Four Ways Job Seekers Can Excel During a Remote Interview Process

By / Sep 10, 2021 (insta_photos/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Just because the job market looks rosy these days doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for interviewing remotely. If you’re looking for a job, here are a few tips to consider.

The good news for job hunters today is that the labor market is tight, meaning there’s a real opportunity to find a great position that pays well.

The bad news? The entire process is likely to take place through the confines of a telephone or webcam. That might take some adjusting for those who haven’t been through a remote hiring process before and are unsure of how to make a strong impression.

Melissa Smith, an expert on remote work and the founder and CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants, says this situation can actually benefit applicants—if they take it seriously.

“I would agree it’s an applicant’s market,” she says. “But it’s not just because of the way the job market is; it’s because so many people are unprepared for their interview. They have done no homework on the company. They can’t really say why they are a good fit. They aren’t even prepared as far as the interview process goes.”

Smith says this lack of preparedness often stems from applicants wanting a new job, but not this new job—which, even in a market like this one, can create a disconnect that leaves applicants unable to get hired.

“We all want to feel like [a candidate] has some interest in what we’re doing,” she says.

But even when an applicant is genuinely excited about an opportunity, the remote process does pose challenges in building rapport. With that in mind, here are some tips for applicants to excel in a digital interview setting:

  1. Make a good first impression. Interviewing on camera rather than in person doesn’t mean that professional standards can slide. Smith says this isn’t limited to your appearance—she points to the message that a sloppy background or computer desktop spotted during screen-sharing can send. “Maybe a blank wall is better than a bunch of messy things and things that are really distracting to the eye,” she says. She notes that good lighting and a quiet space are also important, but the end result doesn’t have to be studio-quality.
  2. Do a test run. For any interview, remote or in-person, it’s important to do your homework on the organization, understand who you’re talking to, and practice beforehand by answering standard questions out loud. But remote interviews ask for another layer of prep. “Check out the lighting, check the sound—do that preparation,” Smith says. “People feel better when they are prepared.”
  3. Consider the questions you ask. Your instinct might be to come to a remote interview armed with questions in an effort to keep momentum strong. That’s not a bad idea, but make sure the questions maintain the tone you’re after. Smith warns against going too broad with your questions—say, by asking about the company’s long-term vision—as it creates the risk of stumping the interviewer. “They may think it’s a great question, but if they don’t know [the answer], now you’ve given them homework they have to follow up on,” she says. Instead, she suggests keeping questions more narrow. For example, if you’re curious about the future of the company, try asking about how the interviewer has evolved within the association.
  4. Don’t get discouraged by the process. Smith says a lot of employers are still struggling to find the right mix when interviewing potential hires remotely. This challenge trickles down to candidates—for example, applicants might go through numerous rounds of interviews without any idea of whether they’re likely to get the job. And if you don’t spark a connection with the interviewer, don’t sweat it too much. “Try not to be discouraged or disheartened,” she says. “Remember that someone on the other side may not be representative of the company’s hiring process. There are a lot of things that had to change for companies, and maybe they haven’t gotten around to really reviewing the hiring process yet.”

This is the first of a two-part series on remote interviews. Keep an eye out for the second installment, focused on tips for employers.

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