Virtual interviews in a Covid world
As the world continues to change due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so must our ways of working. More people are working from home than ever before, and for many companies, it’s business as usual. This includes hiring. But how are companies navigating the hiring process when people are required to stay at home? Simple – virtual interviews. Virtual interviews have grown in popularity in recent years, either via telephone or Skype, as they can be an effective way to separate the wheat from the chaff in one brief call, saving both interviewer and interviewee a great deal of time and expense. Successful candidates would then usually progress to a face to face stage. But now we’re living in a Covid world where we have to adhere to social distancing, virtual interviews are not only essential, but are now more comprehensive as they are not just preceding but wholly replacing the face to face interview altogether.
As companies leverage video conferencing software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it’s crucial that hiring managers and candidates keep up, and get to grips with this new reality. Some may assume that virtual interviewing is no different to face to face interviewing, however there are some all important considerations, from technology fails, background and lighting issues, to body language and facial expressions.
So don’t leave it to chance and presume you can log on two minutes before your interview and away you go, a multitude of things can and do go wrong, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression. You wouldn’t just wing a face to face interview, and this is no different.
So, what is Zoom?
Zoom is a cloud-based leading video conferencing software that companies use to connect and collaborate remotely, either by audio or video, and is available with various pricing plans from Basic (which is free), through Pro, Business and all the way to Enterprise. It has become ever popular since Covid struck and has been a blessing not just for companies, but for social events too. A desktop app is available for Windows and macOS, and a mobile app is available for Android and iOS, and its main features include facilitation of one on one meetings and group meetings, screen sharing, text chat and video recording.
And what is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration platform for business communication. It’s mainly used for text chat, voice conversations and video meetings, and it offers a variety of useful features for business communications such as document sharing, chats and other apps. It’s available via desktop (Windows, Mac and Linux) and mobile (Android and iOS) and some believe it has overtaken Skype in the popularity stakes due to its more complete, integrated collaboration solution.
The pros of virtual interviews
- They’re modern and convenient – the future is virtual!
- Saves time travelling to and from a physical office – you’ve given one hour of your day rather than a whole day, just to find out a company or role is not right for you.
- No travel / parking costs.
- Scheduling flexibility – you can interview first thing in the morning, last thing in the day, or at a time that would otherwise be inconvenient to get to a face to face interview.
- It eliminates person-to-person interview stress or anxiety.
- It allows scope to increase the number of companies you speak with.
The cons of virtual interviews
- It’s extremely difficult (or nigh on impossible) to pick up on people’s energy or read their body language.
- It’s more difficult to stand out, so you have to work harder to strike up a rapport, to be more compelling, or to stand out.
- You don’t get to visit a physical office, look around the premises, suss out the environment, or meet potential coworkers.
- Connectivity problems can arise, making communication difficult, and delays in transmission can cause people to talk over each other #Awkward.
What could possibly go wrong?
Since the outbreak of Covid, the popularity of Zoom and MS Teams has skyrocketed, but so too has the presence of those loathsome internet trolls. Zoombombing or Zoomraiding is a phrase used to describe a situation where individuals hack into zoom meetings, before bombing participants with inappropriate or graphic content. However, the owners of Zoom are hot on their heels and are making conscious improvements to continually improve security.
In addition to the above, most of us have heard horror stories or embarrassing tales of video conferencing fails. The BBC newsreader whose kid gatecrashed his live TV interview – that went viral, although it was more entertaining than catastrophic. As was the boss who turned herself into a cartoon potato and couldn’t figure out how to switch back, and had to appear as a potato for the rest of the staff meeting. Again, highly amusing, and if you haven’t seen it, do google it #RootVegetableLegend. But then there was the time the pantless man walked in and accidentally revealed himself, in all his lockdown glory, to his wife’s colleagues, and the guy who broadcasted a break-up conversation. Cringe.
Things can go horribly wrong. But let’s get back to interview prep. Below are some useful Do’s and Don’ts.
- Schedule a convenient time i.e. not when you’re likely to have to cut it short to do the school run, or when your older kids are likely to burst through the door.
- Install the app or download Zoom / MS Teams and set it up in good time. Although it has a mobile app, use a laptop or computer, rather than your phone. It’s much better quality, offers a better view, and it leaves your hands free.
- Ensure all updates are installed on your laptop.
- Clear your screen – you don’t want a potential employer to see your dodgy background wallpaper #LatestCrush #WeirdHobbies.
- Familiarise yourself with the software so you know how to turn audio on and mute etc.
- Plan where you will set yourself up, preferably somewhere where you will be undisturbed by kids, pets, the postman knocking on your window, your partner coming in for a cuppa etc. Communicate with family and remind them not to disturb you.
- Have a test run with a friend. Check the audio and video quality, internet speed etc. Perhaps record your session, watch it back and make any necessary adjustments. Consider headphones if you need to reduce echo or improve sound quality.
- Angle your camera – frame yourself from the chest up using a stand or a pile of books if necessary.
- Ensure you’ve got a good broadband connection.
- Think of your background – avoid displaying an unmade bed, dirty dishes in the kitchen, kids toys etc, and aim for a clean, tidy, uncluttered, neutral or professional view. Remember, if you get the job, chances are you’ll be working from home, so your future employer may want to see that you have a dedicated (or at least uncluttered / uninterrupted) workspace.
- That said, you can try and show your personality in a positive way (remember the bit about standing out from the rest?) Display a stack of your favourite books on your desk or on the shelf behind you, or have a family picture in the background if you’re keen to show you’re a family man.
- Do your research – link your passions to the company’s values if possible. This will help to strike up rapport (tip: place your Man United mug on your desk if you know your interviewer is also a Man U fan).
- Lighting is everything – natural lighting is best, but avoid having a light source directly behind you as this can cause glare issues for your interviewer or make your face difficult to see.
- Silence your mobile phone and turn off notifications on your laptop or computer.
- Ensure your laptop is fully charged.
- Prepare in the same way you would for a face to face interview – go over the job description, research the company, familiarise yourself with your CV, write down any questions you have, prepare for the standard questions from them (why do you want the job, what do you know about the company, what are your weaknesses, what are you looking for, why are you leaving your current role, etc).
- Have some notes to hand, if needed, but don’t let them distract you.
- Wear professional attire, and not just from the waist up – you need to feel like you’re properly dressed for the interview. Wash, shave, do your hair or makeup as you normally would.
- Use the mute button when the interviewer is speaking for long periods of time, to cut out any background noise from your end.
- Maintain eye contact – if you look into the camera it appears like you’re making eye contact with them, and not looking at yourself on the screen. Again test this with a friend, to get a feel for what looks and feels right.
- Use appropriate body language – nod and smile, and use non verbal clues to show you’re listening, impressed etc. Maintain your focus.
- Talk slowly and clearly, and use inflections to emphasise key points.
- Have a glass of water handy in case of a dry throat or an annoying tickle.
- Have a back up plan in case your technology fails – ensure you have your interviewer’s number to call if it all goes to pot.
- Follow up! Email afterwards to thank them for their time, and to reiterate your interest in the role/company.
- Don’t look away constantly, fiddle with your keyboard, or read from a script – remember they can see you!
- Don’t be too casual, it’s still an interview for a professional role, with a professional business.
- Don’t fidget or move around too much, it’s distracting, and can affect sound quality.
- Don’t assume everything will run smoothly – do your prep, and have a back-up plan.
And finally, best of luck!
Jiyu Consulting is an IT recruitment company that improves the quality and efficiency of the recruitment process. If you are a candidate looking for your next exciting opportunity, call us or drop us a line! And don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn!