The ongoing pandemic has in real time brought rapid, profound changes in the ways in which we live, work, and study. One of the more visible shifts is the increased use of remote work as we take advantage of teleconferencing technology to promote physical distancing. While software such as Zoom, Hangouts, and Skype have been commonplace for some time, these new realities may lead to a new Work from Home (WFH) norm, even well after the crisis has passed.
The WFH trend and greater appreciation for the connectivity tools we have at our disposal will in turn have an impact on students as they approach work and study opportunities, be it co-op, part-time, graduate/professional school, or landing that first post-graduation job. This is already playing out in how interviews are conducted.
Virtual interviews have been used for years, but as organizations shift to WFH arrangements, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it become a core aspect of the hiring process. In recent weeks, both students and alumni have already adapted to these changes in their own virtual interviews.
Despite this move to online, as they have found, when it comes to engaging prospective employers, some things will continue to hold true. By applying best practices for in-person interviews alongside key technological considerations, you can effectively market yourself and build meaningful connections.
Impressions matter, even if made remotely. Just like an in-person interview, dress professionally. A good rule of thumb is to do some background research as to dress codes within the organization, using their website or social media as a guide. When in doubt dress conservatively. Also, make sure to do so from head to toe. Not only does this help instill a professional mindset going into the meeting and show that you take the opportunity seriously, it’ll also help prevent any embarrassing situations. Though part of you will be visible on screen showing a sharp suit, you never know if you’ll have to suddenly get up from your seat to reveal that it’s paired with sweatpants or shorts!
Comfortable yes, advisable no
You might recall the viral video of a professor’s interview for the BBC being gate-crashed by his children. Though it garnered plenty of laughs (and lots of sympathy from parents), it’s also a great reminder to make sure your virtual interview environment is secure from curious pets, children, and roommates.
This was adorable. Your interview shouldn’t be adorable
Aside from preventing outside distractions, the room in which you’re interviewing in should also not in itself serve as a distraction. The room should be free from unwanted sounds or noises. In addition, think of your surroundings – would you want people you don’t know terribly well to see a messy room or personal items? Instead opt for plain backdrops – remember, the focus should be about you and not your (admittedly awesome) collection of chia pets!
Background clutter is another matter
Also consider webcam placement. We’re used to our laptops being below us, but for the purposes of virtual interviews that isn’t ideal – you’re looking down and they’re looking up. Instead prop up your laptop or raising your webcam so that it is eye level.
Lastly, think of lighting. Is there adequate lighting? Is it in the right places? For instance, having your back turned to a window may result in you being washed out and not visible. Instead light should be shining upon you. It need not be a Hollywood production, as even placing a lamp in front of you will make a noticeable difference.
You’re well dressed, you’re in a room that is free of distractions and ready to do your best in the interview. But what about your technology? This is a key part of your virtual interview preparations, and there are a few things to consider.
Does your connection work? If you’re out of range for wi-fi, consider moving your router or setting up in a different room. If possible, a wired connection via ethernet will ensure an optimal connection.
Does your webcam and microphone function as they should? Apps such as Skype have a built-in test function, allowing you to confirm functionality and take steps if they are not.
Much like loud roommates or cluttered backgrounds, apps themselves may lead to unwanted distractions. Close apps that you are not using during your interview.
Lastly, ask a friend to log in through their computers and run a test interview with them.
Preparation in advance is strongly advised! Interviews can be stressful enough without last minute troubleshooting.
During the interview create ‘eye contact’ by looking at the webcam instead of the screen when speaking. General best practices also apply in this context. Sitting up straight, avoiding fidgeting or nervous movements, and resting your hands in front of you are all recommended.
As part of your preparations, review common behavioral interview questions and formulate answers using the “S.T.A.R” format. Research the organization you’re interviewing with and develop thoughtful questions for the end of the interview.
Lastly, be sure to write thank you notes to your interviewers. Even though it’s not in person, such gestures help bolster good impressions and keep you top of mind.
Of course, like any interviews, practice makes perfect. In fact, the career advisors at the EL Hub are happy to conduct mock interviews, including virtual ones. Feel free to contact us for assistance!
Kristopher Gies, Career Advisor