Chicago Tribune (Sunday)
Remote job interviews require focus, context
COVID-19 has changed our approach to many things, including the job search. But should it? After all, an interview is an interview, and if you take specific steps to present yourself professionally during a face-to-face interview, why shouldn’t you do the same during one that takes place online?
Despite the setting, it’s essential to set yourself up for a successful encounter with the person or people who may hold the key to not only making that next car payment but possibly, offering you the job of your dreams.
We checked with Bob Slater and Nick Slater, who co-authored “Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success” (Bulldog Ventures Media, $21.95), for some guidance on the new realities of interviewing for a job in 2020 and possibly beyond. They offered the following do’s and don’ts when preparing for a remote interview:
• Do create an uncluttered background that says something positive about you. Human nature being what it is, people look at the background of those on virtual calls. Your environment provides a glimpse into how you live and who you are. Do you live with bare white walls? Let’s hope not. On the flipside, is that photo of your recent trip to Cancun an appropriate background, even if you think it gives a glimpse into how you live and who you are? Probably not. Just as you made sure your social media presence reflects well on you, give your interviewing background the same consideration.
• Don’t download a virtual background. Just like we can guess with reasonable accuracy, someone’s place in the corporate hierarchy by the tone of their emails, so too using a virtual background suggests unprofessionalism that is not helpful to one’s job-seeking cause. In our experience with countless virtual meetings, executives higher up the food chain eschew virtual backgrounds. Lose the Golden Gate bridge and with it, those annoying edges where your virtual location meets your body.
• Do place some lighting behind your screen, ideally on both sides. It can be as simple as placing lamps with lampshades
removed on each side of your monitor. Doing so will provide lighting on your face and prevent you from appearing to be in the witness protection program.
• Don’t rush out to buy a tripod or bright lights without checking your setup first. Your laptop or desktop computer should work fine. You likely have enough lighting if you move it around a bit. But don’t wait until the interview to discover if your setup is sufficient or not. Conduct a trial run to ensure that your setup puts you in the best light.
• Do stop noise before it starts. You can bet that if your dog howls whenever someone rings the doorbell, that the Amazon delivery person will do just that during your job interview. Deal with your dog ahead of time. And, as best you can, think ahead to shut out the leaf blower, the circular saw, the dog next door or anything else from torpedoing your job interview. If you live with others, alert them about your interview, especially if they pop in often to ask about dinner plans, your rent check or last night’s game. It’s true that at this point of working remotely, we’ve become accustomed to —and forgiving of — a bit of background no ise, but don’t assume that your interviewer will be so forgiving. Take the utmost care pre-interview to make sure that your environment is quiet and professional.
• Do set up your seating to be both comfortable and flattering. Place yourself squarely in the frame. Also, remember to talk to the camera and not to the person’s face on the screen.
Look professional, relax and be yourself
Once you have the proper environment in place, it’s important to present yourself as the strongest candidate possible. Bob Slater and Nick Slater offer the following tips:
• Dress better than you have to from head to toe, including those parts of you that you do not expect to appear on camera — you never know when you’ll have to get up to close a window or grab a piece of paper. Remember that you’re asking for a job. The interviewer assumes that this is the best behavior they’ll ever see from you. They hope they like what they see and that it’s genuine but if you can’t get your act together for this moment, then you never will with colleagues or clients. Unless wildly inappropriate for the position you are interviewing for, dress up. For men, this includes a tie. Dressing up shows respect.
• Have a glass of water or a cup of coffee at the ready, if you like. A well-timed sip of your beverage can buy you an extra few seconds to think before answering an interviewer’s question. Of course, don’t do this after every question and don’t let out a satisfied “aaaaahhh!” upon every sip.
• Present yourself with energy and enthusiasm. And don’t drone on and on with answers. Instead, be succinct. If the question can be answered with a yes or no, give the yes or no first and then explain. Consider the burden on you to manage the time—once you have fully answered a question, stop so the interviewer can move onto something else. Present your best self, giving the interview your complete attention just as you would if the interview were being conducted in person. Be warm but show an appropriate formality. Just because the interview is virtual does not mean it is casual. You can bet that others being interviewed for the same position will not treat it like a casual conversation with a friend. If you have any questions for your interviewer, ask them intelligently and at the appropriate time. Listen to the answers and if you need to, ask follow-up questions.
— Marco Buscaglia, Careers