Now more than ever, it is important to put time, thought, and attention in our careers. Before we look at the necessary skills to excel in the interview and get the job, it is essential that you research the company and/or organization and know why you want to work for them. Knowing your why is a valuable way to help you create a fulfilling career path and may help you answer future interview questions. While primarily the focus of interviews is for the company and/or organization to find the right fit for the job, it should also be an opportunity for you to find the right company. Does the work resonate with you? Can you see yourself as part of their work community? Will you be able to grow and thrive in the position and company? Will this job help get you your next job?
If the answer is yes, then, let’s get you that job!
The good news is that by now most of us are accustomed to working online, so an online interview may feel more comfortable. With that said, there are some vital points to take into consideration.
- Usually, the first question is an open opportunity to talk about you (e.g., “tell us about yourself.”). This is a unique moment to shape your story about you. Given all that we have gone through in 2020, think about your answer and your story. What do you want to share with the interview committee and how does what you share relate to the position and/or company? What sets you apart from your peers? What is something an interview committee will easily remember about you?
- Despite the online nature of the interview, first impressions still matter! This means that not only do we have to think about how we present ourselves and what level of business dress from the waist up is appropriate for the company, but also we have to think about lighting, camera angle, distance from the camera, background noise, and our physical background. Don’t get too distracted with all the tech elements of the interview because an essential part of first impressions includes the research that you did on the company, the position, and your field knowledge.
- Since work experience may be limited as you start out in your career, know where you meet the requirements of the job and make sure to highlight how you meet these requirements through rich examples. There are two key sets of examples to have ready for the big interview:
- Examples of something that can be a weakness, but also a strength. For example, working on listening skills is a nice one, because we can all be better listeners. Another example is being detail oriented (if you are!), which is a positive, because while it is good to stand back and look at the big picture, someone that is detail oriented is valuable to have on the team for big projects.
- Examples of how you demonstrated teamwork and leadership. Think of times when you went beyond the scope of the project and/or job as well as when and how conflicts were solved. Don’t forget to use these moments to discuss challenges that were overcome.
- Given the online nature of the interviews, verbal communication is noteworthy. Sound can be problematic, so it is more difficult to distinguish a pause from a sentence stop. Therefore, take the extra second or two to breathe and give space for people to finish what they said. Also, don’t be shy to ask someone to repeat or clarify the question asked if you need more time to think about your answer~ or if you really didn’t hear it!
- If you think that since the camera does not show your hands fidgeting, your legs moving, or your eyes straying away from the camera that the interviewer will not pick up on your nervousness, it is important to note that nonverbal communication plays a major role in remote interviewing. Think about any habits you may have such as fidgeting, being distracted or restless, and make accommodations for them. Even if you must put a sticky note next to the camera for you to make eye contact or smile, do it!
- No interview (online or in-person) can conclude without asking the interview team a few thoughtful questions based on your research. For example, what is a normal day like working at this company? How would you explain the company culture? What are the expectations of this position for the first two-three months? A favorite last question enables you to give the interview committee space to clarify any comments, perspectives, and/or items that were discussed during the interview (“Is there anything I can clarify that came up during this interview or do you have any concerns about my candidacy for this position that I can address now with you?”).
As you are gaining interview experience early in your career, schedule some practice sessions with friends, family, and/or mentors to help you prepare. Hold practice sessions with trusted people that will give you meaningful feedback and that will help you be more relaxed and allow you to focus on the points you want to convey to the interview committee. Lastly, don’t forget to increase your confidence before the interview by using Amy Cuddy’s super hero’s pose, which is easier than ever from the comfort of your home!
Samantha Radovich is an education consultant from Colorado who has over fifteen years’ professional experience that spans five countries. She received her M.A. from Middlebury Institute of International Studies and her B.A. from the University of Colorado. Samantha is passionate about teacher education, second language acquisition, and bilingualism.