In light of the coronavirus pandemic, companies that are still hiring are largely conducting job interviews remotely via phone or video. While many of the typical best practices for job interviews still stand, there are even more variables to take into consideration with these interview formats.
Most importantly, make sure you know when your video is live. Beyond that, you should always keep your conduct appropriate and professional when doing any sort of work call. To find out some more nuanced tips, GOBankingRates spoke to career experts, human resource pros, recruiters and other executives to get their best advice for succeeding at a remote job interview. Follow these tips to make it to the next interview round.
You might be able to get away with dressing professionally only from the waist up for a video interview, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, you don’t want to end up like New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Toobin, who was recently suspended from his job after exposing himself during a Zoom video chat. Toobin told Motherboard that he believed he had muted himself and did not think he was visible on the call.
“You never know if you may need to stand up on camera for any reason,” said Daniel E. Santos, CEO of a career coaching company, Prepory. “The hiring manager may even ask you to stand up. Wearing the right clothes also puts job seekers in the right frame of mind.”
You don’t want a repeat of Toobin’s Zoom disaster.
Do Your Research
The first step in nailing any job interview — remote or otherwise — is to take the time to do your research.
“Getting every piece of information you can about the organization and the role will make you feel more confident when you are preparing for your interview,” said Ineke McMahon, an executive recruiter and director of P2P Learning and Development Academy. “Make sure you are familiar with the company’s visions, its goals, its values and its financial report.”
Having all this background information will help you in a number of ways, she said.
“Firstly, it will give you some context about the words that the company uses,” McMahon continued. “When you are reading through the job description and annual report, go through it with a highlighter and highlight the different words and the language style that they are using. You are getting a preview into the way that they write, their culture, how they name things and the terminology that they use. When you are in the interview, be reflective of that style. You will feel like the person that they are looking for when you start talking in their language, using their buzzwords and terminology. It shows that you are like-minded.”
Prepare How You Will Talk About Your Past Experience
Rather than regurgitating your resume, be prepared with talking points about your prior roles and your achievements at each of them.
“Spend time sitting down and looking through your CV, and outlining what the role looked like when you took on the responsibilities and what the key achievements were,” McMahon said. “Being able to articulate this and practicing in front of the mirror will ensure that when you are in the hot seat, those interview questions flow nicely and smoothly.”
Prepare Questions for Your Interviewer
Most job interviews end with the interviewer asking if you have any questions for them. Prepare some ahead of time so that you’re not put on the spot.
“It’s important that the interview is a two-way street,” McMahon said. “If you’re going to invest your career in this organization, you need to have a good understanding of what the role will involve, what the key challenges will be and what the future looks like for you. It also lets the interviewer know that you are serious about your career.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
Phone and video interviews can feel unnatural, so it’s important to continue to practice your responses.
“One of the most common mistakes job seekers make in the [remote] interview is being caught off guard and struggling to answer the screener’s questions eloquently, yet sufficiently,” said Jagoda Wieczorek, HR manager at ResumeLab. “My recommendation is to practice common interview questions, so you know exactly what to expect.”
Videotape yourself answering common questions so you can tweak responses as needed, and consider having a friend conduct a mock video interview with you so that you feel prepared for the real thing.
Do a Trial Run of Any App or Tech Needed
If the interview will be conducted via a platform you aren’t familiar with, make sure you test it out ahead of time.
“You don’t want to realize one minute before the meeting starts that you needed to create a profile,” said career coach Carlota Zimmerman. “Take the time to get comfortable with the particular app. Can you create a professional background screen? Can you get a trial membership that won’t come out of your pocket? Does the trial membership put a limit on how long the interview may run? Make sure you know the answers to all these questions and more.”
Set Up a Professional Voicemail Message
“If it’s a phone interview, make sure you have a professional voicemail set up on your phone just in case you miss the recruiter’s call for whatever reason,” said Kristen Leong, human resources generalist at M&O Marketing in Southfield, Michigan.
Choose an Interview Time When Your Energy Level Will Be High
“Interview candidates are often offered multiple time slots to choose from, so try to pick a slot that best fits your energy level,” said Timothy G. Wiedman, a former associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University. “For example, if you are most energetic in the morning but run out of gas by 2 p.m., try to avoid a late afternoon interview slot.”
Also, double-check that you and your interviewer are in the same time zone before choosing a time slot.
Be Completely Ready for the Interview Well Before the Scheduled Start Time
“Preparation is key,” said Parker Geiger, CEO of the image and brand development company Chuva Beyond. “If you are ready to go 30 minutes ahead of time by having all that was requested of you for the interview, you will appear organized. If you are shuffling papers and trying to find things under a pile of papers, you will appear disorganized. This can be seen as being disrespectful of the interviewer’s time.”
Even if it’s a phone interview, the interviewer will likely be able to hear you shuffling papers and moving around, so the same rules apply.
Turn Off All of Your Notifications
Whether you’re doing the interview on your phone or laptop, ensure that any distracting pop-ups and alerts are turned off. Do your best to eliminate any other sounds that could interrupt the interview.
“This includes alarm clocks and the oven,” Zimmerman said. “Put your phone on vibrate. You’re going into a very stressful situation — give yourself all the tools possible to thrive and even triumph.”
Have a Backup Device Handy
“Don’t let the technology defeat you — to avoid yourself the embarrassment of not being able to connect with a recruiter, make sure you are properly prepared and have at least two devices handy,” said Pete Sosnowski, vice president and co-founder of the career blog Zety. “Technologies fail — and often at the least expected moments too. Having an alternative device prepared shows your professionalism and lets you save the situation within minutes.”
If you’re planning on doing the interview via phone, have your laptop ready-to-go in case your phone dies or doesn’t work when you need it. The same goes if you’re planning on doing the interview on your computer — make sure your phone is ready as a backup. This means that if the interview will be done via an app, you have it downloaded and logged in on both devices.
Sign On Early
Just as you would arrive at an in-person interview early, you should also “arrive” early to a remote interview.
“Don’t sign in right on time if doing a remote or Skype interview,” Leong said. “Be 10 minutes early like you would during a regular face-to-face interview. By doing this, you won’t get flustered if you have technical issues, and you can re-read your notes and job description one more time while waiting for the recruiter to sign on.”