Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen more activities move to the virtual world this year. Students are learning in virtual classrooms, employees are telecommuting and holidays are being celebrated with family members via Zoom.
Despite changes in the job market, employers are still hiring, and recent graduates or those looking for work should be prepared for more virtual job fairs and interviews, said Lindsey Gunderson, a PACS academic counselor.
“Advances in technology aren’t slowing down, and I anticipate we’ll see more and more employers make the shift toward virtual interview practices,” she said.
Prepare for the interview
Gunderson said preparing in advance for a virtual interview is just as important as preparing for a traditional interview. That includes researching the companies you are applying with, knowing how your skill set will benefit each and even creating an electronic portfolio to share with potential employers via the screen sharing option in virtual interviews.
“Employers want to get a sense of who you are, and that can be tough to do when you’re not face-to-face. Practicing will help you get comfortable and greatly improve your confidence.”
“I think it’s important to think of your own experience and skills and be able to communicate how those traits will translate to the hiring organizations,” Gunderson said. “What do you bring to the table? How can you use what you, specifically, have learned from your experience, education and skill set to be an asset to their particular organization?”
It's also a good idea to make sure your technology is set up properly before the interview. Whether you’re using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or another platform, test it out and make sure you have a backup plan in case you run into problems on interview day.
“I think it’s always important to be familiar with a variety of platforms, because you never know which one a company uses to conduct interviews,” Gunderson said. “You can practice over each platform with a friend or family member to help you navigate each system.”
Even though you may be in the comfort of your own home, setting and dress matter. Set your technology up in a quiet room without distractions and make sure any part of the room visible on your screen is clear of clutter.
“I think it goes without saying, yet it’s important to remember that employers will be able to see what is behind you and hear what is going on in your environment during a virtual interview,” Gunderson said. “Be sure you are somewhere with good connectivity at the scheduled time and that no other people or pets are in your space during the interview. If there is outside noise, you may want to connect using earbuds or headphones.
“You’ll also want to make sure you dress professionally, and always look into the camera instead of looking at yourself during the interview,” she added. “It’s so tempting to look at your own image to make sure you’re presenting yourself well, but you’ll want to sort of ‘fake’ eye contact by looking at the camera and, as such, the interviewer.”
Gunderson said doing mock interviews with friends or family can help build confidence and keep you comfortable on interview day.
“Just be yourself,” she said. “Employers want to get a sense of who you are, and that can be tough to do when you’re not face-to-face. Practicing will help you get comfortable and greatly improve your confidence.”
After the interview
Once your interview is over, follow up with a “thank you” email that day. Make it personal by including something that came up during the interview. If you have any questions, the thank you email is a good time to bring them up.
If all of your preparation doesn’t seem to be paying off right away, Gunderson said don’t give up.
“This probably sounds cliché, but think outside the box. Look at all kinds of positions with many types of companies, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t find something right away,” she said. “Get creative in your approach, and utilize networking, social media and online job markets to find a good match.”
The OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies offers online degrees, certificates, and other ways to upskill and prepare for your next career move. For more information, visit pacs.ou.edu.