When it comes to interviewing, it’s true that practice can make perfect. But with the recent addition of web-based video platforms such as Zoom, job seekers are now finding themselves on the other side of a computer screen instead of a table – many for the first time. Whether you are a recent graduate or seasoned professional, here are five ways you can prepare for a successful online interview.
- Don’t let a bad connection create a bad first impression. Nothing ruins a good first impression like a frozen image, especially if you’re caught in an unflattering pose. Make sure to power up and check your internet connection at least ten minutes before your scheduled interview. If the connection is slow, keep your cell phone or landline nearby so that you can call in if needed. It also can’t hurt to position the camera or computer so that you look and feel your best.
- Dress to impress – at least from the top up. Your style says a lot about you, even if it’s just your top half. Aim for a creative professional look from the waist up that will capture your interviewers’ attention without making them dizzy. Try bold colors or smaller prints, and avoid stripes if possible. Accessories are a great way to showcase your personality, but be careful – noisy earrings and bracelets can distract your audience.
- Gesticulation is not articulation. Controlling hand movements during an in-person interview is important, but on screen it’s absolutely necessary. Depending on the internet connection, your hand or head movements can appear blurry or choppy to the interviewer(s), taking the attention away from what you’re saying – and the great experience you have to offer.
- Location. Location. Location. The three rules of real estate apply to interviewing on Zoom or any web video platform. Try to find a quiet space with a clutter-free backdrop. For example, if you’re interviewing in your room or office, take a look behind you and make sure the interviewer’s view is free of clutter and other distracting items.
- Smile! Interviews, whether on-line or in person, can be nerve wracking for everyone involved. Put yourself and your interviewers at ease by smiling from the very first moment that you’re connected. Though it may be harder to build a personal connection over the web, this simple yet effective non-verbal communication tool is enough to get the conversation off to a great start.
With these things in mind, you’ll be able to focus on demonstrating how great you are for the job – and how awesome you are with technology!
Trains are like mobile classrooms, or more appropriately, training sites for leadership. As a daily NJ Transit commuter, I often observe passengers and their behaviors (including my own), which sometimes mimic those of people in the workplace. Here are some leadership lessons I’ve learned through personal observation and reflection.
- Although in close proximity to one another, we tend to keep to ourselves. Only on a train would it be permissible for a stranger’s armpit to be one inch from my face. And in the workplace, we are placed in meetings and teams with groups of people we might never spend time with elsewhere. In both scenarios, we are placed in highly intimate situations with little personal exchange, yet we meet our goals. Lesson: I don’t need to be friends with people to meet my objectives. There’s a time and a place for friendship; NJ Transit or the workplace might not be it, and that’s ok.
- People are routinized. We stand on the same platform spot each day, enter the same train doors, choose the same seats if possible (window or aisle), and perform the same activities each day (read, listen to music, sleep). At work we develop similar rituals; we eat the same lunch with the same people at the same places, we run the same programs, or we complain about the same things. Lesson: When I do the same thing every day, I potentially miss opportunities to experience something new or get a fresh perspective, which could lead to the development of original ideas, hallmarks of great leaders.
- People often choose to do what is customary and not what is necessarily logical or right. Every day the train is packed. People flood the aisles of train cars while seated passengers occupy more than one seat. Instead of making room for new passengers, people stay where they are and avoid eye contact with those standing. We all pay to travel, why don’t we automatically make empty seats available to others? At work, we often perform our jobs the way we were taught regardless if it is the most practical or efficient way of doing it. When exposed to a different approach, we avoid exploring the alternative because it might be uncomfortable. Lesson: I need to be cognizant and amenable to doing what ought to be done instead of what is customary. It might improve results.
- People need, and often want, to be led. That man in the aisle seat of a three seater won’t offer up the empty seat next to him unless he’s asked, regardless if 40 people are standing in the aisles. In the workplace, we tend to behave the same way. Unless asked to do something, many times we won’t. Maybe both the worker and the passenger want the direction or encouragement to behave differently? Maybe the man on the train figured that if someone wanted to sit, he’d be asked to move. Lesson: Sometimes people just don’t know what to do, or they won’t do what they should/could unless asked. I can’t be afraid to ask for what I want or to take charge of a situation. It might be precisely what changes my world.
- I dropped my travel wallet on the train one day and the doors closed before I could get it. I had $300 worth of train passes in there. I was a mess. When I got to work and picked up the phone to call NJ Transit, I noticed a message. It was the man who picked up my wallet, calling me to say that he worked in NYC too and that he would be happy to meet me halfway to return it. Every now and then when I’ve had a bad week, I will get a call from my boss to stop at the café on my way into work; there will be a cup of coffee waiting for me. Lesson: Kindness and empathy go a long way. They simply make the world and the workplace better places to live and to lead.
Picture courtesy: David Parker