I suspect that one lasting impact of the pandemic will be that screening interviews for jobs will continue to move away from the phone and to the screen. Here are a few tips if you are new to online job interviews.
1. Arrive early and test your technology.
Since the pandemic started, I’ve had countless video meetings. It seems like the technology always works. Until it doesn’t. Depending on the video software for the meeting, you may find you need to download a file before logging on. Or your mic needs to be turned on. Getting this set ahead of time will help to calm your nerves.
Pro tip: have your cell phone charged and ready as backup in case you need the interview team to call you because of unexpected technical issues.
2. Bring questions.
This is standard advice for any interview, but I’m still surprised at how many times I’m on an interview team and the applicant doesn’t have any questions. Asking good questions is a way for you to demonstrate your qualifications. If you’re stumped on what to ask, try focusing on the goals and expectations for the position. Here’s an easy one: “What would success look like in this position?” Your questions can reveal your work style and strengths. Does the job require a systems thinker? Ask a question about systems. Details and procedures? Ask about processes. Interpersonal savvy? Ask about team morale. You can learn a lot about an organization by how they respond to your questions.
Pro tip: Split your screen or have two monitors. On one side you have the interview team and the other you have your questions, or a few bullet point notes. If you get nervous or blank out, you can look at your notes for key words to jog your memory.
3. Don’t let the nonverbals (or lack thereof) throw you off.
The interview team will probably have their mics muted while you talk. It can be disconcerting to talk to a screen that is silent while you can’t make direct eye contact with the people you are communicating with. The natural flow of conversation can be disrupted in a video conference when there is a slight sound delay or someone has to unmute before talking. A significant amount of our communication is nonverbal, so if you’re not feeling the energy from the interview team reflected back, don’t take it personally and let it throw you off.
The call will feel less natural than in-person, so don’t panic if the interaction feels awkward. The important thing to pay attention to you is your own nonverbals. Remember to smile and talk with energy. You can’t make eye contact, but you CAN talk directly into your webcam.
Pro tip: Be conscious of how you frame yourself with your webcam. Don’t just have your head showing. You don’t want the webcam to be angled up your nose or down on your forehead. Try to frame your top half so that you can use hand gestures to communicate emphasis and energy.
4. Keep answers to 1-3 minutes in a screening interview.
When interviewing candidates for a job, I usually have several topics that I’m hoping to cover with the candidate in a short amount of time. If a candidates gets too long winded, then interviewer team doesn’t get to ask all the questions they have prepared. In the end, this can leave a candidate at a disadvantage during the interview team’s debrief meeting because the candidate didn’t get to answer all the questions.
Pro tip: If you’re not sure if you provided enough detail by the end of your response, it doesn’t hurt to ask ,â€œDid that answer your question?â€ This gives the interviewer a chance to clarify or reframe the question. It can help to ensure that your response directly covers the topic with sufficient detail. If you were too succinct, and finish early, don’t leave valuable interview time on the table. Ask a question to the interview team to restart the conversation. That will give you the opportunity to respond to their answer and get back to talking about your qualifications and interest in the job.
5. Use the C.A.R. method.
Many years ago, a mentor told me to remember this acronym whenever I’m preparing for a job interview: Context. Action. Result. Telling concrete and memorable stories is a great strategy for ensuring that you will stand out from other applicants. As an interviewer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an applicant tell me that they are a hard worker and team player. Instead tell a story that highlights your accomplishments using the following format:
Context: Describe a specific situation, challenge, or problem that you’ve faced in your professional life. If you can choose a situation or problem that is similar to one you might face in the job you are applying for, that’s even better.
Action: Describe the specific action you took to address the situation or problem.
Result: Provide a specific outcome that was a result of your action. Was there less tension on your team after you intervened? More efficiency? Higher sales? Less turnover? Better morale? Again, if you can choose an example of results that relate to the job you’re applying for, this is ideal.
The main thing to keep in mind is that stories memorable. In the world of video conferencing, Zoom Fatigue is real. It takes a lot of energy to listen, and even more energy when you don’t get all the nonverbals that are present in-person. If an interview team is in back-to-back screening interviews, a story helps to break the monotony.
You’ve got this!