Interviewing in Corona Times: Quick guide to help you cope with remote interviews
According to Don Leslie, leading adviser for Careers in Strategy and Management Consultancy for business students, many firms are switching interviews from face-to-face to video and telephone format during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a quick guide to help you cope with remote interviews:
- Know in advance who will call you. Ask for the name (look her up on LinkedIn) or, if an individual is not identified, the department he works in. Is she HR, or is he in a consultancy team? Research accordingly on the firm’s website, or do a Google/LinkedIn background search. Prepare your answers to best-guess questions. Will it be a ‘generic’ HR interview? Or will it be about matching your skills to a particular job which you applied for? Write down your thoughts. Rehearse some short ‘war stories’ to illustrate a point. And do you have anything in common with your interviewer? Work out how to use this in your conversation to build rapport at an early stage.
- Check the technology. If it’s a video interview, you’ll have the opportunity to log in to the site in advance. Give yourself 10 minutes to make sure you are connected properly, and that your screen image is to your satisfaction. Try to have the camera at eye level. Look at the lighting: can you improve it by moving closer to a window, or switching off fluorescent tubes? And is there any glare from spectacles, jewellery or background? (Those of you who’ve met me know I’m…er…unthatched. I always have to check that overhead lights are nor reflecting off my bald pate.) And make sure your devices are fully charged.
“How do you sound? Record yourself to find out”
- How do you sound? Record yourself to find out. Slow your rate of speech down and speak clearly. Watch out for a tendency to speed up if you get excited or nervous. Try to make the pitch of your voice move up and down. (A single note monotone makes you sound flat and dull.)
- The room you use: you must be able to talk freely, and without being interrupted. Tell your flatmates/family you cannot be disturbed. Check for ambient background noise. Ideally, you’ll also want to be able to receive a landline call there if the video technology fails, or the mobile reception is poor. Have your research notes ready. For video interviews, stick them along the top edge of your PC. Practice looking directly at the camera, not at the interviewer’s image.
- If it’s a ‘phone interview, prop a small mirror at an angle to that you can see yourself as you talk. Why? So that you can remind yourself to smile as much as you can during the interview. The act of smiling puts a positive spin on the timbre of your voice, and you’ll feel more confident too.
“Have some questions prepared to ask the interviewer…”
- If you can’t see your interviewer, you won’t have body language or facial expression clues to tell you how your answers are being received. To avoid being boring, keep your answers short, and ask at the end of them questions such as “Would you like to know more?”, “Can I expand on that for you?”, “Am I on the right lines here?”, etc. Then shut up and wait for the interviewer to respond. Be prepared for silences from their side.
- If the interviewer asks you to repeat yourself, it probably means you are talking too fast.
- If you need to think about your answer before delivering it, tell the interviewer exactly that, rather than leave an unexplained silence. And don’t be afraid to ask for the question to be repeated or clarified if necessary.
- Have some questions prepared to ask the interviewer when you are invited to do so. And a pen to take notes.
- Do not let the interview end without you leaving the interviewer with the impression that your whole life has led up to the point where you can move into this job/work for this consultancy. (Even if it’s not true – you can always back out later.)