April 03, 2020
Businesses throughout the United States have been forced to temporarily close to reduce the spread of COVID-19, leaving millions of people unemployed and unsure of their futures.
But there are businesses hiring amid this economic and health crisis. Because of social distancing practices, those currently seeking jobs are more likely now to be asked to do interviews using a video conferencing service, like Zoom or Skype.
If you've never done a video interview before, it can be daunting, but with preparation the process can go as smoothly as a face-to-face meeting.
PhillyVoice turned to Ainsley Maloney, associate director of industry relations at Thomas Jefferson University, for advice about how to be successful in this process. Maloney helps college students land their first jobs after graduation, and here are some tips she has on navigating the job application process, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The biggest thing I would say people can do right now is figure out how Zoom works by googling it, setting it up and doing a test run. What you don't want to do is wait until you get an invite for the interview," Maloney said. "There are three big video conferencing services used: Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting. Today, you could do a test run on any of them."
Then once you're invited to do a video interview with an employer, make sure you have the right software downloaded. Don't wait until five minutes before the call to do that.
"There are usually three parts to a video interview: the camera, the microphone and the speakers," she explains. "If you call in, you eliminate two of those and you only have to worry about your webcam." She suggests testing that the microphone on your computer works ahead of time, but recommends using a cellphone or landline to call the provided conference call number and silencing your computer volume, rather than rely on the computer's microphone.
That way, if you experience any connection issues such as your video freezing, the conversation can continue and you can problem solve.
And if you're concerned about spotty WiFi, one solution is to plug an ethernet cable into your laptop.
Maloney recommends keeping things simple and removing clutter so you're the focus of the interview.
"I think there are many who are anxious about setting up a background, or maybe overthinking it. A lot of people are home now and they may not have the luxury of having a home office, so some people may have to do an interview from on their bed," she said, but employers know you may not be in an office setting during the coronavirus pandemic and won't hold it against you.
If you do have to do an interview sitting on your bed, try to be against a wall with maybe a picture and pillow behind you. There should be "nothing that could generate an opinion," such as a political message or movie poster, because "you just don't want to have any distractions," she explains.
"Don't have your dogs on the bed. I don't know if you ever saw the BBC dad video (where his children interrupted his live interview) but maybe lock your door," Maloney said with a laugh. "It would be a good idea to give everyone in your house a heads up on your interview.
"Now, if you have a situation where a kid does accidentally come in, all you have to do is just explain what happened," she said. "I think for situations like that, it's best to just address them. Everyone knows that we're all dealing with unique circumstances right now, so if you can hear kids scream in the background, just apologize, explain your kids are home right now and then carry on with the interview. I think employers will be gracious about that."
She also emphasizes dressing head-to-toe professionally, just in case you need to get up from your interview at any point to deal with an interruption. You don't want to be caught in pajama pants.
"I think that a lot of people end up looking down because they're either looking at themselves or at the interviewer, and a lot of times that's not the center of the screen, so it looks like they're not making eye contact," Maloney said. "Actually look at the camera to make eye contact. It's just a small difference that can actually make a big impact."
"Think about responding to employers with the acronym CARE," said Maloney. "Make an effort to show employers that you're a creative problem solver, that you're adaptable, that you're responsive and that you're empathetic."
She recommends responding to employers within 24 hours when they reach out, letting them know about skills and applications you have that let you work remotely, and being on time or early to your video interview.
As for how to show empathy, she suggests saying something like, "I understand that this situation may not be ideal and you may not be able to get back to me with a definite 'yes' or 'no' on whether you're hiring within the week, but given this difficult and uncertain time, when might I be able to hear back?"
"Companies really like when you have thoughtful follow up questions," Maloney also shared. "Think about questions that you might ask that could be helpful right now (during the COVID-19 crisis). One thing that I would probably ask is, 'What kind of software is the team using to communicate with one another that maybe I can get more familiar with before I start with you?' If the person says 'Slack,' look up a tutorial so you'll be prepared."
Maloney emphasizes researching the company ahead of your interview and not spending so much time googling interview questions and rehearsing answers. Tell the company how you align with its mission and be up to date on work the company is doing.
"I think that helps to make you stand out a lot more, when you show you don't only want to work for a company, you want to work for their company in particular," she explains.
Now is also a good time to make connections on LinkedIn and stay visible to employers, as well as make sure your resume is flawless.
"If your dream employer isn't hiring right now, which they may not be, at least you'll have everything on your resume to the point that you're really, really proud of it so you can start submitting once those jobs start popping back up," Maloney said.