Experts predict that more than half of US jobs are at risk because of coronavirus, as companies lay off staff and put in place hiring freezes. But many–the likes of Slack, Apple, and Microsoft—are still looking to build out their teams.
“We need to hire great people to continue building our product, and that hasn’t changed,” says Cameron Martin, who leads a recruitment team at Dropbox. What has changed is the process. Whereas just a few weeks ago, you could have expected to have a phone conversation followed by an in-person interview, today, most companies have moved to remote recruiting.
The question is, how can you win over a recruiter when you’ll likely never meet them in person? To find out, I asked some of my peers from the world of recruitment, people making the hiring decisions at some of America’s top tech companies and startups. Here’s what you need to know to nail a remote job interview.
Practice makes perfect
You should have at least one dry run before any interview, but it’s even more important with remote interviews, because they present some surprising challenges. Did you know, for example, that rather than looking at the person you’re speaking to, you should try and look into the camera, to give the illusion of eye contact? Better to discover these things in a practice interview with a friend than on a video call with the person you hope will hire you.
Thach Tak Nguyen, who has worked in recruitment with tech giants like Airbnb and Google, and is now the Chief Talent Officer at SWORD Health, recommends going one step further. “A candidate once asked if she could do a test run with me to make sure there were no technical hiccups.” It not only proved how invested she was, it also created an opportunity for the two to create a connection, something that’s hard to do in a virtual interview. “It forged a stronger rapport, which really helped during the offer negotiation process.”
Make sure you look the part
Just because you’re in the comfort of your own home doesn’t mean it’s okay to dial into a remote job interview with unbrushed hair, wearing a stained T-shirt and an old pair of sweatpants. As weird as it might feel to get all dressed up just to sit at your kitchen table, you should wear the same type of outfit as you would for an in-person interview.
But it’s not only about how you look; it’s also about how things around you look, says Michael Toy, a talent acquisition manager at Bespoke Post, a subscription box service. “Try to find a spot with good lighting, ideally with a window in front of you or on the side,” he advises. “And make sure any clutter is out of the way. It will show you’ve been thoughtful about the interview.”
Have everything you’ll need on hand
For an in-person interview, you normally need to bring little more than yourself (and maybe a printed copy of your résumé). Not so for a remote one, says Jacob Mark, a lead technical recruiter at Teachable, a platform that helps people create and sell online courses. “Have a pen and paper nearby to illustrate any ideas you’d normally put on a whiteboard at an in-person interview,” he recommends. “And have your cell handy in case there’s a technical issue and you need to shift to a phone call.”
Just make sure that anything you’re referring to throughout the interview won’t be a distraction. That means silencing your phone and closing any tabs that might make noises. “I was carrying out a remote interview recently, and I could hear the candidate’s Slack messages throughout the entire thing,” Matt Stephenson, a recruitment manager at Plaid, a fintech company, says. “Turn off your push notifications!”
Go easy on yourself (and on the company)
Interviews are your opportunity to weigh up the company, and it’s their opportunity to decide if they should hire you. But try not to worry too much about interview hiccups, either on their part or on yours, advises Laszlo Bock, CEO and founder of Humu, and the former SVP of People Operations at Google.
“At Humu, we’ve explicitly said to our team that if a child or a pet climbs into view during a video chat, it’s fine and the meeting should just go on as usual; life happens,” says Bock. “My advice to candidates is to try to relax—and look for an employer that will be thoughtful about the additional stressors the current situation might add to the process.”