As an educational job coach who prepares candidates for their interviews, I am getting valuable feedback from my clients about their recent experiences in doing video interviews. What can be generalized about their experiences? How can candidates successfully adapt to the “new normal” of video interviewing? What are the most recent trends?
• Interviewing on video can be an awkward, unfamiliar and uncomfortable experience. Some candidates report that they experience excessive nervousness, especially at the beginning of the session and that it seems difficult to regain their poise. Given that screening interviews last about 15 minutes, the inability to perform optimally can damage your chance to move on in the process.
• Video tends to de-humanize the interaction. I contend that one of the most important factors in being selected for a job is likeability. It is extremely difficult to demonstrate how likeable you can be because there is no physical connection, no handshake, little eye contact, and a lack of opportunity to read body language.
• Interviewers can be more confrontational. Most of us, in order to be civil, filter our words and reactions during face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, virtual communication seems to unleash a lack of civility by some interviewers which may be manifested by confrontational reactions.
• Beware of technical problems. The platforms that are used are often problematic; there are lags between the visual and the sound; it is known to stall or cut out completely. My clients have experienced being disconnected, the result being that the interview was abruptly and permanently ended.
• Protocols are evolving. Traditional interviewing involves a panel of interviewers converging in a central location. The candidate waits to be called and escorted in from a waiting room. The escort usually engages in some “small talk” during the walk to the conference room in an attempt to quickly establish some rapport. Introductions and handshakes can create an opportunity for interviewers to gauge some initial impressions of you. Video eliminates most of these protocols. It appears that the “new process” needs to build in some opportunities to put the interviewee at ease.
***MOST RECENTLY, DISTRICTS ARE ASKING CANDIDATES TO PRODUCE AND SUBMIT VIDEOS RATHER THAN DOING LIVE INTERVIEWS. THEY USUALLY PROVIDE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE. I ASSUME THE RATIONALE IS TO FREE UP INTERVIEWERS BY NOT TYING THEM INTO A TIGHT ON-LINE SCHEDULE. MY ADVICE IS TO PREPARE CAREFULLY. STICK TO THE TIME LIMIT. SPEAK CONVERSATIONALLY. DO NOT LOOK DOWN AND READ FROM A PREPARED SCRIPT. SET UP OUT-OF-SIGHT QUE CARDS OFF TO THE SIDE OF YOUR CAMERA WITH KEY WORDS AND PHRASES. SMILE. USE A FRIENDLY TONE. DRESS AND GROOM YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY.
Strategies to Adapt—Being aware of the above findings, is a case of fore warned is fore armed. Preparation for an interview is always a key to success. Preparation is not limited to researching the school-community, developing your narrative, and anticipating questions and prepping your answers. Preparation now should include tactics as to how you will navigate this new landscape of video interviewing.
• Make extra efforts to be personable. Prepare a narrative in anticipation to the likely opening question, “Tell us about yourself”. Balance the response with personal stories along with highlights from your resume. The interviewers need to get to know you in order to like you. Smile; demonstrate a sense of humor.
• Be conscious of your background and lighting. Be aware that interviewers will also be focusing on the images in your background. Do not distract them with clutter. Chose items that reflect who you are, and what might resonate with them. Family pictures on a bookcase, some neatly stacked professional books are good choices.
• Dress and groom yourself appropriately. Present yourself professionally. Most of us have been housebound for days on end. In the age of corona, my wardrobe mostly consists of sweatpants and a tee shirt. I often skip shaving. However, I would dress the part of the professional for an interview.
• Prepare hidden cue cards. One never refers to notes during a traditional interview. But this is different. Your camera will only show your upper torso and head. Give yourself an advantage. Why not prepare notes and place them on the keyboard? Glance at them briefly if need be.
• Be prompt and respectful of time restraints. Professionals are always prompt and respectful of time. Video conferencing demands adhering to a tight schedule on the part of the interviewers. They are under pressure to stick to their schedule. Take their lead as when to end the session.
As I have emphasized, preparation is a key to successful interviewing. I suggest that you set up a mock interview with a small group of friends using a video platform. Take a test drive. Get their feedback. Sensitize yourself to how to handle the new normal.
Dr. Aronstein is an educational career coach who assists school leaders, aspiring leaders and teachers prepare for interviews, and in the preparation of their resumes. Learn more at http://www.larryaronstein.com