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Interviewing Online in the Digital Age … During a Pandemic!

Young woman having video call via laptop in the office

By Steve Longo | Contributor

To say the least, 2020 was certainly “different,” and we are hopeful that 2021 can present a much-improved atmosphere for interpersonal communication.  Over the past 10 months we witnessed ZOOM (and others like it) replace good old-fashioned face-to-face communication.

More and more of our Student-Clients are interviewing online, and I don’t believe that will change much moving forward. The pandemic has forced all channels of industry to use online communication more often, seeing it as a more efficient use of time and money.

I’m old school and I prefer speaking with people face-to-face for a number of reasons; interviewing in person ALWAYS provides a better opportunity for us to “shine.” The most important and ever elusive “personal connection” is muted in the online communication process.

During interviews, companies “check the box” on a number of different variables when considering a prospective candidate:  education, experience, personal interests, etc. However, it’s the intrinsic value and personal connection that prompts a company to extend the job offer. 

Which of the following would mostly likely occur?

“This candidate is qualified for this position, but I didn’t feel a connection with him. I question whether his personality will fit with our organization, let’s hire him!”

“This candidate doesn’t check ALL the boxes, but he is very dedicated and smart. I like him and I believe with some training, he would be invaluable to our company, let’s hire him!”

Personal connection is key to allowing employers to envision a place for you in their company.

With regard to interviewing, the most consistent challenge facing our Student-Clients is a lack of personal confidence…certainly understandable.  Most people find interviewing to be uncomfortable and some even find it to be absolutely terrifying!  You’re going to meet with a person who you have never met and be asked a number of questions that you don’t know are coming, and you’re supposed to be at ease with this most unnatural situation?  Let’s face it, interviewing is an unnatural experience, however, here’s some advice as to how you can put yourself into a better position to succeed.

The Ballpark

With an online interview, you’re at your home ballpark. Set your computer at a height that shows your profile in the best light. Generally speaking, looking up someone’s nose is “not a good look” so have your laptop pointed downward at you.  Background is important—make sure what the interviewer sees is appropriate and business-like. Set it up, then do a practice run and have someone else critique the set up. Wear business attire and look business appropriate.  Because it is an online interview, you may post notes behind the screen on the wall to assist you with thoughts you want to make sure and mention during the interview.

Interview Preparation

Whether interviewing online or in person, you don’t know what questions will be asked, so we suggest you provide and practice answers for the following 5 questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What is your best asset?
  3. What is your predominant liability?
  4. Why do you want to work for this company?
  5. Why should we hire you?

At NextStep, we spend hours preparing and working with our Student-Clients on answering these 5 questions (and many other common interview questions). If you can answer these, you can most likely answer anything they throw at you. Research the company’s website…especially the ABOUT US tab. Understand the culture of the company and how it relates to your own values.  Have a few questions ready for the interviewer. They will ask if you have questions and “no” is not acceptable.  Prepare questions that are benign but relatable: “How do you see your industry growth in the near future?” “I am intrigued by the philanthropy efforts of the company, what is it you most value?”

Most importantly, your last question should be about what the next step in this process will be, AND you should convey that you are very interested in the role. Companies want to hire people who show they want to work for them.

Self Preparation

Learn to understand and acknowledge that you can control ONLY what YOU have control over. You won’t know the interviewer or the questions, however, if you prepare properly, you’ll be more at ease. I can state without reservation that the more interviews you do, the more confident you will become with the process.  Remember that companies always hire “the person” not the resume.

NextStep College to Career Coaching, LLC is a Texas-based company designed to empower college students and college graduates with the required skills and knowledge to be successfully employed in the marketplace. For more information, visit www.nextstepC2C.com or call 972-804-1200.

Steve Longo is Managing Partner at NextStep College to Career Coaching, LLC, which is a Texas-based company designed to empower college students and college graduates with the required skills and knowledge to be successfully employed in the marketplace.

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