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COVID-19 has made Zoom arguably the most popular technology used to communicate as we adhere to social distancing guidelines. As face to face interviews are non-existent having a fast stable network goes without saying. You already know about dressing appropriately (head to toe), finding a quiet (clutter-free) place to interview, being on time, using the restroom before the interview, smiling, being yourself, etc... Here are 6 additional things to consider before and after the interview.

1. Wear (or show) Something With The Company’s Colors To The Interview

You should’ve visited their website and seen their logo, style and site colors. Your answers to the questions reaffirm your qualifications. Posture, mannerisms and enthusiasm exude your personality and interest in the position. The subtleties that build rapport and help the interviewer envision you on the team are reinforced with visual nudges. Without being too overt wear a shirt, blouse, or earrings with the company’s colors. If you don’t have clothing or accessories try to find an unobtrusive object (picture, vase, other decorative item) with their colors that you can place in the screen with their colors incorporated. If their colors are stark or unusual you can wear or stage something more muted to not seem obvious.  

2. Underlying Health Concern

An interviewer is not allowed to ask about your health and it may not come up in the discussion. If you’re concerned about it you should be inquiring about their processes in place to adhere to social distancing guidelines, sanitizing the work area or if working remotely is an option. There’s no need to volunteer information up about any pre-existing condition but you can ask about the benefits package, eligibility requirements and when it kicks in. Don’t give the impression that you’re worried about working around others but that you take the guidelines seriously and are concerned for the safety of all employees.

3. How Has Their Onboarding Process Changed?

Many employees may be working from home when hired. This presents a challenge for many companies to get new hires acclimated to company culture and policies, receiving/completing/returning paperwork, training, performance evaluations and even simple introductions to other team members. They’re still trying to make your experience great given the limitations. You want to know how they’ve thought about orientation and implemented processes to accomplish it. Your near-term success depends on it.   

4. Take Notes

A lot of important information is communicated during an interview and it can be difficult to remember everything. Ask the interviewer if it’s ok if you take notes because you don’t want to miss any important information during the meeting. Once you have their approval use a notepad, not an electronic device. Periodically when taking a note let the interviewer know briefly why the information you’re writing down is important to you so that there’s not a break in the flow of the conversation while you write. In addition to writing down information about the company, jot down a few personal details about the person that you learn from the conversation or objects you can see in the camera to mention when you send your thank you note. Make the notes very brief with just a few keywords so you’re not distracting (or distracted) during the meeting and only write down important details, not everything. Your attention should be on the interviewer, first and foremost.   

5. Send A “Video” Thank You Note

EVERYONE is sending an email thank you. Interviewers expect them and get them from nearly every candidate. Just like your resumé you want to personalize your thank you note. Take it a step further and really differentiate yourself by recording a video and sending it to the interviewer. This is where referring to your notes is critical. After the interview take a few moments to decompress and process the information. You should’ve taken notes on things you found appealing about the position, what they’re looking for and any additional (personal) information you learned about the interviewer. The personal information could be from something they said or from something you could see in the camera (picture, book, decorations etc...). When recording your thank you, refer to an important skill or experience level they’re looking for and why you meet it, why about their company really excites you, add in a something personal about the interviewer that you think is cool and why you’d be perfect for the position . Always end the message by thanking them again for their time, you understand how working from home has changed processes and let them know when you’ll be following up if you haven’t heard from them. Keep the video brief and to the point, as it should be 75 seconds or less.     

6. Use Video As Your Preferred Technology For Follow-Up

If possible, when following up with the interviewer try to schedule a brief video chat to get a status update on their progress. This shows your excitement about the position and continually familiarizes them with your face. If they agree to a call be brief and professional, dress as though you’re interviewing and be respectful of their time. After you’ve gotten the information about their progress on filling the position tell them you know they’re busy and let them get back to their duties.   

Here’s an important quick tip to remember during the interview and when recording your thank you message. Look at the camera (not the screen) to make eye contact. If you’re looking at the screen it gives the appearance that you’re looking away.

Stay safe and vigilant. We’ll get through this together!

Your resumé only partially communicates your qualifications for a job. Software (or people) can screen your resumé to see if you match a sufficient number of keywords in the job description. Provided you meet the minimum required criteria you’ll be contacted for an interview. The obvious information is what’s written. There may be additional information that speaks about your passion and tenacity that cannot be known by only reading your resumé. This is where you have to make the interviewer understand what it took for you to get where you are. In film parlance this is called the “backstory”.  

Your backstory talks about the challenges you had to overcome and informs the (in this case) interviewer about your journey. It reveals more about who you are. Did you have to work multiple jobs to pay for school? Were you studying during breaks at work or on your commute? Did you have to catch buses, Uber or other modes of transportation to school? Were you raising a family or caring for loved ones while going to school or working? Whatever challenge you had to overcome, don’t be hesitant to let the interviewer know. These are important details that show your resiliency in the face of obstacles. It’s more than just finishing school.

There are also obstacles that must be negotiated in your professional life worth mentioning. You may have taken additional courses or certification programs to acquire or enhance a particular skill. Did you stay late or work at home to improve your craft? Did you seek out a mentor or other trusted advisor to assess your ability and provide guidance? Talk about how you regularly look for opportunities to hone your skills and acquire new ones. Show you have a thirst for knowledge and are passionate about your industry or field.

None of those things are knowable about you from a word or pdf document. The majority of the time should be spent discussing your academic and professional accomplishments, but be sure to weave these important details into the discussion to give depth and context to your journey. You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t meet the minimum criteria but sharing your backstory gives the interviewer an understanding of your competitive nature and a glimpse at how you’ll succeed in their organization.

These challenges may not make you entirely unique to other candidates but most won’t talk about it during their interviews. Revealing information about your struggles and triumphs helps you stand out from other candidates. Make it a source of pride that comes through when you talk about it. Whether the details are large or small include them in your backstory to build rapport and leave a lasting impression.

There is a long list of questions you can find to ask in an interview. For senior level positions the interviewing process is much longer so the candidate has the opportunity to ask (and be asked) many, many questions. For everyone else interviews are much shorter so you don’t have a chance to go down a list of questions. When your time comes, the questions you ask need to show your grasp of the opportunity and give you important information. These 5 questions give you very useful information about the position and what to focus on with the interviewer.

Here are 5 questions to ask when it’s your turn:

1.    What are the performance metrics for this position? - Every job has a set of expectations and measurements that indicate performance. Learning what is being measured helps you know what is important to the company and should influence your responses and further questions. The response will also give you an indication of the company’s values. Is more emphasis placed on creating a great environment or are they driven to meet goals no matter the cost?
2.    What about my resumé appealed to you? - Get the interviewer to discuss your favorable attributes from the beginning so try to ask this question early on in the meeting, if possible. There were many other applicants and something about your resumé stood apart. Sometimes the things that you thought were appealing may not have been what piqued their interest. Pay close attention to the answer because these are things you want to emphasize during the remainder of the interview. This information is particularly important if you’ve been able to ask the question before they ask you the typical “Why should we hire you?”.
3.    Is there something in my experience that concerns you about my fitness for this job? - If you can ask this question early on in the interview you can use the answer to assuage the interviewers concerns. The second benefit is that it shows that you’re invested in becoming successful and want to understand your limitations in their eyes and can accept constructive feedback.
4.    What have successful people who’ve had this position gone on to do? - This question gives you information on two fronts. First, if the position is clearly defined with measurable objectives there should have been someone who succeeded and used it as a springboard to greater opportunities. Second, it gives you information about their ability to hire the right candidates and give them the necessary resources to succeed.
5.    Has anyone failed in this job? If so, why? - You want to know if others have failed in the job. There should be a high ratio of success to failure in the position. This lets you know (as mentioned above) that the position is well defined. For new positions you want to know about retention rates overall in the company. This gives you important information on the company’s culture and the employee morale. Pay attention to whether many people have failed or whether most people have succeeded.      

These five questions give you the necessary information to determine if this opportunity is right for you. Both sides in the interview are trying to determine if there’s a match and both sides have power. Learning essential information to help you know where to focus your responses is invaluable to establish yourself as the best candidate. Make sure that you get actionable intelligence from your questions and use it effectively throughout the meeting. As a bonus you can ask the interviewer what career opportunities are available with them in the company. Although not all, most people aspire to advance in their career. Listen carefully to see if they have a clear idea of future opportunities within the company. Using this information effectively will help create a positive impression on the interviewer and further distance you from other candidates.

The hiring process can be a long protracted ordeal. Applicants are put through applicant tracking systems, reviewers, perhaps multiple phone screenings and only then if all goes well the rounds of face-to-face interviews begin. We’re frequently asked two questions:

Q.  Are all of these steps normal?
A.    In many cases, yes.

Q.  Is there any way to bypass some of them?
A.    In some cases, yes.

Companies overriding concern for making the wrong decision has extended the hiring process unnecessarily with little regard for candidates’ time. A process that could be concluded in 3 weeks can drag on for more than 6 months. There is no data on retention to suggest these lengthy hiring processes yield higher quality employees. Here are 3 things you can do to shorten the timeframe:

1. Bypass the Interview Merry-go-round - When you press send and submit your resumé (application) you’ve essentially accepted their rules for proceeding. All applicants go through the same impersonal evaluation. You have no way to get a “leg up” on the competition. To navigate around this step use LinkedIn to find someone who works for the company you’re interested in. Inquire about their experience at the company. This may take some time communicating with them. To open this line of communication initially look for ways you can offer assistance to them. Find an interesting article related to their company or field and send it to them. Find out if they are looking to expand their network and perhaps you could make an introduction to someone you know. After you’ve offered to assist them you’ve earned the right to ask for their assistance. If there’s a position at their company, you want to let them know you’re aware of the opportunity and ask who you should contact to learn more about it (the hiring manager). Ask if they’d be willing to make an introduction on your behalf.
2. Change How You Approach the Interview - Create and present a game plan for how you would begin working at the company. This information is gathered from your company research prior to the interview. Even if your assumptions are wrong you’ll lead the discussion towards specific information about the company’s needs. As you learn more about their needs weave in how your experience and skill set will solve the problems. The objective is to not just talk about your resumé content but to proactively have the interviewer thinking about you on the team. The discussion is about the work and not focused solely on your background. Remain inquisitive throughout the interview. Don’t wait until the end to ask questions. The more information you’re able to gather through questioning the better you’re positioned to ask about the next steps at the end of the interview. The meeting has been a success if there’s an equal exchange of information and not just you answering questions the entire time.
3. State the Obvious - If asked whether you’re pursuing other opportunities indicate that you are. You want them to know that you’re in demand and your time is limited as well. For follow up interviews give the appearance you have small windows of availability to create more urgency for them to move forward with you quickly. They need to feel the fear of missing out on you if they delay their decision.     

These steps can help you shorten the time to getting an offer and beginning the next chapter in your professional journey. Use the power you have to expedite the process.

The interview is going well and you’re connecting and finding common ground and the meeting is lively and engaging. You have been able to confidently answer every question. All of a sudden, you’re asked a question you don’t have a response for.

You are sitting there dumbfounded trying to come up with an answer, but can’t. It’s obvious to the interviewer that you don’t have an answer. The longer the moment lingers the more harm you can potentially do to your candidacy. Before the beads of sweat form on your brow, take a breath, collect yourself and use one of the two suggestions below to navigate the situation.

Here are two options to get the train back on the rails and not let the awkwardness ruin the interview:

A.    Determine the intent of the question. Is it a legitimate question related to something about the job or a detail on your resume (Give me an example of a time when you used “x” software to deliver a project)? Or is it a behavioral/situational question designed to catch you off guard to see how you handle it (How would you handle a customer telling you they think you’re not right for their account)? In the first example, if you never used the software to completely deliver a project describe a time when you did use it and how it helped reach the desired outcome. Acknowledge that its’ use was a portion of the work but not its’ entirety. Explain your familiarity and the processes you’ve used to succeed in completing the task. In the second example you can acknowledge that you’ve fortunately never had that specific situation arise, but you can share an example of how you overcame a difficult situation where you needed to solve a problem for a customer (internal or external). This is a crucial pivot. Describe the nature of the problem, who was involved and how you arrived at a solution. As you give that example you’re buying time to craft your response to the original question while conveying important information about your ability to solve problems. Once you’ve given a real world example, circle back to the original question and give a reasoned response after you’ve had a chance to collect your thoughts.

B.    Involve the interviewer in your response. Companies hire problem solvers and collaborators. Let’s take the hypothetical question above (unhappy customer) as our subject. Here’s how you could involve the interviewer in your response and improve your chances of getting their “buy in” on your response. “Let’s say you and I were together with a customer and they said they don’t think we’re right for the account. We were caught off guard. First, I would ask them what expectations they have that we’re not meeting. After understanding their expectations (and acknowledging their frustrations) I would indicate our combined experience and the resources available to respond to their needs. I would then tell them we’d put together a documented plan to satisfy their concerns and would like to present it in 48 hours and give them a timeframe for measuring our progress.” Ask the interviewer if they feel this would be a positive approach to solving the customers’ problem or if they feel there is something they would like to include. This brings them into the situation and demonstrates your ability to think quickly and diffuse a problem situation. You are proposing a solution and measuring the effectiveness at specific intervals.

The key to overcoming being stumped is to maintain your composure. Storytelling is always valuable in communicating. Having a few “go to” stories from your past (personal and professional) can be useful. It can help you navigate the surprises that periodically arise during an interview. The objective is to get the interview flowing again and remind them why they wanted to interview you in the first place. Intelligence, confidence, and being thoughtful always leaves positive impressions on the interviewer.


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