This story by Cynthia Medina originally appeared in Rutgers Today.
As students prepare to graduate this May into a reeling economy and an uncertain employment climate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have turned to technology to keep recruitment and business afloat.
William Jones, senior director of Career Exploration and Success at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, says many companies are still hiring and adding a few layers of precaution to the process.
Companies have turned to platforms like Zoom, Skype and WebEx to conduct virtual interviews, and some are even training new hires remotely and may not meet them in person for months until the crisis abates.
Jones offers four tips to navigate the virtual interview process, so job seekers can improve their chances during this period of uncertainty.
Dress the Part
When it comes to attire, dress as if it’s an in-person interview. Something about dressing up, whether it is a skirt, slacks or blazer, changes the way you conduct yourself during interviews. It can adjust your demeanor and even give you better posture. Even though some people think it’s fine to only get dressed up from the waist up during virtual interviews, I would recommend wearing exactly what you would wear to an in-person interview from head to toe.
Don’t be afraid to add bits of your personality to your attire, like a pop of color in your tie, your favorite necklace or other subtle additions to offer a glimpse into your personality. I would, however, advise against wearing stripes because they can look distorted on camera.
Maintain Proper Etiquette
Your résumé got you in the door, but in an interview, they are looking for a culture fit. Make sure you wait to listen, and pause when you feel you are finished with your answer. Keep in mind that there might be a delay caused by the internet connection, so allow them a few seconds to finish a topic before you chime in. Otherwise, it can appear like you’re interrupting.
Make sure to look straight into the camera and try to be as natural and warm as possible. One helpful way to remind yourself to look at the camera is to put a bright-colored Post-it next to the webcam, so you are looking in the right direction.
If the interview is over the phone, print out a photo of the person interviewing you and place it in front of you. This way, you remember that you’re talking to a real person, and it can help you feel more relaxed.
Test the Proper Tools Beforehand
One of the more difficult things for virtual interviews is that you might not always know what platform they will be using, so you might not have a lot of time to practice these tools before the interview. Rutgers offers virtual technology help, tips and other resources to help students learn how to navigate this landscape. The most common platforms are Zoom, WebEx and Skype, and every one of those platforms offer testing links so you can log on beforehand and test out your connection.
Make sure to have a copy of your résumé next to you, and I would advise having a pen and a notepad on your lap to take notes rather than typing on-screen. It shows the speaker that you are listening and taking active notes, which can help you appear more professional. It has the added bonus of shielding against awkward silence as you can use that time to gather your thoughts.
Check Your Environment
Take a look around at everything in the room. Make sure to remove distracting items out of view of the camera, but also remove distracting items behind the camera so as not to distract yourself. Clean up the area and make sure it is free of clutter. If you have pets or small children, make sure they have someone who can safely watch them so they don’t cause any disruptions.
Make sure your surroundings match what you want to portray. Setting up a plant nearby or sitting in front of a bookshelf or painting can help reflect your personal brand.
If your room is dimly lit, try purchasing an inexpensive webcam light, which can range in price from $20 to $40. It can light up the foreground and offer an added polished look. Also, never sit with your back to a window. While sunlight may seem like a nice background, it can actually make you look like a dark shadow.