Interviews During a Pandemic: How to “Virtually” Succeed

The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected just about every country in the world and is proving to be a difficult time for many: employees have had to adapt to new working styles including being based remotely from their offices and making the most of technology to continue communicating with their colleagues. Intertwined with these work changes, job interviews are now completely virtual, so it is essential that you master the best techniques to succeed.

 

But, if you think about the process of an interview, all of our senses are on high alert – you develop a feeling for an organisation from the minute you check in at reception, the atmosphere, the ‘vibe’ of a team, culture, friendliness of the welcome and so on. Virtual interviews strip us of all of these extra sensory experiences that we rely on to ultimately base our decisions on, especially in our sector where the culture of an organisation is so important.

 

Considering a job offer, without the benefit of visiting the organisation and meeting team members presents new challenges for both clients and applicants alike.  We have addressed some questions that you might like to review at the end of this article.

 

We understand that having an interview over Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams can feel very different to an in-person interview and that many may have questions as how to best succeed over a video or telephone interview. We have previously written a piece covering the top tips you’ll need in order to prepare for a job interview, which you can read here.

 

We have put together some useful advice in order to succeed at your ‘virtual’ interview. Do remember that you’d prepare for a video or telephone interview in a similar way to an in-person one.

 

  1. Research: video interviews can sometimes contain less small talk and be shorter than face-to-face meetings so do look for topics of conservation as you prepare for your interview. Forming a bond with a panel on the other side of the screen can be particularly challenging so look for things that you can discuss, if time permits, such as if a panel member mentioned something of interest to you in a podcast or article. You can also have a look at the panel members’ LinkedIn profiles for inspiration of topics to discuss if you know the panel members’ names ahead of time.

 

  1. Set Up Your Space: unlike in-person interviews, which would be normally held in a formal, office environment, a video interview will allow the panel to get a glimpse of your home. Sarah Johnston, a career coach, suggests that you select a room with a neutral background and good lighting. Make sure your space is clutter-free and that your camera is at eye-level. In addition, do have your notes in front of you or within your space, but maintain eye contact with the panel on the screen as much as possible to ensure that they’ve got your full attention for the duration of the interview.

 

Use the time before your interview to also test your technology. Test your audio settings on your laptop to make sure they won’t give you any sudden issues during your interview, check the strength of your internet connection and, most importantly, make sure the camera on your computer is working. If you need to adjust the settings, do so with plenty of time to spare.  Some clients will also offer to log in a few minutes ahead of your interview to check that the technology is working well.  And, you can also ask us for a test run if that would be helpful.

 

  1. Practice: like you would with any in-person interview, practicing is a good way to ensure that you feel prepared for the interview day. Some people may not be comfortable in front of the camera so it’s important to practice talking to one. One thing you can do during the interview, which can help focus your eyes to the camera, is place an object directly in line with the camera. This should ensure that your eyes don’t sway to either side of the camera during the interview.

 

The Interview Day

As mentioned above, this will feel different compared to an in-person interview, which you may have experience of. Keep the following things in mind to ensure that your ‘virtual’ interview goes smoothly.

 

  1. Give yourself enough time prior to your scheduled interview slot to set up any systems such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Do also ensure you have a contact number of a panel member or HR team of the organisation you’re interviewing with just in case you encounter any problems.
  2. Ensure you’re smartly dressed as you would be for an in-person interview.
  3. Monitor your body language: place both feet on the ground, check your posture, try and keep your hands in front of you to avoid using distracting gestures. Smile!
  4. Tell the panel how interested you are in the opportunity: this is a good engagement tactic. remember to thank the panel for their time, how impressed you are with the team and how honored you are to be considered for that particular position. As has been mentioned above, conveying messages over a camera can be difficult so you’ll want to keep the panel as engaged as possible during the interview.

 

Questions to Raise During the Interview

Usually we would guide you to ask questions that demonstrate your interest in the role and the organisation.  These are important, however, the questions you need to ask now should help you to get to the core of an organisation’s culture and values, as you can’t currently assess these for yourself.  So that, when you receive an offer, your decision is well-informed.

 

  • Understand your professional values and ask questions about the culture/working values of the team and wider organisation.
  • If you are negotiating a start date within the next 1-2 months, you are likely to be based remotely when you start the role until after the pandemic – how will the induction process be arranged if this is the case?
  • What systems will be in place to ensure that you settle in well and how does the team stay connected during this period?
  • How do people interact/bond or socialise: what are some of the things the team or organisation does to boost team morale whilst everyone is based remotely and especially when there are new members of staff joining?
  • Some organisations have implemented ‘virtual’ activities so that team members still have the chance to socialise with one another and take a break from their working day so could be good to ask if the organisation or team you’ll be joining has something like this in place.

 

A ‘virtual’ interview is not easy and may require stepping out of your comfort zone at times, but you as a candidate can make the most of this unique opportunity both to present yourself to a potential employer, and to assess their fit for you. Stay positive, be prepared and everything should go smoothly.

 

All the best with your interview!

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