How to win interviews during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us the new normal. And companies are adapting to keep business as usual. If you’re having a hard time acing your interviews and landing your next job in this pandemic, perhaps you’ll need to change how you prepare and anticipate questions that may sound too easy but are asked to reveal what most recruiters and hiring managers take as signals to flunk candidates.

Most interviews these days, if not all, are done remotely through video calls. Which is both challenging for the interviewer, who now has a bigger pool but will want to save time with speedier screening in gauging suitability for a position, and the applicant who’s weighing options if it’s the ideal company to work for but will have a tough time without the opportunity to dazzle through the interview in person.

As in the many drastic work adjustments we’ve made to get by in this pandemic, it’s now more important than ever to present yourself the right way if you want to get the most out of your virtual interviews. Versus the typical interview strategies you got used to that might no longer work, prep up as these are what headhunters and hiring managers expect to see and hear from candidates during virtual interviews.

  1. Check out the company’s website or social media accounts. This is a common mistake among applicants, failing to even skim the company’s website or social media accounts. The pandemic forced us to work remotely or do schooling at home, the primary requirement of which is to have a stable and fast internet or data and a computer or mobile device. Thus the expectation that applicants could easily check out the company online prior to the interview. Interviewers are instantly impressed when candidates have done their part in researching about the company and the job requirement as it also lessens the time to have to explain what the company is all about.
  2. Dress up properly and set up a good background. The pandemic is not an excuse to dressdown for a virtual interview, especially if you’re aiming for a key or managerial position. Dress to impress by wearing your best business attire, and choose the quietest location in your house or room that’s well lit and clutter-free, with a good, minimal background that will not distract your interviewers. It helps to do a test run (check your connection, wear your outfit like a dress rehearsal, see how you look on video with the background, listen for noise) before the actual interview. Because there are now areas with which restrictions have been lifted, chances are that you’ll be invited for a face-to-face interview in the final stages of your application, so dress for success on these occasions. Companies now prefer applicants who are flexible and open to both work from home and work from office setup, so weigh your options.
  3. Don’t memorize your answers or lines. Interviewers hate it when candidates sound like pagent contestants. Because the interview is on video, you’d think you can get away with memorizing scripts or spiels. When memorized, you’ll most likely forget when asked a question that’s not in your list or you get mental blocks. While it greatly helps to practice your q and a’s, anticipate the questions but don’t memorize your responses, interviewers prefer answers that are fluid and conversational, as they expect you to be confident enough to speak your mind, come out with ideas, contribute to meetings, and interact with teams.
  4. Avoid using buzz words or jargons. Who’s not guilty of trying to impress the interviewer by sounding like an expert and using technical terms? However, interviewers usually see this more as a sign of a novice hiding under the veil of these buzz words or jargons. Prove that you’re a seasoned professional by expressing your thoughts clearly, focusing on the relevant skills and experience that matches the job requirement, walking the interviewer through your successes and how you’re able to overcome difficult situations, without having to beat around the bush.
  5. When asked about results or your track record, answer in quantifiable terms. Questions about your past performance is not answerable by a simple yes or no, the interviewer expects you to expound on your successes and how you overcame failures or challenges. This means you need to answer in figures or percentages – closing x number of deals in as little as x number of weeks; sales growth of x percent year on year; I worked with a small team of x but was able to build up our capacity and optimize workflow to meet deadlines; failed to meet the target prior but was able to catch up by doubling the revenue in x months. Never give vague answers, quantify.
  6. Use positive reinforcement. Avoid answering in the negative – I don’t know, not sure, maybe, etc. While the interviewer will not expect you to always say yes, he or she expects you to be ready for any situation, especially the most challenging ones, and that you’ll use your skills, talents, and experiences to overcome them. Interviewers love to hear you say “I can…” “I’m excited to work on…” “It’s challenging but I’m up to it…”

These are just some takeaways from my own experience doing interviews as a hiring manager. With practice and preparation, amid the challenges of the pandemic, there’s no stopping you from winning these virtual interviews and land your next dream job, so good luck!

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