When the pandemic first hit, every company responded differently. Some of our clients put an immediate hold on hiring and others just adapted to virtual straight away. Over the past year, we’ve seen a progressive shift to remote hiring and whether we like it or not – virtual interviews are here to stay (at least for a while longer). In some ways, video interviews can actually help speed up the hiring process (no need to coordinate between travel, visas different schedules when everyone is in the same location). We turned to Victoria Hammond – our Head of People & Operations and go-to person for all things interview related. Here’s what she shared with us:
Set the scene…
Simple things are really important. Check the basics – Is the sound ok? Is there any background noise? Can they hear you? Can I hear them?. Check to make sure the lighting is good (ie. not too bright or too dark). Try not to sit with a bright window directly behind you. Whilst the view might be lovely, it can mean you look like some sort of mysterious silhouette. Embrace that good lighting and set up the screen to face away from the window. Not only do you get to enjoy the view, but also get the benefits of good natural lighting.
If all else fails, there’s loads of options for virtual or blurred backgrounds that look extremely realistic. You really want to minimise the distractions going on behind you. Ultimately the interview is to get to know you better, your interviewer doesn’t need a full preview of the laundry that’s been sitting on the drying rack for a week.
The remote interview structure – everything you need to know
Remote interviews follow a similar structure to what companies would usually do in the office. Each company will have their own process and specific things they want to assess in an interview, so it’s hard to pin-point one clear structure. I think we’ve all been in a situation where two or three people try to speak at the same time, and then suddenly there’s deafening silence. With this in mind, you might notice that if there’s more than one interviewer, they may split their time evenly to cover different topics and questions. If the other person(s) on the call aren’t talking, don’t be put off – it’s more likely that they are trying to make things more comfortable for you as a candidate!
Practice makes perfect
Always check your tech on the day of the interview. Take the concept of Murphy’s Law and make sure you have yourself covered. You can always ask a friend to do a quick test for you. Check the basics – lighting, sound, wifi, backdrop & call quality. Also make sure you understand what the dress code should be for the call. It’s very unlikely you will need to wear a full suit in a remote interview with everyone working from home, but you never want to feel like a fish out of water.
Do your normal interview prep as well. Treat it like any normal face to face interview, make sure you’re ready for the call 10 minutes beforehand and you know who you’ll be speaking with. Do your research, have your questions written down and notes at hand. The best thing about that is nobody will know that you have the notes in front of you – use that to your advantage!
Convey your value, virtually
It’s good to keep in mind that the people you’re interviewing are most likely on their 5th or 6th video call for the day already – so try and keep the energy up and be very clear and specific in the points you want to convey. You also want to maintain focus and attention, so avoid rambling and going into lengthy, detailed descriptions (unless of course this is asked of you).
Adapting the social setting
One thing that the virtual interview lacks, is the opportunity to speak to the candidate outside of the interview setting. Typically in a face to face situation, you might greet your interviewer as they walk you to the interview room and back. There, you get a chance to speak to them for a few moments with your guard down, so they can get a sense of your personality and who you are. In the virtual setting this is a bit more challenging. However, there are ways to overcome this. Take note of what your interviewers are doing, saying, and how they are saying it. If at the beginning or end of the interview, you find some more lighthearted moments, use it as an invitation to contribute. It’s about reading the cues and leaning into that.
Make sure to follow-up!
Never underestimate the importance of a thank-you email. No matter how you think the interview went, a follow up message will always be welcomed and appreciated by your interviewers.
Practice and prepare. Like anything in life, the more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel. If you have it at your disposal, run a practice interview with someone you trust. Test the technology and make sure it works. Make sure to have backup on hand if something goes wrong with your computer and have your phone on the ready.
Finally relax and enjoy your interview. Years ago people wouldn’t have dreamt about taking interviews from the comfort of their own living room! Use your comfortable surroundings to your benefit, but don’t forget to let your housemates, family members or people you live with know that you will be doing a video call to avoid any awkward guest appearances. We’ve seen a few doozys!