Published on June 29, 2020, at 12:45 p.m.
by Will Sedgwick, Guest Contributor.
I used to dread online interviews.
In fact, I once resorted to apologizing point blank for my ill-preparedness mid-interview. Though the interviewer stared at me through a webcam miles away, I felt as disparaged and helpless as a small specimen under a microscope. She continued to ask questions, but I couldn’t help but feebly stutter incoherent responses. I jumbled up my words as beads of sweat tricked down my face.
Upon closing my laptop, I slumped to the nearest bathroom and looked myself in the mirror. “Something’s gotta be done about this,” I said. The interview, the one thing standing between me and my dream job, was my greatest Achilles’ heel. The switch to the online interview didn’t make things any easier.
I am not alone. Public relations students across America spend hours poring over their résumés with a fine-tooth comb. Thousands of dollars are spent on a college education and years are spent working in low wages, all to land that elusive dream job.
Let’s face it: A résumé, as important as it is, will only get your foot in the door. The interview is what gets you the job. What’s more? We can all improve, especially when it comes to the online interview. I reached out to an expert: one who leads thousands of interviews every year. His name is Josh Nilsen, and he is the head recruiting coordinator at a sales conglomerate based in Utah called Greenix Holdings. Here are a few things that I learned after talking to him:
Optimize your preparation
Your interviewer knows when you haven’t done your homework ahead of time. Though it may only take a few minutes, the right preparation will separate the wheat from the chaff.
When preparing for an interview, keep the interests of the company in mind. Ponder things that you have to offer that will serve its needs best. Anticipate those classic questions that always get asked, and practice your responses.
Nilsen commented, “I always get a kick out of kids who come in and interview with zero forethought. I could ask them the most generic question, like ‘What are your strengths?’ They act like it came from left field!”
What you say in an online interview is half the battle, but how you look and how you say those words are often just as important.
In one of my first Zoom interviews, I botched the whole thing because my Wi-Fi wasn’t working well. For one question in particular, I only heard half of the question. Just as my luck would have it, the more integral part of the question cut out. Instead of asking for a repeat, I took a stab at it. I’m sure you can imagine the disaster that ensued.
You simply cannot be engaged if you can’t hear what’s going on. “Ask for a repeat, do what you gotta do … just talk to me! Communicate with me,” Nilsen stressed. Eye contact and nods of affirmation are a big part of this communication effort.
Make a friend
Think about it: Who wouldn’t want to hire their friend?
Nilsen advised going into an interview with the goal in mind to make a friend, not to simply get the job. After all, people like to help out their friends. There is much less human appeal to helping out a “robot.”
Nilsen laughed out loud when I asked him about his experiences interviewing stiff candidates. He said, “They just don’t get it. I don’t care what they’ve done, or even what they can do [by that point in process]. My giving them an interview is proof enough that they are qualified. I just want to see if they would be a good fit for us.”
So, how do we become friends? As basic as it may sound, you need to smile. To this point, Andrew Carnegie, author of the bestselling book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” wrote, “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.’”
He also counseled that “names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Don’t be afraid to call the interviewer by name. In fact, The Washington Post asserted that calling people by name is the best way to build rapport and create a good first impression.
Take it seriously
A Zoom interview (or Skype, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, etc.) is just like any interview: You need to give great answers; you need to ask great questions, too. Similar to the public relations industry, a successful interview is all about building a mutually beneficial relationship. The availability of the online interview is such a blessing because it makes that type of interaction possible.
As I have given the interview process the forethought it deserves, I have seen tremendous improvement in my job opportunities.
Today, I fire up my laptop with genuine excitement for my Zoom interview. I can look at my interviewer in the eyes and know that I am equipped with everything it takes to get that job.
And, I no longer dread online interviews.