COVID-19 has taken the whole world by the shock and has brought with it a lot of ancillary activities- the zoom meeting plague, the frequent usage of the term ‘new normal, and literally everything happening virtually. Things have started to get back normal now but we have no idea that whether the things will get back to the way they were before COVID. This land of virtual everything may seem bleak, but it is certainly navigable with the right mind-set. Virtual Interviews is the new beast, and the following pieces of advice would help you conquer it be it some job/ internship interview or be it an interview process for your dream college. Some advice from the physical era still holds the ground. There are some hygiene and some non-hygiene that you need to take care of in order to ace the online interview.
The Hygiene factors that you need to take care of are as follow:
Make sure you have a nice quiet spot to give the interview. If there are others around, let them know about the scheduled interview, and ask them to please not disturb you while the interview is on. Put up a do not disturb note outside your room at home as well if you have to, but try and avoid any possible disturbance during the call.
Another good idea would be to make sure that you have turned off the alerts on your phone and changed your laptop settings to disallow pop-ups while on a call. All this will help in keeping the virtual distractions at bay.
When offline was the norm for everything, during the buddy calls for the summer internship process at IIM Calcutta, we used to follow this DND approach. A sticky note outside the hostel room has helped a lot in ensuring that there is no disturbance around your room and the buddy call happens smoothly. While talking to one of my friends who was going through the WAT/PI process for her admission in IIMs, she told me that this DND method is really effective in ensuring that you get your own space for an interview, even though everyone is operating from home.
2. Lights, Camera, and Action
While this is another one of those obvious pieces of advice - do a test run of all your technology beforehand. This would include sundry gadgets: your laptop/ tablet, your earphones & mic., your router, and anything else you plan to use. Make sure everything is up and running to avoid any last-minute glitches.
Also, ensure you sit in a place with sufficient light so that you are clearly visible while on the call. Try and keep the camera near eye level so you don’t end up awkwardly looking up or down at the interviewer. Try and look into the camera to ensure a proper connection with the interviewer and keep your device on a stable surface before you. Please avoid placing the laptop in your lap.
Connect with the interviewer is really important be it over some personal interest that you both share or some common technical ground that you both share. Connecting with the interviewer is easy in an offline setting as you can use your gestures to relay your ideas in an effective manner but that is not the case in an online setting. So, making the hygiene check on light and camera setting is really important. One of my friends used to use 3 CFL and one table lamp during his CAT interviews in order to ensure that the lightning is proper on the face and he looks aesthetically presentable to the person who is interviewing him. While it's easy to lose connection over the online interview, all these hygiene checks will ensure that chances of losing connection become minimum.
3. Dress for the job
Even though the interview is virtual, there would be no reason not to wear your best. Please avoid the temptation of keeping your pajama bottoms. The proper dressing will make you feel more alert and confident. Risking improper dressing is not worth spoiling your chances of cracking the interview.
It is recommended to use virtual background during the virtual interviews. However, if you are not going to use a virtual background then try to sit somewhere that is not your bed. Not only will this help with aesthetics, but it will also keep you from feeling lazy midway.
Dressing properly not only makes you get in the feel for the interview but also helps in the experience that you are accruing during the process.
4. Check your Stuff
“Everyone chooses how to approach life. If you are proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focussing on repairing”
-John C. Maxwell
Make sure you are prepared well in time with all the things you could need for the interview within arm’s reach. A good starter kit should include a pen (having more than one pen would be a good idea), a scratch pad, a glass of water, and a napkin or handkerchief (in case you sneeze or sweat – always good to come prepared and look prepared as well).
Proactive preparation will only help in ensuring that your interview gets conducted smoothly and it sometimes helps in creating a positive impression to the interviewer as well. One of my friends was giving his summer internship interview and suddenly the interviewer asked him that did he have a notepad and a pen in front of him. When the interviewer realized that he was well prepared in advance and everything was at arm’s length only, he was really impressed with his proactivity.
Now that we are done with the hygiene factors, let's focus on the non-hygiene factors that you need to take care of during an online interview.
a) Communication is the key
While speaking to some people who were interviewed virtually for various organizations, one of the most interesting ‘tips’ I came across was a simple yet unobvious one: keep the interviewer with you, let them know when something is going on. It is hard enough to maintain engagement in a video call, so, if there is something going on which could cause you to be distracted from the conversation let the interviewer know. For instance, if you need to do some quick calculations to answer a question – just say ‘may I have a minute to work that out please’. Ideally, try to stay connected with the interviewer and communicate effectively.
An incident that stood out was a friend mentioning that he had a monkey show up in the window next to him during an interview. To explain his startled reaction, he went on to turn the laptop around to show the interviewer the animal. (he got the admission offer from the institute, so I am assuming the interview went well). But, ideally, try to sit in a monkey (and any other animal, pet, or otherwise) free zone.
Just remember to communicate effectively and as Anne Morrow Lindbergh said:
“Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
b) Keep Calm & Carry On
It is just an interview, so make sure not to stress over it too much. With the excessive exposure to zoom calls and social media interaction that we have been having of late, it is possible that a virtual interview (or just an interview, period) may trigger some anxiety. Remember, that is only inevitable, and you have access to all the help you need. Do not hesitate to reach out to a friend or senior if you need to talk. Before the interview, try taking some deep breaths – meditate if you feel like it. It is important to ensure you are in a good headspace when you have the interview.
Just remember that:
“The mind is like water. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see, but if you allow it to settle the answer becomes clear.
So just keep calm & carry on.
All these recommendations are based on my personal experience and the experiences of my friends. Hope it helps.