Welcome back! It’s still January, so we’ll continue our topic of job hunting and the mistakes to avoid in your modern day process. While summaries were in the spotlight last week, today’s column turns the Mistake Meter’s glassy eye on interviews in the age of COVID. (Error-o-meter? I bet you can guess who binge-watched 50s kitsch sci-fi movies…)
Below are common mistakes people make when they mix old methods with new ones when meeting potential employers. As a guide, the first four mistakes pertain to remote interviews, the second four pertain to face-to-face interviews, and the final tips deal with the universal aspects of interviewing.
1. Take virtual meetings for granted. Even if you’ve already had too many Zoom meetings, pretend you don’t and treat your next TV interview like it’s your first. Check the camera, sound, background, lighting, and anything else you can think of to ensure a good presentation.
2. Ruin eye contact. Guilty. I am so confused by this that during some meetings my eyes almost pop out. But I’m determined to find out, and you should be too. Good eye contact is fundamental to communicating and building connections between people, which is a critical element of a successful interview.
3. Incomplete use of technology. Did you know that you can share a document on most video platforms if the host allows this feature? Consider making this request if you have charts or other visuals that showcase your accomplishments or skills.
4. Not confirming the time zone. Oops. Enough has been said about this.
5. Constriction in safety. If your interview is conducted in person, you may have security concerns due to COVID. You don’t have to be too outspoken, but don’t be shy either. For example, if the chairs feel too close together, just ask them to be moved for better social distancing.
6. No mask strategy. Disguises are required for face-to-face meetings, whether the request is made clear or not. This shows respect for the other person and also provides protection for you. But what is a mask? Whether you choose the N95, fabric, or something in between, make sure it fits and doesn’t hang around while you’re talking. If you wear glasses, practice with the mask in front of a mirror to see how they fit together. Logos and brands? Probably no. Huge hoop earrings? Definitely not, unless you want to spend time unraveling them.
7. Trying to shake hands. Sticking your hand out and not finding a taker is as awkward as waving your elbows or fists around looking for something to bump into. A better alternative might be a polite nod followed by a heartfelt “I’m so glad to meet you.”
8. Do not use personal communication opportunities. While you are there, is a tour possible? Perhaps you have duplicate portfolios that you can keep. Heck, bringing a potted plant or flowers might not be too much. I’m kidding, but not much. People seem to be hungry for company these days, so it’s wise to maximize that personal time.
9. Being unprepared for a conversation. It’s boo-boo at any time, but it’s worth remembering for modern interviews as well. When the meeting is scheduled, ask who else will be there, remotely or in person. Your pre-meeting preparation should include learning about your interviewers’ positions, the organization’s products or services, their position in the industry, and anything else that seems important.
10. Using too much leverage. That’s right, that’s right, the Great Retirement. It’s true that employers are eager to fill jobs, but they can still be stubborn about candidates who seem to want a lot more than they can give. Focus on what you can do for them at first, and then in later meetings you can turn the table.
11. Overemphasis on WFH. If working from home isn’t important to you, don’t focus on it. Learn about the job and the people first, and explore this aspect in more detail as you get closer to the offer.
12. Don’t send a thank you letter. I can’t believe we’re still teaching this, but… thank the interviewer! Send via email for remote meetings and US mail for private conversations.
As a last piece of advice, please. Burnt out, busy, understaffed, overwhelmed – at least one of these signs describes your interviewer. Expect responses to be slower than normal and show compassion for dropped balls. Better yet, actively maintain contact, but continue to explore conversations elsewhere as well. Then you will have all bases.
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.