How Interviewing Has Changed (and Stayed the Same) in the COVID-19 Era

by Tanya Varanelli

COVID-19 has required us all to adjust to a new operating procedures. Those of us who can work from home are getting settled in to a remote working routine. And while many organizations are still committed to hiring, the process itself has shifted dramatically. Phone and video interviews have replaced the preferred in-person interview and requires us all to make adjustments. For candidates, it is still important to be professional, prepared and put your best self forward – but from home.

Everyone is adjusting and should be understanding about these unusual circumstances. Still, interviewing from home may require a closer look at some key areas to be as prepared as possible:

Your Environment

A dedicated workspace is important for an interview. While you may work from a couch at other times during the day, during an interview you will want to be able to sit up straight (and not rest your computer on your knees). Ideally you will have a desk or table to rest your computer or device. Make sure the camera and screen are positioned to allow a clear, professional angle and view of the interviewer(s) on the screen. 

Be mindful of your background and what interviewers may be able to see when the camera is on. If you are near a window, make sure shadows are not distorting the view maps to help correct any lighting issues.

Your Technology

If the interviewing platform is new to you, practice using it before the interview. For example, if you have not previously used Zoom (or a similar video conferencing platform), set up a free account and hold a practice video meeting with a family member or friend. This will allow you to make sure the platform is working correctly and become familiar with the audio/video features before your interview begins. It is still entirely possible that the video connection does not work so make sure the interviewer has your phone number as a backup.

Even if you are familiar with the interview tool, plan to “arrive” early to be able to deal with any technical glitches before the interview begins. Mute on-screen notifications and ringers and make sure your headset is untangled. Now take a deep breath and smile!

Your Engagement

While interviewing remotely, it is still important to actively engage with your interviewer. Prepare for an interview as you normally would. If you usually bring a notebook and copy of your resume, have those materials handy. Have a glass of water within reach.

Try to make eye contact with your interviewer. This may require you to look at your camera rather than images of your interviewer. This may take some practice.

If your remote interview is by phone, it may be helpful to pull up your intervewer’s LinkedIn profile and glance at their picture during the interview. This can help maintain your focus during the conversation.

Practice self-care during these extraordinary times. Make sure you are getting enough sleep to be able to present your best self during the interview.

Final Thoughts

While many aspects of the job search process are different right now, remember that the purpose of the interview remains the same. The organization/interviewer is interested in learning more about your background and skills and what qualities and capabilities you could bring as a potential member of the team. We are all in this together and your (remote) interview is a valuable way to establish meaningful connections and put your best foot forward – even while wearing bunny slippers at home!

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