Updated: Mar 28
By now we have all seen the videos of kids barging into closed offices, partners walking around half-dressed, and pets lovingly jumping into the laps of those trying to participate in virtual meetings and interviews. In a world being held together through electronic communication, it's important that we know how to participate and how to do it well.
Interviewing is daunting enough without the pressures of technology. While virtual interviews are similar to the traditional, in-person interviews, there are a number of things to take into consideration when preparing to go digital.
Here are five simple tips to help keep your interviews going smoothly:
1. Test Your Technology Regularly
I've been on many virtual meetings over these past few months where technology has failed. Webcams failing, audio not working, or just flat out not having the right program. No matter the issue, they are all mostly preventable if you test your tech prior to any interview.
Oh... and be sure to communicate to your candidate what method (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, FaceTime) you will be using. It sounds silly, but we have had many clients tell us about how candidates didn't show for an interview and it turned out that they just dropped the ball on communicating the method. Finding good people right now is a chore so, don't make that mistake!
Alright, back to checking your technology. Here is a basic list of items to run through before any virtual interview:
This seems like an obvious... but it would stun you to know how many small businesses get tripped up and lose a candidate by a last minute internet connection issue.
Check to make sure that whatever webcam you are using is in good working order. Also, make sure that it has whatever permissions it needs to function with your computer and meeting software. Lastly, make sure you have a backup!
Same with the webcam, make sure that you have the permissions for the meeting software. Run an audio test prior to the start time. Most of the meeting programs have the audio tests built in.
If you are giving a group interview, make sure you coordinate with the other interviewers before the start of the meeting. This way you can ensure that not only your own computer is in good working order, but also the rest of the team who is scheduled for the interview.
Before our team's interviews, we like to have everyone log on five-to-ten minutes before the official interview time to sort out the order of introductions and the asking of questions.
2. Minimize Distractions
Be sure to start by picking the perfect spot. The lighting shouldn't be too dark, but too much light can also cause awkward glares. Natural light is best, so if you can, pick a spot near a window.
Next up is to silence all technologies that could cause distraction during the interview process, such as your phone or email notifications on your computer. If you're on a mac try using the temporary do not disturb setting for the meeting's duration.
Working from home and you have others around including children or pets, residing with you? Make sure they are aware you are conducting an interview. If you can, lock yourself in a separate room, where interruptions can be kept scarce.
If you're in an office setting, make sure that others that would be likely to need you are aware that you will be in an virtual interview. One simple, but effective way to do this is to simply tape a sign on the outside of your office or cubicle. For the long term, try to establish a policy around the office to check people's schedule before dropping in on them.
Lastly, if you are forced to work out in the "real world" try to do what you can to minimize external distraction. If you're at a coffee shop, find the most secluded seat or somewhere with minimal background noise.
3. Get Dressed... Fully
Even though you're not meeting in person, it's still important to give a good first impression. Remember, just like you're trying to discover if they're the best fit for the job, they are also interested in seeing if you're a good fit for them. Sit up straight, wear pants, and smile!
I know it seems silly and maybe a bit overboard, but make sure that when you're dressing for success on this working from home virtual interview that you dress head to toe. For one, we've all seen the mishaps on reels of the unexpected happening... and it leading to very embarrassing moments. But also, it'll help frame your mindset. You taking your dress seriously will translate into you taking the work and meetings seriously, too.
One bonus tip. Make sure that you home office is also dressed to impress. Set up your background to be something pleasing and professional. Leave out the dirty hampers and dishes. Show the person on the other end that you maintain professionalism even at home. If you must, you can use a background filter, but we all know that just adds that 'what are they hiding' thought to everyone on the call.
4. Calm Your Nerves Beforehand
Nerves seem to be magnified in the little square boxes on the computer screen. While we are used to interacting in person, there is little distracting us from behaviors on the screen. It's important to remember to slow down, and don't forget to breathe.
Just like an in person interview, the confidence we convey is crucial. Make it a point to go through some breathing exercises or some other method of calming just before your virtual interview.
Communicating uncertainty or nervousness toward your candidate is a good way to run them off before you ever have a real chance. Plus, you want to set the expectations on how persons should conduct themselves on virtual meetings within your business up front!
5. Make Eye Contact
This is one of the more subtle or tricky items, but is absolutely impactful if you can master it. When you're meeting in person, or any social exchange really, looking people in the eye is a sign of confidence and genuine nature. You need to carry that over to virtual interview settings as well!
Be sure to look at the camera, instead of the person's square, when you are speaking to them. They will be looking at your square and it will feel like you are making eye contact. It will also help you stay focused on what you're saying.
Then when it is the candidates turn to speak, switch your gaze towards their square. This will make them feel like you are actively listening to what they have to say. If you keep staring at the camera at this time, it just comes of stiff and fake.
Every time you have an online meeting practice this skill. It can make the difference of someone feeling the coldness of an online meeting versus the warmth of a real conversation!
The best advice is to embrace technology and the use of electronic communication! We have had 3 years of extensive practice at this point and we are still learning how to best use virtual meetings. With these tips, you can take your small business to a higher professional level and secure that awesome talent!
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