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Virtual interview dos and don’ts

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Virtual interview dos and don’ts

​Although virtual interviews have many advantages and minimize discomfort for both interviewer and interviewee, the majority of students and emerging professionals today still report feeling uncomfortable or nervous about these remote recruiting interactions.

In a recent Handshake survey, nearly 53 percent of college students said they were worried they wouldn’t be able to make as strong a connection and communicate as effectively with recruiters remotely as they would in person.

Virtual Interview Steps

Renowned business leader Aaron Craig Mitchell, former director of human resources at Netflix, has been conducting job interviews for more than 20 years. He addresses students’ concerns about making a real connection with these virtual interview things.

1) Strive for authenticity

Mitchell encourages students to “lean into authenticity” when evaluating an organization. Aspects such as authenticity and vulnerability are now central parts of discussions around leadership and business. “That’s the only thing [students] they have that no one else can replicate,” he says.

The process of assimilation remains the most difficult challenge for a student transitioning to a role in corporate America. “The more of you that shows up at the interview that actually gets you the job means that the organization is a place that
hugs those aspects of you,” says Mitchell.

For Mitchell, authenticity is what drives his success.

“When I interviewed in college, I heard ‘no’ a lot more than ‘yes’ – I didn’t get a job right out of college,” he says. “But eventually I got tired of trying to be somebody and started being myself. That’s when I started looking for a job and have been doing it ever since.”

Present your true self

Incorporating bits of your personality into your answers is part of being authentic during virtual interviews for several reasons. “First, because you can assess whether that organization is one where you can be successful with the knowledge you have,” Mitchell says. “Second, if you’re faking your identity and it’s the one that got you the job, then what do you do when you show up?”

To be authentic,”[w]be mindful of your personal narrative and themes important to you in each question,” advises Mitchell. Presenting your personality in subtle ways to virtual interviewers emphasizes elements of authenticity by “drawing on your personal truths, your personal stories, and your real interests “.

Mitchell believes that the interviews he’s managed with his authenticity have led to the most fulfilling jobs for him compared to the jobs he’s gotten by answering questions in a very structured format. He notes that “the guy who shows up on Monday is the guy they really hired. If there’s a whole bunch of dissonance between those two versions, then there’s going to be a difficult situation.”

2) Prepare to spin

“You almost have to practice being yourself in this new environment so you can get over the awkwardness,” says Mitchell. He strongly recommends that all students and emerging professionals practice a few repetitions of virtual interviews before the actual one.

Practicing virtual interviews helps students seamlessly step into the real call and predict how their interactions with the recruiter will go. According to Mitchell, this helps interviewees gauge “whether the interviewer is just going to ask questions, or whether we’re actually going to spend time talking and getting to know each other.”

During practice interviews, “use your video to get feedback how you present yourself,” advises Mitchell. “One thing I always encourage people to do when preparing for a virtual interview is to look at the screen while answering interview questions.”

3) Express genuine interest

Students and emerging professionals must express genuine interest to keep the interviewer engaged throughout the virtual conversation. “If you’re boring to yourself, you’re probably boring to the interviewer,” warns Mitchell.

Include body language

“[I]if it’s a video interview, keep your video on to maximize nonverbal communication, advises Mitchell. “I think there are some people who aren’t necessarily comfortable with video and think maybe it’s an option, but it’s always best to at least ask.” Mitchell adjusts his camera to an angle that frames his speaking in a natural way. and allows the interviewer to read his body language, and he encourages students to do the same.

Mitchell emphasizes the importance of body language, “because what a lot of people miss in video interviews is the non-verbal communication that adds so much to how we as humans communicate.” While projecting genuine interest in an interviewer isn’t necessarily easy, Mitchell says body language reinforces your verbal expression.

Virtual interview should not be done

When it comes to a virtual interview, “there are certain things that are likely to increase the chances of the interviewer getting irritated or deducting points, and it really depends,” Mitchell says. “At the end of the day, remember there is no hard and fast rule.”

1) Do not distract

Eliminate distractions that might otherwise appear on the screen. Mitchell urges students to turn off their notifications and close other browsers before joining a virtual interview. “It’s really obvious when you’re looking at something else or you have your phone. It’s really easy to get absorbed in something, and because we can’t multitask, we don’t actively listen,” he explains.

To further minimize distractions, don’t check your phone. “You may be looking off-camera, but your eyes are not off-camera, and the reflection from your eyeballs or your glasses can be reflected in your video,” says Mitchell.

Avoid virtual backgrounds

The virtual past is prompting mixed responses from employers. Instead, Mitchell prefers a blank wall because “virtual backgrounds can be distracting.”

For students who choose a virtual environment because of their life situation, Mitchell advises them to “use the least amount of distractions or elements that add to your personality” to successfully present themselves to interviewers.

2) Don’t introduce yourself

“The job of interviewing is not to get every person to like your answers, but to find out where you fit best,” says Mitchell. He recommends that students and emerging professionals use “I don’t know” as a safe answer when they really don’t know how to answer the interviewer’s question.

“Probably 90 percent of my interviewing life, I’ve said, ‘I don’t know,’ and that’s worked wonders for me,” Mitchell says. He urges students to recognize the power of “I don’t know,” recalling how this simple strategy landed him his job at Netflix.

When asked how he would do with his background, Mitchell said, “I don’t know.” He then added, “I never knew how to do the job until I got to work, but I’ve succeeded in industries I’ve never worked in before.”

Honesty is the best policy

While students may worry that “I don’t know” seems inauthentic, as opposed to making up an answer on the spot, Mitchell assures them that it’s just the opposite. “If the concern lacks authenticity, then ‘I don’t know’ is the best thing to say, because it’s often very obvious when people are making things up on the fly.”
Interviewees can immediately follow up “I don’t know” with “However, is it okay if I think about how I can do this?” Mitchell says this disarms interviewers and makes them curious to hear what’s next.

3) Take your time

“Be as clear and distinct as possible. If you’re naturally nervous and your energy is usually to walk around, then it takes more practice,” says Mitchell.

This means leaving room for the interviewer. “A great interview is when you create a space for them to continue. It’s a really terrible interview when you’re talking 15 minutes after the first question,” says Mitchell. “You must

allow yourself to speak for so long without creating space for the interviewer to register.
“Try to give time increments, about 15 to 30 seconds, for each of the four aspects provided in the STAR framework,” he says. “You want your answers to be short. No answer in an interview should be longer than two minutes.’

Use STAR to be short

Students and emerging professionals who have trouble giving short answers can follow the four parts of the STAR method introduced by DDI:

  1. Situation: Determine the context of the situation and circumstances.
  2. Task: Identify the commitment and responsibility you have taken to achieve your goal.
  3. Action: Describe what you did to complete the task or achieve your goal.
  4. answer: Highlight the positive outcome generated by your actions, followed by any key learnings or quantifiable results from that experience.

By using the STAR method to stay concise and express individuality in their answers, students and emerging professionals can convey authenticity to the virtual interviewer, Mitchell says.

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