Job hunting while the world is on stand-still can feel like running on a hamster wheel. You’re working as hard as you possibly can, and running non-stop, but you’re still getting nowhere.
If you look at the numbers though, you’ll see that employment in the US is turning itself around, with payroll employment rising by 1.8 million in July 2020, and a larger increase expected in August’s numbers, too. If you’re looking for work, and feeling despondent, here are five ways that you can stand out to HR, and inspire confidence in taking you onboard, even during the uncertainty of COVID-19.
- Get Comfortable with Virtual Interviews
Most interviews at the moment are taking place remotely, but video-conferencing software can put a lot of us on edge. Remember, we’re all in the same boat, and the interviewer also would probably feel more comfortable across the table from you rather than making themselves clear on-screen. At the end of the day, they are looking for the same things as your in-person interviewer would, that human connection and a better understanding of who you are.
Irene DeNigris, chief people officer at recruitment software company iCIMS, agrees, “You don’t lose the human connection with video. You can still assess facial expressions and level of engagement when speaking virtually to candidates. We’ve found there are many meaningful ways to engage with people besides face to face. You don’t need to shake someone’s hand to hire them.”
That doesn’t mean you don’t need to prepare slightly differently. In the same way as a rookie might need to practice their handshake before their first lot of in-person meetings, think about the etiquette of virtual meetings before you start. This could be anything from turning up a few minutes early so that you don’t keep your interviewer waiting, or bringing a separate device or even a pen and paper with you for note-taking, so that you don’t appear rude by adding clicking and keyboard sounds over the conversation.
- Make sure your Technology is up to Scratch
As soon as your virtual interview has been scheduled, it’s time to check that tech. First, look to see which software HR has invited you to meet with. If you already have this application and feel confident with it, great. If it’s a new system, check if you need to download any new software, or create an account. Ask a friend to run a test run with you so that you can learn features such as sharing your screen, turning yourself on mute, or utilizing the chat window.
Now move onto your hardware. How are your camera and microphone doing? Make sure to run a test on each, and to make sure that your quality is strong. The last item to check is your internet connection. This needs to be as reliable as possible, so make sure that no one else in the house is taking up bandwidth, for example by streaming video. The average home has as many as 11 connected devices at any given moment. You can even unplug some of these, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa which could negatively impact speed or latency.
- Set the Scene
When you’re going to an in-person interview, you have no idea what the setting is going to be like. Will they speak to you in a meeting room, an office environment, or in a lounge area? Will they offer you a drink, will there be a window in the room, and how many people will be there? You don’t get a lot of control.
This is one of the ways that you can play virtual interviews to your own advantage. Choose a spot that makes you feel comfortable, with a background that feels professional, and in a quiet place where you know that you won’t be disturbed. If you feel that a drink of water would help with any nerves, you can make sure you have one ready. With no surprises, you can run through potential interview questions knowing exactly what the environment will be like, ahead of time.
- Show How You’ve Used this Downtime
Now, onto the interview itself! Millions of people have found themselves looking for work during COVID-19, so you’re in good company. The real differentiator will be what you’ve done with this period of time. Have you sat at home, morose and feeling sorry for yourself? Or have you used this time to add strings to your bow, getting certified in a new skill or a professional qualification?
Becoming a Certified Scrum Master is a great example. The average salary for a CSM is almost $100k, so when you’re competing against more hopeful candidates, and trying to swing into the next salary bracket, it’s an awesome competitive edge. Your behavior during the pandemic can say a lot about you, from how motivated you are to find work, to how ambitious you are about moving upwards in your career – despite any setbacks.
- Don’t get Distracted!
The effects of ’zoom fatigue’ have been well documented over the past 6 months, and prove how easy it is to lose attention while you’re talking via video-conferencing software. Limit distractions by removing anything unnecessary from your space before the interview, and make sure to keep eye contact with the interviewer, rather than looking at your own image on-screen. In fact, studies have shown that keeping eye contact during a video call will boost knowledge retention for the person you’re speaking to.
You also might want to be more vocal about your personality and skills, seeing as a lot of extras such as body language will be missed when you’re speaking online. Explain why you’re enthusiastic about the role and the company, why you think you’re a great fit for the job, and how you see yourself fitting in well with the existing culture and staff. Just like with an in-person interview, don’t forget to follow up via email within a couple of days, and invite the company to reach out with any clarifications or additional info.
Ready… Set… Shine!
Don’t assume that the pandemic has ushered in a world-wide hiring freeze. In fact, you have many skills that are valuable to businesses during this time.
The key to presenting yourself as a safe hire, is making sure that the interviewer on the other side of the screen immediately likes you. It sounds simple, but once they like you – half the battle is already won, as they’re on your side from the start.
So, make it easy for them! Turn up ready and prepared for your virtual interview, in a professional setting, with all your technology set up to go without a hitch. Then, present your skills and personality front and center, and let the interviewer see the value you’re ready to add to their organization.
Looking to add a Certified Scrum Master qualification to your CV before you attend your next virtual interview? Let’s talk.
About the author:
Giora Morein is an Agile Transformation consultant and Certified Scrum Trainer. He brings over 15 years of Agile coaching and executive consulting experience to the table – building, coaching and training high-performing Fortune 1000 teams. His diverse success stories include Merrill Lynch and Cessna Aircraft, as well as Nike, Blizzard Entertainment and GE Healthcare.