A lot has been written concerning the new working practices COVID has forced upon us all. What appears to have flown underneath the radar however are the changes that it has wrought upon those seeking employment, something that is of course, very close to our hearts here at Jameson Legal. More people are actively seeking work than for decades, but in order to land that new role, they are being asked to jump not just through more hoops than ever, but unfamiliar, oddly shaped hoops.
Remote interviews were something that would occasionally be asked of applicants, but they would almost always be at the earliest stages of the interviewing process, part of a weeding out if you excuse the phrase, to find those candidates most suitable for going through to the interview stages proper. Now though, with face-to-face meetings out of the question, they are everybody’s route to securing that dream job.
Despite what you may be told, remote interviews are a completely different animal than the traditional face-to-face ones. The one thing that does remain the same is the fact that they are still a competition. You are competing against everyone else for that role. By treating the remote interview the same as would have for an interview this time last year, or like you would any other Zoom or Skype call, you will be putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. Here is my guide to ensuring you give yourself the best possible chance of wowing your perspective employer and winning that competition.
Dress to Impress
You may be sat in your kitchen at home, but this is still an interview and possibly the most important interaction you will have this year. Wear what you would wear for a face-to-face interview, and by that I don’t just mean for those parts of you that will be in camera shot. You will not only look the part, but it will also help you get into the mindset that this is an interview, something harder to achieve if you are sat in your pyjama trousers and slippers. It also means that if for any reason you do need to stand up, you don’t reveal to your former potential employer your preferred night attire, or worse.
You have the chance to set up the place of interview in a way exactly to your liking, something that is never normally the case. Take advantage. The background to Zoom calls have become a subject of their own, and whether you like it or not, you will to some extent be judged by what is displayed behind your left shoulder. It is far easier to put off a prospective employer than impress one, so just be careful there is nothing there that you would not want them to see, and don’t try to impress with your highbrow but obviously deliberately placed reading material. Additionally, there is a good chance that for the short-term future at least, the place where you are being interviewed from could be your place of employment, so if you can make it at least look like you are in an environment conducive to hard graft and unremitting concentration, it can only work in your favour.
Try to ensure all background noise is kept to a minimum. It is easier to control those coming from your own home, but even external noises can be managed to a certain extent, by avoiding days/times that coincide with the school run, or bin day for example. Headphones are always an option if background noise is unavoidable. If Wi-Fi is a potential issue with having to share it with other members of your household, ensure you have priority for the designated time.
Whatever is behind you and even on the desk in front of you, will be there for everyone to see, but as for behind the camera that is a realm for you to exploit. If you feel it will help you, notes with your key achievements, attributes and prepared questions stuck on the screen’s edge or the wall behind it at an easy eye level, could help if your mind goes blank at the crucial moment.
The downside of the interview being conducted in your own home means you are at the mercy of all the distractions that all too often come hand in hand with sharing an office with the world at large. If you do share your home with a partner, children or pets do whatever you can to ensure they don’t become part of the interview process. I would suggest this is not the ideal time to be the star of a clip that goes viral, as fifteen minutes of fleeting fame is scant consolation for losing that dream job.
One of the most important periods of an interview, even though it may last as little as fifteen seconds, is the initial greeting and welcome. It is a cliché – but as is so often the case it is a good one, – that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and though you will be stripped of the chance of delivering a confident handshake complete with steely grip and withering eye contact you still need to make your presence felt in those first few crucial seconds of the interview, or you could find yourself playing catch up for the rest of your allotted time.
Preparation is Key
Like with all interviews, preparation is key. Ensure that all the points mentioned above are ticked off. Also, give yourself a few minutes beforehand to get yourself in the right “interview” frame of mind. That comes naturally when you are sat in reception waiting to be taken through to the interview room. It is not so easy to achieve in the place you normally play poker with your mates on a Friday evening with one too many refreshments.
The era of the remote interview may be with us for the medium to long term. Indeed it may be here for good. Online tools such as Hinterview and Odro have already been adopted by recruiters. They allow the prospective employer to set standard questions, while the interviewee is given the opportunity, among other things, to record their answers that can then be shared. It is easy to use, but the first time using any new technology can be a trial, so if such tools are going to be used make sure you are fully acquainted with it before the big day.
Over time everyone will start to adapt their remote interview technique and up their game as it becomes the norm. Until then however, you have a real opportunity to steal a march on the competition. Make sure you grasp it.
Iain Rainey is the Managing Director of Jameson Legal. He specialises in the recruitment of lawyers in the Middle East.