CareersLessons on Leadership

Ten Tips to Nail Your Remote Interview During COVID-19

By Jacquelyn Adams and Guest Contributor Ellie Petro

Well, my friends, since her first article on resumes was such a hit, Ellie Petro has joined me yet again so we can continue to walk you through your next employment application process. So here we go!

Your résumé got you in the door… or more likely onto a video chat interview. Now it is time to dazzle them with your expertise and charisma. In our new virtual world, use these ten tips to ace your remote interview:

  1. Be Prepared

Re-read the interview invitation, and download and test any software BEFORE the scheduled start time. Reach out to the recruiter with any questions. You will look proactive and reliable if you test 24-8 hours in advance, and that gives plenty of time to troubleshoot and solve any issues. It is not a good look to frantically email your recruiter at the last minute because you did not realize the software would take five minutes to download and create a login.

  1. Set up your space

It’s more likely than ever that roles will be 100% remote — show them up front that you’re capable of working in an environment that fosters efficiency and productivity. Your space should be well-lit, but do not sit with a window behind you. The light behind you will cause your face to be shadowed and dark. Many video platforms have the functionality to choose your own background; select one that is professional and not distracting.

  1. Look the part

While sweatpants and t-shirts are the standard work-from-home uniform, you don’t have the job… yet. It’s important to put your best foot forward in an interview, which includes looking professional. Do your hair and put on an outfit that makes you feel empowered and pulled together. Also, we know the temptation, but play it safe and wear real pants. No need to take unnecessary risks.

  1. Get there early

In a traditional interview, it is common sense to arrive ten to fifteen minutes early. It shows patience, preparedness, and reliability. The same applies in a remote setting. Though you may not have a physical lobby to wait in, you should be dressed, sitting in front of your computer, and reviewing the questions you are going to ask. Queue up the software — if you are able to log in early, do so about five minutes before the start time and mute your microphone until the interviewer has joined.

  1. Be flexible

It is possible the company is newly remote. Besides working through new software and having their workforce remote, you could be their first video interview. Perhaps your interviewer has been onsite in an office for the last ten years, but now they are homeschooling kids in addition to their full-time job. If you show resourcefulness and flexibility when they need it, you will gain their trust and be remembered as someone who is reliable and supportive.

  1. Ignore your own video feed

How often have you been on a video call and only stared at your own face in the corner? The camera is your new eye contact. Covering your video feed inset with a sticky note will help you be more natural and less self-conscious. Also, it will be easier to focus on the interviewer and the task at hand.

  1. Ask the right questions

Respectfully ask questions about how they are handling the pandemic and treating employees, as well as their sick leave policy.  Read the interviewer’s nonverbals, which can be difficult to do remotely. If you are on video, you will still be able to see facial expressions and a bit of body language. If you are over the phone, it can be something as subtle as a too-long pause or a reluctance to answer. It is also key to ask how the role opened. Did they let go of 30% of their workforce and are now looking to replace that with one or two roles? Are they pivoting to be innovative and bringing in someone with fresh ideas? This is important because it can offer more insight around how they are supporting their employees during this unprecedented time.

  1. Be resourceful

Speaking of asking the right questions, since you are on camera, the interviewer can only see what you show them. You have a chance to prepare a reference sheet of talking points and questions you want to ask. Have the document written or printed out next to you so you can easily glance and make sure you have not forgotten anything.

  1. Send a ‘thank you’ email

Be sure to thank your interviewer and recruiter. Send separate emails to each of them, reiterating your excitement about the role and company, as well as any memorable highlights from your interview. This should not be a long letter; if you are unable to express the sentiment in three to five sentences, you should to reevaluate your note. If you have any follow-up questions for the recruiter, this is your chance to ask those as well.

  1. Follow their lead on follow-up

This tip is useful for every type of interview in every field. Make sure to ask the interviewer about what the next steps of the process are. If they tell you they will have a decision in two weeks, do not follow up before that two weeks is over! However, if it hits two weeks and one day and you have not heard anything, send a friendly email to your recruiter asking for an update. They will appreciate your respectful patience.

It is important to remember the company does not want to waste anyone’s time. That means if you have gotten this far, be confident in your value and what you can bring to the (virtual) table. Our world is changing, and interviewing is changing right along with it. Stay ahead of the curve and competition with these tips for your next interview, and you will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Ellie Petro is a consultant with Centric Consulting specializing in Adoption & Organizational Change Management, with a keen interest in the people side of change. She also runs résumé workshops and job hunt coaching services, helping everyone from recent grads to exec-level job seekers.


Jacquelyn Adams

Jacquelyn Adams, founder and CEO of Ristole, uses her column to delve into the wild world of leadership. Whether the article is about her days as a Peace Corp volunteer, exploring corporate training, or even grabbing lunch at Chipotle — she will come out with a story and her “top tips.” As she passionately believes in leveraging her platform to share others’ voices, her column welcomes guest bloggers to create a fuller and more diverse pool of experiences for her readership. So, welcome to “Lessons on Leadership” where you never know what the next article will hold: online networking advice, guidelines for creating a joyful workplace, or even puppies. Just keep reading to discover what’s next!

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