In this weird new world that we live in, interviewing for a job over zoom or microsoft teams rather than actually meeting someone in person has become the norm and often the only way to interview in the heart of a pandemic. You don’t get to see the offices you get to see someone’s front room which whilst that appeals to someone nosey like myself, “look at her curtains”, it doesn’t always give you an idea of what it’s like to work for that company. It can also be difficult sussing out someone over a video screen where you don’t necessarily pick up on the social cues that you would pick up on if someone was right in front of you. Having now done a lot of interviewing this way this year, here are a few hints and tips to navigate your way round this new way of trying to secure a new employer.
Check your internet is working
Technology is temperamental, you can get chucked out of a zoom quiz, because the wifi is on the blink, your laptop is on it’s last legs and the volume isn’t working, or you realise you’ve got 2% battery and can’t find your charger anywhere. We have all been there and when chatting with family and friends it’s totally fine but whilst interviewers are generally forgiving it’s advisable to know everything is working before the interview starts. If you don’t have zoom or microsoft teams then make sure you’ve downloaded the apps well before the time you are due to chat. Test them out with friends and make sure you know how they work, things happen that’s fine but it doesn’t create a great first impression when the interviewers are sat there for 10 minutes waiting for your face to pop up and wondering where you are?
Get your angles right
You’ve mastered the selfie, your instagram is full of highly filtered nights out from the past, and more recent sad selfies embracing lockdown, so you know how to look your best, so why can’t get you get that right on the interview? Again practice so your camera is at an angle you are comfortable with. A basic headshot so we can see you and your face. I’ve spent time interviewing close ups of people’s nostrils or people’s chins or just the top of their heads. It’s easily remedied and helps to make a great impression. You are sat there talking about your fantastic camera skills when the laptop is showing me up your nose, that ultimately is doing yourself a disservice.
What does my background say about me?
We are often in small flats, bedrooms, cramped spaces and kitchens when we need to interview, often not the most ideal spaces to interview but often what we choose to reveal to the interviewer can reveal a lot about ourselves and can be distracting. I am often distracted by people’s washing, untidy flats and random book choices. That’s not always a bad thing but think how it looks when you’ve got knickers drying just over your left shoulder, or your collection of Star Wars Erotica directly behind you on the bookshelf. Find a blank space, maybe set yourself up against a blank wall or even by a window to frame your interview. This is not about judging where anyone lives, rather just not allowing the interviewers to be distracted away from what you are saying.
Am I going to be interrupted
Have you let everyone you live with that you are going to be interviewing and have you asked them not to disturb you when the interviewing is happening? It sounds really simple but you’d be surprised. You don’t want your partner walking in to chat to you in a towel or less than that when you are chatting away to a series producer, or your mum telling you what’s for tea in the middle of you selling your in depth research skills. I am sure everyone would laugh it off, but things like that can really throw you and make you super nervous and embarassed. Sometimes there can be unexpected roadworks outside that are out of your control but if you can control the noise in your own place then have a word with everyone involved.
Am i going to be distracted?
I would recommend switching your phone off or putting it on silent whilst in the interview, otherwise you could be sat there with your phone constantly pinging and trying your best not to sneakily look at your phone. I totally understand that but try and save those texts and emails for after the interview. You might think that the framing of the camera on the interview means that no one can see you texting your best mate but the likelihood is that they probably can. The debrief can wait until after the interview. Similar if you’ve got your emails pinging every couple of minutes try and put them on silent, it can make you look busy and in demand but also can be distracting for everyone in the interview.
This applies to every interview but i think we don’t always get the interview etiquette when it is all behind a screen. Don’t feel like the interview is a race and that you have to get every little bit of information about yourself out in the first five minutes. This is not a monologue on Britain’s Got Talent, it’s a conversation so listen to the interviewers, think about what they are asking and answer the questions. There may feel like an awkward time delay and that you need to fill those pauses but in reality those time lapses are not nearly as long as you think. You often don’t know who’s going to talk next and can find yourself accidentally talking over someone and that’s fine if it happens once but if it keeps happening throughout the interview it can look a little bit disrespectful to the interviewer. So take your time and enjoy the two way conversation.
Dealing with nerves
In some ways interviewing over a screen can hide your nerves in a way that being in front of an individual cannot. There is a delay and there can be something more calming about being in your own environment. You can have more time to prepare and you don’t have the worry of being stuck on a delayed train or getting lost trying to find the office building in some obscure street you’ve never heard of. You can have things around you that will make life easier, a glass of water, a note book with notes and questions about the job and even your CV off camera to refer to. It can be nerve wrecking when you are doing your first zoom interview as it does feel very strange and different but i think the more you do of them, the easier they become. I like to think most interviewers will be kind and i think you can quickly pick up what the vibe of the interview is early on and then you can act accordingly.
Don’t be fooled that an on screen interview means less preparation as that’s not the case, you will still need to do all your research about the company and the job. Find out what the programme is you are interviewing for and come packed with ideas. Always refer back to how your previous experience relates directly to this role. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, you want this, well i have done this.. The more prepared you are the less likely you’ll be tempted to google the company sneakily in the middle of an interview. That actually happened to a colleague of mine in an interview, whilst asking a question about the company, they could see the interviewee googling the company to answer the questions. What gave them away, the reflection on their glasses was their for all to see. So if you are a spectacle wearer then please be careful about what you are looking at mid interview.
Remember we are all human
These are strange and difficult times that we are living in right now and you don’t always know what everyone is going through. Interviews can be tough and daunting but be open and kind and concise with your answers. As with every interview it’s important to be yourself and it’s important for you to trust your gut instinct. You need to decide whether the company is right for you and if the people that are interviewing you are the people that you want to work with. So go on take that Sylvanian family collection from behind your desk for the duration of the interview and give your best self.