Hey all. It’s been a few days. And during that time, moneyman has been spending a LOT of time on Zoom! (and Teams, and Skype, and GoToMeeting, and On24…). My entire day seems like a series of videoconferencing; so much so that some days it starts at 8:00 am and doesn’t finish until 6:00 pm.
This image might seem familiar to you too. Maybe you are participating in online classes this way, or maybe you’ve been talking with family or friends via Facetime or one of the web-based platforms that have seem to have taken over our ways of communicating with each other.
Chances are that if you are looking for a job right now, your entire interview process may be held via one of these platforms as well. Interviewing in person? That’s so 2019!
So what do you do? How do you prepare for an online interview? What traps should you look out for? Let’s continue our exploration of the job market for those of you who have graduated or are graduating that we started before with a focus on The Interview!
Securing an interview is the goal of your application, resume and cover letter. The interview is as much your chance to get to know the company as it is their chance to get to know you. With that said, it is very important that you take the time to prepare for your interview.
Some companies will use a preliminary screening interview with an HR (Human Resources) staff person, or an online interview tool (like HireVue or SparkHire). If you are asked to do an online pre-interview chances are it will be asynchronous (meaning you will be able to do this at a time of your choosing and there will not be someone else of the other end of the video connection). Your interview answers will be recorded and will be viewed by members of the committee to determine if they want to advance you to the next round of interviews.
Usually the 2nd round of interviews are done in person, although in our current reality they may be live interviews using a web-based meeting solution (like Zoom or Skype). This will allow you to connect with the hiring manager (the person ultimately responsible for making the decision about who to hire and quite possibly your ultimate boss) and the other members of the hiring committee.
Regardless of whether you will be completing a preliminary, first or (possibly) second round interview, there are some common tips or tricks moneyman recommends:
- Dress for the job. You want to look professional. Even if your interview is “just” online, make sure to wear a professional attire. Your appearance makes an impression, and proper dress and grooming are expected for a professional job. Of course, if you are interviewing to be a caterer, the attire is different than if you are interviewing to be a banker. Wear something appropriate.
- If you are doing your interview from home, make sure that you are in a private space with a neutral background, and make sure you won’t be interrupted. Let your spouse / roommate / parents / fur-baby know that you need some private time and cannot be interrupted. You definitely don’t want to have to end your interview or be pressured to rush to finish because you need to answer your door or let someone into your room.
- Find out who you will be meeting with. If you can, ask who the members of the interviewing team will be and get their names and their titles. There are a few reasons for this: you want to write a thank-you note after your interview (more on this later), AND you want to do some research on the members of the interview committee before you walk in to the room. Look for members of the interviewing committee on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Do a Google search on them. Find out if they have been profiled in their company publications or if information about them is on the webpage. The reason for this is that it provides you a way to connect with each of them when they ask you a question (or when you answer one). For example, if a Ms. Jones is a member of your committee and you know that she enjoys watching college football, you may be able to connect this in some way to an answer you provide in the interview.
- Just as you are doing research on your interviewers, you should assume they are doing research on you. You need to go back through your Social Media feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and remove those photos and posts you wouldn’t want your mom to see (and if you cannot or don’t want to remove them, mark them private). (Read this article for more information on what employers are looking for on your social media profile).
- Have a well thought out list of questions to ask your employer about the job and about the workplace (and make these more than just about the hours and conditions of work). This post offers 22 good questions to ask during an interview and while I support most of them, you need to make sure that the final question (what is referred to as “The Final Steps”) feels natural and not uncomfortable to you as you are asking it (for example asking about the next steps in the process may feel very natural, but asking what concerns the interviewers have about your fit for the job may not feel as comfortable).
- If you have your phone with you, silence it. Do not open your phone, look for notices, or pull it out during your interview. Doing so is a sign that you aren’t really interested in the job.
- Arrive early. If the interview is online, test your connection the day before and show up to the virtual meeting at least 10 minutes early. If your interview is in person, arrive 20 to 30 minutes early to the site, find parking and where you are going, and be in the interview room at least 10 minutes early.
- Be prepared for a writing test, or some aptitude test. Especially for entry-level jobs, it is possible that you could have a written test to check for your written communication. You may be asked to pretend to respond to a customer email, or provide an answer to a question in written essay form. Practice this beforehand by doing research on the company, industry and particular job for which you are applying.
- After the interview is over, thank the interviewing committee for their time. Don’t be afraid to take notes during the interview (ask if the committee minds if you do so first). Make notes about what individual interviewers have asked you, or particular responses that stand out to you. This way you can make sure to include this information when you write your thank you notes.
- Send thank you notes to every member of the interviewing committee. Make sure each email is individual and personalized. Reflect back on a question that particular interviewer asked you, or something they shared personally. Sadly, many candidates do not send thank you notes; this will make you stand out from your competition and will serve as another way for you to restate why you would be the best candidate for the job. Make sure to send these notes within the first 24 hours after your interview.
There are many more tips I could offer, but this is a good start. It is also wise to practice your interviewing technique with some friends or family members to get a sense of the rhythm of the interview. The University of Mary Washington in VA has a listing of some common generic interview questions you can use to prepare. While you don’t want to memorize specific answers to questions (this is not a dramatic performance), it is a good idea to think about how you might answer several of these in case they come up.
What questions do you have about interviewing? What horror stories can you share about interviews that have not gone well for you? What great tips do you have that I haven’t covered?
Next time we will talk about building your post-college budget and determining the difference in Cost of Living between two different metro areas.