How to Ace Interviews in the Age of a Pandemic

Valerie is currently the CEO and owner of Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC. in which she offers Life, Leadership, and Career coaching for women as well as various Management and Human Resource consulting services such as program development, management, and evaluation, human resource audits, and employee handbook and other policy developments.

Job searching during a crisis can be difficult but not impossible. In this case, it does mean that recruiting and hiring becomes digitized in order to protect yourself, your employees, and the candidates. While some companies are slowing or halting their hiring efforts until the situation improves, some are still actively seeking new candidates. Healthcare, public health, first responders, tech, telecommunications (think: internet and cell phone because everyone is home and online!), and compliance roles are still being filled.

Chances are that most candidates are already being sourced online through various methods. Whether it is being conducted via social media, online job portals, advanced ATS, or recruitment software- this phase of the recruiting process remains the same. The only contact that is made with candidates at this stage is typically confined to phone calls and emails. 

The next step means that interviews must become digital. This is where changes lay for employers and candidates alike. Both recruiters and candidates must become acclimated to the technology and conducting interviews digitally.

I have been asked a lot lately what candidates can do to prepare for a digital interview. Like any other interview, this is also completely up to you. Do not let being in a different environment (like at home!) distract you. Be sure you are in a quiet space free of noise.

Assess and Understand the Company’s Culture

As I tell each of my clients, you are also interviewing the company to ensure that it is a good fit for you as much as you are for them.

Remember, your potential employer doesn’t want just anyone with a pulse. They want a candidate whose values, ambitions, work habits, and standards match theirs. Recruiters and hiring managers are in search of candidates who share their organization’s vision and ambition for growth and personal and professional development. So, just because the interview is occurring remotely does not mean that it changes what you or the organization are looking for. It is still best to familiarize yourself with the company’s culture. You can do so by:

  • Look at the company’s social media pages. I tell clients to check out Facebook and LinkedIn pages because usually those are the best mediums for clients, customers, partners, current, and former employees to keep up with.
  • Also, type the following into a Google search: “companywebsite.com” company culture. This will automatically populate Google search results with any page on their site that contains the words, “company culture.” You want to review these pages.
  • Read the “About Us” or “Mission and Values” or similar sections on their website. Is it what you are looking for? Does it align with your values and career goals?
  • Also, check on LinkedIn for connections who work at the company and reach out. If you do not have any connections who work at this organization, then look at their current employees and see if you have any mutual connections with any of them. In this way, you can reach out to a mutual connection and use that as an icebreaker.
  • Next, look at employee review sites, such as Glassdoor. On these sites, you tend to find some very candid reviews and comments from current and past employees about an organization’s culture. However, I always tell my clients to also take some of this information with a grain of salt as well and judge the company for yourself. You never know if a past employee is leaving a bad review because he/ she was fired or if someone received a bad review. This can be used a means of retaliation.

Job searching during a crisis can be difficult but not impossible. In this case, it does mean that recruiting and hiring becomes digitized in order to protect yourself, your employees, and the candidates.

VALERIE MARTINELLI

Who Will You Be Working Under?

More than likely, once you make it past the initial screening phase, you will be interviewed by the person you will be working under. This will provide an opportunity for you to learn about their role in the company, work history, and interests. By doing so, you should have some talking points for your interview with this individual. It is important to mention that while it is important to research this individual, it is also important to maintain your digital distance. In some instances, connecting with him/ her on LinkedIn may be justified, however, in other instances it also may be best to wait until you have built up a relationship.

So, what can be done?

  • Visit their LinkedIn profile. Take stock of their previous workplaces, academia, career to date, and any organizations they are affiliated with or a member of. Also, take note of any organizations that they volunteer for, skills they have been endorsed for, and any groups they belong to.
  • Like you did with the company, you want to search the following on Google “companywebsite.com supervisor’s name”. This will automatically populate Google search results with any pages on their site or that mentions them.
  • Also, take the time to familiarize yourself with any blogs they have written for the company.
  • Look for a bio on their website, the company site, or read their LinkedIn summary to learn about the interviewer. 

Know What the Company Does

As a Career Coach, I am a believer that if you applied to the organization then you should already know what they do. After all, why did you want to work for them? What drove you to them? However, before your interview be sure to do your due diligence and be sure you understand what problems they solve, who they work with, and anything about their products or services. Also, understand the company’s value proposition, what incentivizes clients/ customers, and what their market competition may be. If you can do an interview already knowing what makes an organization better, different, or more cutting edge than their competitors, then you will likely be viewed as the qualified candidate. Be sure to conduct research about the company’s products or services in order to learn this information!

You will also want to understand the company’s history. This could play a role in their services, any pivots that they may have made in those services or products, and it could answer some questions that you already have. It will show your potential employer that you are prepared and give you some excellent talking points. 

Most Importantly…Practice, Practice, Practice!

I do a lot of mock interviews with my clients and each is helpful for them because it provides the opportunity to learn from their mistakes before the actual interview. Also, in the age of this Pandemic you want to be very prepared- possibly more than normal- because video interviews are very structured. It also means that you will have less time to gain the rapport of your interviewer. Practicing interview questions, including behavioral ones, will be very helpful because you will be able to answer them much faster without having to pause for long periods of time to think about it- or worse- not have an answer at all. If you cannot do a mock interview session with a career coach, then have a friend or family member record your practice sessions with a phone or computer. Go back and watch those videos and evaluate your responses. Also, be sure to watch for any facial expressions that you don’t want to make again.

Aside from practicing you should also:

  • Familiarize yourself with any recent industry news, trends, innovations, etc.
  • We are in the middle of a Pandemic. Be prepared to answer how this affecting your job search, career goals, etc. It also can be used to ask you about how you handle stressful situations and how you can become successful, etc. Have these stories prepared.
  • Search Glassdoor for possible interview questions used by the company. 

The Big Day

Doing an interview at home doesn’t mean jeans and a sweatshirt. Be sure to dress like you were going to the interview in-person. No shortcuts on this one!

Also, be sure to give yourself plenty of extra time to check your tech beforehand. You will want a laptop to be fully charged and the internet to be working properly. If you need to download anything, you will want to do that beforehand and test it as well. You will want to be in a quiet room, but you also will want plenty of lighting, to sit up straight, and watch your body movements. It’s acceptable to have notes in front of you, however, be sure to look at the camera when you speak.

Think of this as an opportunity to elaborate on your resume and show off your skills. This is your chance to prove that you are the qualified that they want to hire. Remember, you are more than what is on your resume. Tell your story, smile, and be confident. You got this!

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