In some ways, a remote job interview can seem like a welcome relief from the traditional format. You don’t have to worry about directions or getting stuck in traffic; plus, you only have to agonize over half an outfit. But a remote meeting doesn’t earn you full access to the body language and social cues that your interviewers exhibit. The social awareness and mores around remote interviews are still emerging for those on both sides of the interaction.
As you prepare for your next remote job interview, consider this inside scoop from several interviewers-their insights about what matters and what may be less important.
Small talk helps.
Chit chat breaks the ice and can help make a remote conversation feel comfortable. Come prepared with a couple of easy talking points to kick things off (a funny story, a sports reference, etc.).
Jonas Bordo, CEO, and Co-Founder of Dwellsy, explains: “I need to get to know you via Zoom, which is hard. In the old days, we would have made small talk while we walked to the interview room, but we don’t get to do that anymore. All of that preliminary small talk is important – it’s in those conversations that you get to learn about me and me about you. Invest in that time, and don’t rush into interview questions.”
Researching the company and your interviewer can help you generate material.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Remote interactions have their own unique brand of uncomfortable moments-glitches, freezes, etc. Please do your due diligence when it comes to tech and interview prep so that you’re prepared and practiced for your meeting.
Know, however, that even when you’re well-prepared, meeting technology can be unreliable, which can leave you navigating some complexities off the cuff. “I know that remote interviews are awkward and a poor substitute for in-person interviews, but it’s best just to accept the awkwardness,” explains Calloway Cook, President of Illuminate Labs. “If you worry about an awkward pause or an accidental moment where you spoke over the interviewer due to a connection delay, it’s easy to get frazzled and have your actual interview responses become negatively impacted.”
Cook recommends, “Stay mission-focused, and make light of remote awkwardness whenever possible. Acing remote interviews requires more focus than acing in-person interviews, in my opinion, because there are so many external factors like connectivity that affect the dialogue.”
Adopt remote-friendly mores.
Another dimension that makes a remote interview challenging is that the social mores around these interactions don’t feel totally natural. Kevin Lee, CEO of JourneyPure, recommends:
“If there’s an awkward silence during the interview, don’t panic. It’s natural to have silences because you can’t rely on visual body language cues like you can in an in-person interview. If you’re done speaking, pause and let the interviewer pick up the conversation. Rushing to fill the silence may lead you to say something that you might not normally say or fill it up with chatter, which would let the interviewer know you are nervous about the interview. You may want to practice with a friend to learn how to manage awkward silences and find appropriate times for small talk during an online interview.”
Recognize it during other remote meetings when you’re involved, when you notice participants handling pauses well. Then mirror their approach. It’s a good way to stay controlled and calm during your interview.
There’s often a feeling of obligation to overprepare when it comes to job interviews, leaving interviewees flustered if anything unexpected happens. When it comes to remote interviews, though, the unexpected happens often, even when prepared. Being anxious and rigid makes it more painful to weather these inevitable occurrences.
Erik Rivera, CEO of ThriveTalk, explains: “The best advice I can give anyone going into an online interview is to make the interview as candid and relaxed as possible. If you have a child who is likely to interrupt, tell your interviewer this at the beginning of the meeting! Similarly, if you’re expecting someone to come by, full disclosure is best.”
Rivera emphasizes the importance of the human touch. He explains: “Finally, treat your interviewer like a PERSON, as they are also in this COVID nightmare. Discuss what has been hard, what has been good, how crazy everything is. Humanity needs humanity now more than ever.”
Soft skills are a selling point.
Flexibility, adaptability, emotional intelligence, innovation, problem-solving, work ethic, and other soft skills are valuable. It’s not just that the process for interviewing has changed; the reality of work has changed post-COVID. Soft skills can help finesse a changing workplace. Showcase them.
Bordo, for example, emphasizes the importance of flexibility: “I interviewed a candidate recently who was working hard to keep a pacifier in a baby’s mouth, and it was awesome. I’ve seen kids, husbands, wives, and roommates walkthrough backgrounds. . . I even interviewed someone with a parrot on her shoulder for the entire interview. All of that is wonderful. But, if you can’t create an environment with enough peace that you can have an interview conversation, then I worry you can’t create that kind of environment for your work.”
A culture that fits your life.
Just as you would with a face-to-face interview, do your interview prep before your meeting. Learn about the organization and the professional culture as you think about presenting yourself for your interview.