How Can College Grads Better Prepare for a New World of Virtual Interviews?

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Amid all the craziness of the pasts few months, as businesses have been working remotely and others have been forced to close at least temporarily, it’s safe to say everyone has had to adjust.  Now, with all the talk about businesses starting to slowly re-open, workers starting to go back to offices, and activities starting to resume, we still don’t know much more about this virus or what the second half of the year may hold.

What we do know is the likelihood of things going to back to the way they were before March is basically zero.  We also know that, while most schools are planning for in-person education in the fall, they are also developing contingency plans that will allow them to better support distance learning should it become necessary.  The consensus is that distance learning didn’t live up to expectations.  Of course, let’s cut educators a little slack – they had to adjust as quickly as every business did, and many of them still aren’t functioning anywhere near normally.

Still, students suffered, but fortunately, many of them will have a chance to get back on track with their studies.  But, what about college seniors, whose experiences were tainted by an unprecedented situation, and who now have to try to go out into the world and find jobs at a time when unemployment is sky-high and businesses are struggling. 

The good news is most of these new graduates are well-versed in the technologies that enable teleworking, so that part of it may not be an issue for them.  But, how do they even land a job under current conditions?  As of a month ago, nearly three-quarters of college seniors were still looking for full-time jobs (and more than half are considering applying for graduate programs, many certainly due to the lingering uncertainty).

Not surprisingly, a large percentage of companies have shifted to virtual hiring – it is perhaps surprising that 89% have.  So that’s the good news.  Still, that’s very different from everything we’ve been taught, and comes with its own set of nuances.  But there’s a pretty basic set of tips that can help college grads with their virtual interviews.

  • Location matters – set up in a place where you won’t be distracted or interrupted, and let anyone else in your home know you’ll be on an interview.  Also make sure your physical environment is clear and uncluttered – it will leave a better impression and allow you to focus better.
  • Be comfortable – you have the choice of where to place your laptop, so make yourself as comfortable as you can
  • Act normal – everyone is in the same boat and aware that this is a new experience.  Try to look past the distance and have a normal conversation, as though you are in-person.  Have a notepad to take notes and jot down additional questions, just as you would if you were face-to-face.
  • Preparation matters – Make sure you are presentable, as you would for an in-person interview, do your homework, and know what questions you want answered.  Have a copy of your resume handy to make it easier to answer questions.
  • “Check 1-2” – Make sure you check your hardware, network connectivity, and even lighting.  The worst thing that can happen is you aren’t able to connect, your camera fails, or the lighting is difficult.  All those things can become a huge distraction and throw you off your game.
  • Mute your phone – The last thing you want it to be interrupted during your interview by calls or text messages.
  • Practice makes perfect – If you haven’t had much experience with video conferencing, spend some time with your friends, family, coaches, teachers, school counselors, or anyone else willing to take some time to help you feel more comfortable on video.

The last point may actually be the most important.  In any competitive environment, having a job interview go well is critical.  Not only does it increase the chances of getting the job – or at least being called in for a second interview – even if you don’t get one job, it builds your confidence. 

We all know first impressions matter, and most new grads aren’t experts at interviewing, so they not only have to transition to a digital environment for the process while also building confidence and learning how to present well. 

GradeMyVideoInterview has launched a service specifically designed to help graduates in their job seeking process.  Its service lets users record a mock interview, answering a series of 10 questions.  While live interviews have a time component, GradeMyVideoInterview gives applicants unlimited time to craft their responses.  Since they will be evaluated, this is a good chance for them to think about the kinds of things they want to talk about before recording their mock interviews, and get feedback on their approach. 

Once submitted, the mock interviews will be reviewed and evaluated by HR professionals who go through each video piece by piece to provide comprehensive feedback on those components known to be important to employers.  Within five business days (two for candidates who opt to pay for expedited processing if time is tight), candidates receive an evaluation that scores their interviews and provides feedback in three areas:

  • Technical Aspects – Framing, focus and location
  • Personal Appearance – Attire, posture and body language
  • Professional Presentation – Voice, language, introduction, preparation, experience and content

The service costs $149 or $199, depending on the level of critique.  For college grads likely to be competing with many other candidates for limited jobs, that doesn’t seem like a bad investment.