As early as the beginning of March, nearly half of American organizations were implementing a work-from-home policy, as advised by the CDC, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which, at that point, was still quite minuscule. Now, half a year later, the number of remote employees has drastically increased.
For the lucky ones, the only adjustment was just that: working from home. They kept their jobs, and their actual tasks remain similar to what they were in the office. But what of those who found themselves out of a job during this time? They don’t only need to eventually learn how to work from home but they also need to look for jobs entirely virtually. There are no large networking conventions. There are no happy hours with recruiting firms. And should one get to the interview stage, those are being done online. Nailing a job interview in person, when you can bring your charisma front stage and center, is hard enough. Now there is the disconnect of two screens separating you and the hiring party and many other complications of taking an interview from your home.
We spoke to Keirsten Greggs, founder of TRAP Recruiter, a Black woman-owned business that, per their mission statement, is “bridging the gap between the job seeker and organizations committed to attracting, hiring, developing and retaining diverse talent and building inclusive culture.” Greggs, who also works as a career coach, shared tips for succeeding in the world of virtual interviews.
Keep it professional
“Treat it like an in-person interview as best as you can,” advises Gregg. “That means practicing.” A good way to practice, says Gregg, is by taping yourself. You can later watch these tapes to learn about your pacing. Tape yourself in advance of interviews to get comfortable in front of the camera, too, and learn where to look. She also suggests taking notes during the interview and notifying the interviewer that you’ll be doing so.
What’s the dress code?
“Professionalism and [what it means to be] presentable has changed. You’re not going to put on a suit jacket to sit at your desk,” states Greggs. However, she does suggest, “Just make sure you’re confident in how you look. Ask the interviewer in advance, ‘Is there a dress code for the interview?’ Confirm that expectation.”
Stage your area
Greggs encourages hiring parties to extend some grace, and understand that everyone is adapting to the new normal of working from home. But, to job applicants, she does recommend, “If possible have a space where there’s no distractions. Do some staging. If you don’t have a clean background or there are things you don’t want them to see, put up a virtual background.” She also suggests letting anyone else who lives in the home know that you’re doing an interview, so as not to interrupt it.
Schedule it smartly
You may know that, at certain times of the day, your partner might be cooking. Or your kids may need help with homework. The neighbors might play their nightly music. Gregg advises, for virtual interviews, “Set it for a time when you can be the most engaged…[and] when it will work best for your household.” That can help you avoid some Zoom fails, which have been quite embarrassing for these individuals.
“Prepare for it. Do your research. Whatever software they’re using, make sure you already have it downloaded. Make sure it works. Make sure you can connect [to the Internet]. Show up a few minutes early. Have your questions ready. Know about the organization,” says Greggs. Researching a company and their values and policies in advance can also help you protect yourself through the recruitment process, as we covered here.
Preventing Zoom fatigue
“Zoom fatigue” is a concept Greggs brought up, and she said people are experiencing a lot of it. Feeling burnt out on video calls can make it difficult to be engaged for each one. Greggs suggests, “Relax as much as you can during the interview. Get comfortable, make eye contact as best you can.” Ensuring your environment is staged properly, so you can sit comfortably, and not worry about any outside elements providing a distraction, may also help you relax.
After the interview
Once the interview is coming to a close, Greggs says, “Get contact information [of the interviewer]. Ask for the next steps. Get a timeline.” Knowing some sort of timeline can alleviate the anxiety around wondering when you may hear back, if you do, or how many steps are involved in the recruitment, so you can prepare for those, too.
Send your follow-up
Sending a follow-up email with smart questions is always a good idea, and if you’re struggling to identify those questions, “Go through your interview. What questions did you forget to ask? Ask those in your follow-up,” says Greggs. She also suggests sending a little thank you video to add that personal connection. “Just a minute long. Not everybody is doing it.”
Connect on social media
If you’re still interested in the job after the interview, Greggs suggests connecting with the hiring party on social media. Like and comment on their posts that you find valuable (just don’t like one from, say, eight months ago, as we all know that can come off a bit odd). Keep in mind that, if they are particularly active on social media and clearly working to build a presence there, they appreciate that engagement.
Get more tips from Greggs
If you’re interested in more of Greggs’ tips, she does a live show on Facebook Live and Linkedin Live every Thursday at 9am EST called “Ring of Fire” where she discusses the recruitment landscape. She’ll often bring in other experts for a panel discussion.