This year so many things in our work and personal lives have been shaken up and tested. Social distancing, virtual interviews, and working from home are new work “normals” today.
For many of us, our work and personal lives now intersect in ways we wouldn’t have imagined a year ago. Since the pandemic hit, remote work is on the rise. Our commute may have gone from however many miles by car or other transport, to however many feet to our home office or workspace.
Many unforseen challenges come with today’s world of work. But we adapt. We adjust expectations, cope, and learn new skills. What choice do we have?
Virtual interviews, for one, may continue to be part of the job search landscape well after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
Remote work is on the rise.
More and more companies allow for (or even prefer) remote employees, which means that things like virtual meetings will likely be part of your work life, beyond virtual interviews. You’ll need to be up-to-snuff on using new technologies for your job.
In fact, remote work is making way for a new role at companies of any size, according to Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Workplace:
“The word ‘remote’ might become the most spoken or typed word of 2020 when it comes to employment. If companies want to get serious about the new remote work paradigm, then creating a “Head of Remote” position could make sense. While only in its infancy, some companies have hired for this position including GitLab, Trilogy, AngelList, and Quora. These are companies that are managing and/or hiring for remote positions and then leading a remote work culture. Leading remote teams, building a remote culture, and working remote are skills that can be learned through experience and education. It’s still too early to tell if more companies will hire for these positions internally or externally. But, it is a sign that ‘remote’ is here to stay.”
For lots more information, check out my post How to Find Remote Work and Do It Well.
And now there are virtual hiring events with virtual interviews
You may have already participated in a virtual hiring event, which are being used by employers more often these days.
This is a group interview where employers accept job applications and conduct group or individual virtual interviews. Technology for these events include virtual waiting rooms, where you wait your turn to be interviewed.
Indeed.com, one of the major job boards, rolled out Indeed Hiring Events in June 2020, and offers some tips on how to access and navigate these events.
But beware. Just as spending too many hours on job boards, responding to postings, is not the best way to land a good-fit job, virtual hiring events are not the best way to job search.
Stick to the tried and true method of targeting and networking your way into jobs with employers who will be a mutual good fit.
Virtual Interviews vs. In-Person Interviews
Maybe you have recent experience preparing for and going on in-person interviews.
As with any aspect of job search, the better prepared you are for interviews, the better you are likely to perform.
The following prep work is important for both in-person and virtual interviews:
- Company and industry research (including getting background on your interviewers)
- Practicing the answers to common interview questions
- Putting together the questions YOU will ask
- Working your personal brand into the conversation
All of these things will position you as an informed candidate who is truly interested in working for that employer.
Because your face and upper body are so up-close in virtual interviews, every movement of yours is more magnified than when you’re sitting in an in-person interview, several feet away from interviewers.
This can take some getting used to, and requires an understanding of the technology involved and a fair amount of prep, so you’ll perform professionally and appear comfortable.
Being savvy with this kind of technology will also help position you as savvy with the new world of work during and post-pandemic. Once hired, you’ll probably be dealing with virtual meetings for some time to come.
Although virtual interviews come with some particular challenges, there is an upside compared to in-person interviews: No travel time, or the hassle of finding parking and paying for it.
The Types of Virtual Interviews
Career Directors International offered advice from several members on virtual interviewing in a helpful tip sheet, starting with the types of virtual interviews you can expect to navigate:
The Videoconferencing Interview
Videoconferencing interviews have received the most notoriety over the past months, with Zoom leading the pack. Other video conferencing software include Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Be prepared to maintain eye contact with the camera!
One-Way Video or Virtual Interviews
In the one-way video interview, you will answer preset questions which are recorded for the employer to see later. Usually, this interview happens at the beginning of the interviewing process in place of the phone interview. It’s possible that recruiters will use one-way interviews in place of phone screens for the first round of interviews.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Virtual Job Interview
Mya (short for My Assistant), is one of these technologies. These AI recruiters evaluate resumes, schedule and conduct job screenings, and can even congratulate you when you accept your new job. Many of the big US recruiters have incorporated Mya and likely many others are currently, or will soon be, using similar technologies. Approach these as you would any other virtual interviews.
According to Mya Systems,
“Mya is cloud-based and integrates directly into a company’s applicant-tracking software. Her responses are so realistic that, even when applicants are told they’re talking to a bot, 72% of interviewees still thought they were chatting with a human.”
Texting is becoming an increasingly popular method for virtual interviewing. Use this method to sell your qualifications as best as possible. Double check that auto correct hasn’t changed what you were trying to write. A spelling error or auto correct could eliminate you from the next round. There are two added bonuses of text-based interviews:
- If you are in front of a computer, you can augment your answers.
- You’ll have a record of the chat which will help you to compose a strong follow up email or letter to sell yourself for the position.
Phone interviews have been, and still are, a common practice. Remember to stay positive and have a notepad, the resume/letter you sent, and the job description at hand throughout the call.
21 Things You Need To Know, Do and Master for Virtual Interviews
The tip sheet goes on to list 19 things you should do before and during your interviews, to perform optimally. Two additional tips follow these:
1. Be confident.
Answer with confidence as if someone’s standing right in front of you.
2. Test your technology.
Always test out your technical capabilities with a friend or family member in a mock trial. Begin your interview “setup” 15 minutes before start time so that you can check your appearance on the screen and ensure that sound is working properly. Of course, you’ll want to charge your laptop or smartphone (if applicable) the night before.
3. Check your WiFi.
Be sure that your WiFi connection is stable, and if it’s not, move closer to the hotspot or router. The more wireless devices using the network, the less bandwidth is available for each device to use. Bad weather can also affect WiFi in some areas. Plug into the Ethernet port instead. Check that your camera and microphone are working properly.
4. Listen to your voice.
Practice hearing your own voice and content by recording yourself answering a question on your smartphone.
- Do you sound cordial or aloof, articulate or fumbling, interested or gloomy?
- Does your pitch fade so that you sound like you’re asking a question instead of making a statement?
- Do you drop the end of phrase or sentence, thus ‘fade away’ to the listener?
Whether you are going to be on camera or not, your voice can truly reinforce and represent your personality. You can’t sound bored or uninterested if you have a smile on your face. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
6. Record yourself.
Video record yourself to see how your energy comes across.
- Do you do a good job of making eye contact?
- Do you seem distracted?
- Are you being engaging?
Understand that for video you need to amp up your normal demeanor as video seems to dampen enthusiasm. You will only know how much to over-project by taping yourself in advance and playing it back.
7. Keep water by your side.
Keep a glass of water handy during virtual interviews, in case you get a case of dry mouth.
8. Watch the time.
Have a clock that’s not on your smartphone within easy view. You’ll need to be aware of the passage of time, and allow time to share any pertinent information you’ve planned to discuss.
9. Tell the interviewer when you’re pausing.
When you pause to think, offer cues to the interviewer. If you pause in speech, you may need to provide a verbal cue, such as “please allow me a moment to gather my thoughts,” or “please allow me to consider your question.” This may sound more formal than your usual manner of speech, but this a formal appointment. Giving a verbal cue will make a better impression than “um” or “hmm,” or silence, which could make the employer wonder if the call was lost.
10. Look at the camera, not the screen.
Sit up straight, maintain the illusion of eye contact by looking at the webcam and not at the image on your computer screen. Avoid looking at your reflected image as well. Tip: Add a picture of someone right above the camera lens on your computer to ensure you’re maintaining proper eye contact into that camera lens!
11. Don’t slouch, yawn, or fidget.
Some virtual interview software programs allow the employer to rewind, meaning bad moments can be viewed over and over again.
12. Stage your office or workspace.
Set your office “stage” with a bookcase, a tall plant, or appropriate wall décor. You also want to ensure you are positioned properly on the webcam, so that you will be centered on their monitors. What does the visual background say about you? Messy or neat? Too bare? Check to ensure that the background or anything on the wall does not give a misleading impression.
13. Check the lighting.
Make sure there are no bright lights or windows creating a glare behind you. Even with shades drawn you may be cast in sunlight that makes it hard for viewers to look at for very long. Avoid using only overhead lights that cast very unflattering shadows. Instead, purchase a studio light (you can find one on Amazon for approximately $30) or position yourself where natural light is in front of you and can help brighten or illuminate your face.
14. Check your on-screen appearance.
Are there unflattering shadows on your face? If it is daylight, you can use the reflected light of a window. Sit facing the window, not to the side. You can reduce the blue screen skin tone by adding an incandescent lamp behind the camera. If there is no window, or it’s dark out, place an adjustable lamp behind the camera that shines just above your eyes.
15. Avoid visual and noise distractions.
Plan for potential interruptions. Prepare your kids and any others in the house in advance and provide them with something to occupy their time. Some say a post-it-note with a color code system helps. Close your pets out of the room. Accept that there might be a situation that you will need to address, but do it calmly so as to provide a positive impression.
16. Dress professionally.
Just because you are at home, doesn’t mean you should look like you’re at home. Maintain the expected standard of dress for a professional interview. Specifically, your clothes should be professional (from head to toe) and on-target for the company culture. They should not distract attention from you, with loud prints or designs. It should go without saying, but wearing shorts or sweat pants is a bad idea. What if you have to stand up for some reason?
17. Be yourself.
Confidence in your tone and body language is critical. Nervousness and unease come across even more on camera than in person, because there are fewer things for the interviewer to focus their eyes on. If you need to, meditate before the interview or practice deep, calm breathing. If you have a mantra that helps to calm you, now is the time to use it.
18. Have your story/pitch ready.
Focus on the challenges you faced, the actions you took, and the results you attained. Have a copy of the job description and your resume or application available to reference if necessary. If you’ve networked your way into the interview, and have no job description, refer to your notes about the company.
19. End virtual interviews on a positive note.
Let the last thing they see at the end of your virtual interview be your warm, gracious smile, not the top of your head or a puzzled, serious, relieved look on your face while you search for a way to end the call. Know your software and how to quickly access the “End Call” button, without viewers seeing you do it.
Mac Prichard, founder of MacsList, offered tips to ace your virtual interviews, including one that many people overlook:
20. Don’t forget to send a thank you!
“After your interview, the best way to stand out as a memorable candidate is to send a gracious, sincere, and professional thank you email to each person involved in the interview process.
There’s nothing like a handwritten thank-you note, but with so many workplaces shifting to remote work models, an emailed thank you is the timeliest way to reach your hiring manager. Ideally, you should send your thank-you note within 24 hours.”
Virtual Interviews Have Some Upsides
Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search partner Cheryl Hyatt, noted one of the upsides to virtual or video interviews:
21. Create a cheat sheet.
You can easily create and refer to a cheat sheet during these interviews. This is something you can’t realistically do at an in-person interview. She suggests writing down short points you want to cover in the interview, along with questions YOU want to ask:
“Don’t do it on the fly. A lot of candidates wait to see if something comes up during the interview. Having a prepared list communicates intentionality and thoughtfulness to your interviewers.”
Write your points on sticky notes and place them around the camera, to keep your eyes as close to the camera as possible, as you refer to the notes.
“Also, make sure you know which note is where. Looking around the room or your desk to find the correct points can make you look scattered. It doesn’t matter what position you’re interviewing for—organizational skills matter.”
And be sure you don’t let your notes distract you from engaging in the conversation during the interview. If you’re focusing on your sticky notes, you’re probably not focusing on or paying attention to the interviewer.