By Odalys Simmons
Exciting. Nerve-wracking. Overwhelming. Even at the best of times, a job interview can be a challenge.
Now, as employers navigate socially distant hiring and COVID-19 precautions, the process has only become more complex. While many of the golden rules still apply (yes, you still need to send a thank-you note), it’s worth taking the time to revisit and refresh your interview prep routine.
Here’s how you can stand out from the crowd:
- Put your best foot forward. While some dress codes have relaxed during COVID-19, it’s important to dress in your professional best – even if the interview is taking place remotely. A good rule is to dress one step more formal than the industry standard. If you’re interviewing for an office job, men should wear a suit and tie; women, a pant- or skirt-suit. For a casual workplace, slacks and a collared shirt, or blouse, may be acceptable.
How you present yourself to others can be as important as what you write on your résumé. Smile, lean into the conversation and speak clearly. If you’re meeting virtually, consider putting a sticky note close to your webcam to help you maintain eye contact during the call.
If you’re required to attend an interview in person, ask about COVID-19 safety measures in advance. Absent more stringent guidelines, stick to the basics: Wear a mask (and wear it correctly), stand six feet apart, don’t shake hands and avoid touching your face.
- Troubleshoot your tech. If you’re meeting over Zoom or another videoconferencing platform, do a test run before the day of the interview. Do your headphones work? Does the software run smoothly? Do you have a stable WiFi connection? A suitable background? A notepad and pen? How’s the lighting? You should also plan ahead to minimize potential distractions from children, pets or household noise.Don’t forget to refresh your digital presence, too. With so much of our communication occurring online now, social media is your chance to make a “zeroth impression” before your first meeting. Do your LinkedIn page and social profiles reflect the image you want to show employers? Do you have a professional headshot and updated employment history?
- Practice, practice, practice. It’s not easy to rattle off your accomplishments confidently and concisely, but rehearsing – alone or with a friend – can help. Do your research on the company. Prepare a quick pitch (20 or 30 seconds is plenty) that introduces your key skills, experience, education and accomplishments.Be ready for common questions (such as, “Why do you want to work at our company?”), as well as harder ones (“What are your flaws?”). When you’ve finished your answer, stop talking – you don’t need to fill the silence. Be honest, straightforward and positive, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question.
- Follow up. At the end of your meeting, your interviewer will probably ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” Always say yes. Not only is this a prime opportunity to find out more about the company and position, but it’s also a chance to keep the interview process moving. Some good questions to end with are: “What are the next steps in this process?” or “When can I expect to hear back?”Have a thank-you note prepared in advance, and send it to your interviewer via email or LinkedIn within 24 hours after the interview. (While a handwritten note is always a nice touch, your interviewer may be working remotely from an alternate address.)
It’s not an easy time to be in the job market, so feel free to ask for help. For one-on-one support, visit www.goodwillcfl.org and sign up for free career counseling services. Our trained team provides résumé help, application tips, practice interviews, training and much more to help you ace the interview and get back to work.
Odalys Simmons is a job connection services virtual team member with Goodwill Industries of Central Florida. She can be reached at JobConnection@GoodwillCFL.org, or by calling (407) 235-1541.