work for lunch or sharing cute photos of our pets. Though we may be consciously unaware of it, what we’re doing is finding common interests. Discovering things we might have in common with someone new is an excellent way of establishing a connection.
Instead of relying on the tired old cliché about the weather or traffic, consider respectfully researching your interviewer beforehand on their LinkedIn page or the company website. Focus on anything you might have in common with them. Do they volunteer at an organization whose mission is important to you? Are they passionate about exercise? Sometimes just sharing someone’s enthusiasm for a particular interest can be enough to establish a rapport. Only mention the relevant information if it feels natural to do so; don’t be weird and say things like, “I saw on your personal Instagram that you love white-water rafting in the Amazon! I, too, love participating in adventure sports in South America!”
Make Yourself Memorable
Be sure to follow up with a concise thank you email to your interviewer(s) within 24 hours of the meeting, just like you would after an in-person interview. This message is your opportunity to elaborate further on a discussion point or respond to an interview question differently.
As organizations continue to evolve during these turbulent times and virtual interviews grow in popularity, it becomes incumbent on professionals navigating the job market to excel at these new types of interactions. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous in a job interview, wherever it takes place. However, if you allow yourself time to prepare and practice, engage with your interviewer and let your personality shine through, you’ll steal the show!
Anne Evenson is a native Austinite and a proud Veteran’s spouse with over 20 years of marketing, communications and program coordination experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She is also a sculptor, jeweler and all-around dabbler in the arts and loves to help military-connected individuals discover their inner creativity.
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