Navigating job interviews in the virtual workplace

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Covid has a lot to answer for, but one of the main ways it has affected the world of work is the sharp pivot to virtual operations – which includes recruiting and interviewing. For those looking for a new job in this changed work environment, navigating interviews remotely – usually by video call – can be challenging, as can being on the other side as a virtual interviewer.

According to Siobhan O’Shea, client services director at recruitment company CPL, there are both pros and cons to interviewing remotely. “Some of the pros include no travel or commuting required, which frees up a lot of time, so interviews can be conducted at a shorter notice than face to face. The hiring process is faster and more cost efficient, as is decision-making,” she says.

Being able to have your notes easily accessible is a another pro, and for those looking to make a bigger move, interviewing remotely opens up the talent pool for different countries and locations.

However, there are downsides such as not being able to shake hands, and it “can be harder to make a good first impression virtually than face to face” as it can be more difficult to read body language and build rapport.

Some of the biggest challenges are connectivity issues, says Sinéad D’Arcy, head of the Jameson international graduate programme, which made it difficult to communicate easily with candidates at times, but these issues were typically addressed quickly.

“Delays can sometimes occur in transmission across the internet, which can sometimes cause interviewers or interviewees to cross over or ‘step on’ each other’s questions or responses. This all became part of the learning process in adapting to online in general.”

D’Arcy says that just like with in-person interviews, preparation for online interviews is key – including a technology check as different employers use different platforms.

“Ensure you have logged into the platform before your interview, so you feel comfortable with it before joining the live interview itself.” She says, “If the technology lets you down don’t panic. It can happen to anyone. Just take a deep breath and try to rejoin the interview. Technology can let you down.”

Technology check

O’Shea agrees that a technology check is essential, and advises against using a phone or tablet. “Ensure your sound and camera are working by doing a trial run and also ensure the lighting, background and internet connection are to a good standard. Be on time. Print off your CV so you can reference it easily. Use a laptop rather than phone or tablet.”

Other ways to prepare include researching the company, says O’Shea. “Have examples prepared against the requirements of the role description.

Check out the interviewers on LinkedIn so you know their background, title and responsibilities.

You will also find interview tips online or your recruitment agency and consultant may be able to provide this.” She says to treat it as a normal job interview and dress appropriately – “Mirror and match to the culture and company you’re interviewing for.”

Also it’s important to look at your background and make sure there’s nothing distracting there for the interviewer. Clothes and clutter strewn around is not a good look.

Much like an in-person interview, O’Shea says to be enthusiastic and engaged about the role and the company, use the Star (situation, task, action and result) methodology when answering questions and use ‘I’ not ‘we’ when describing the work done in other companies or roles.

Make an effort to make eye contact and not look away from the screen and “don’t waffle and go off on a tangent”. She says try to minimise disruptions and distractions but to “handle them professionally” if they occur.

New normal

Now that things are somewhat starting to go back to normal, will video interviews remain? “This is our new normal,” says D’Arcy. “The world of work is changing at a pace never seen before, forcing organisations to innovate and transform in order to adapt and succeed. The Covid context has forced all businesses to take a fresh look at defining our people and organisation strategies.

“Workplace leaders and HR practitioners must prepare for an entirely new roadmap of expectations and responsibilities.”

Andrew Hume, principal recruitment consultant CPL, says that the future will be a blend of in-person and video interviews. “We believe companies will do a hybrid interview approach. First round by video and then a face to face for a second, third or final round if successful. This may vary depending on role, company and industry.

“Talent attraction has been made easier and faster by embracement of video interviewing, which is very important in such a competitive labour market.”


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