Mastering the Online Interview has Just Taken on New Importance

As interviews from home gain greater acceptance, Carol Hartman of the Hartman Group offers suggestions for maximizing your experience. Make sure your background is proper, for starters. And dress appropriately – at least from the waist up! Here is some more mission-critical advice you need to know.

March 24, 2020 – Online interviews could be the new normal — not just because of the coronavirus crisis but because companies are realizing meaningful cost savings. That is leading to more broad acceptance of the practice. Carol Hartman of Hartman Group Consulting offers ways to master your next online interview.

“Conducting interviews as a hiring manager or candidate from your home is a critically important skill and may become a permanent way of doing business,” she said, long after the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Here are some factors to consider and master:

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“Ideally, you should have a space dedicated for online meetings in your home,  whether you are a candidate or hiring manager—or just as a matter of best practice,” Ms. Hartman said. “This morning as I watched morning news programs, (I noticed that) even professional communicators do not have well thought out, professional situations prepared outside of their studios.” We all need a battle plan.

Space Plan

Since we are all likely to be working from home in the coming months, Ms. Hartman said you will need a “space plan,” a well-lit spot with a pleasing appropriate background to start. “Your collection of Star Wars action figures should not be on the shelves behind you; nor should there be photos of your fondest spring break memories,” she said. “Lighting is important, too. Aim for flattering, direct light. Do not sit with your back to a window, television or other light source. You may need to elevate your computer to get the camera angle to show you to your best advantage.”

Carol Hartman is an executive recruiting strategist and a recognized leader in helping companies achieve their business objectives in the U.S. and abroad. With more than 20 years of executive search experience, Ms. Hartman works with companies to develop talent acquisition strategies and place candidates with a diverse range of expertise and backgrounds in executive-level and board positions.

She also said it is important that your space should be free of distractions. Make sure notifications from your phone and computer are turned off, pets and children are not in the room and won’t enter the room. “Just because you are in your family room doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dress appropriately,” Ms. Hartman said. “Dress as you would for an in-person interview—at least from the waist up! Zoom has a feature to give you a little touch up. Not a full face tune, but a little polish. Go to the lower-left-hand corner of the screen, find video settings, and check the box marked ‘touch up my appearance.’”

Related: Why Mastering Interview Skills Matters More Now Than Ever

In addition to understanding your space, it is also important to know even more about your technology. “I strongly recommend rehearsing with a friend in advance so that you can test sound, lighting, camera placement, technology provider, etc.,” said Ms. Hartman. “Have some fun practicing with a Zoom or Skype Party. Get your meeting skills honed with an online get together. Wise4Women, a mentoring group I helped establish, is having an online wine gathering. We want to be connected, but this will also help some of us with online meeting skills, too.”

Understanding Your Technology

Ms. Hartman also said to make sure that you understand how to use the service you’ve chosen. “Three minutes before an online interview is no time to realize that you don’t have the latest version of Skype or Zoom uploaded,” she said. “It has been reported that internet providers are experiencing significant issues with volume. You may want to consider scheduling your meeting time very early in the morning to avoid competing for bandwidth. Late in the day might have businesses dialing it down, but families are starting to settle in with evening entertainment.”

Working Virtually Keeps Everyone Safe and Productive
Staying at home may be the best way to stay safe in these early days of the global coronavirus crisis, but it also happens to be the best way to get the most done at work. That is according to a new Korn Ferry survey of professionals regarding working virtually. 

For an interview, she also said to avoid being surrounded with notes and research. You can have neatly prepared and organized questions and you should take notes. “There is often a brief lag (just a second or two) but enough that you can step on each other, laugh it off and then just wait a second before speaking and it won’t happen again,” Ms. Hartman said. “Pro-tip: Write questions or important things you want to remember on sticky notes and place them on the edge of the computer screen. That way you don’t have to look down or search for them.”

Remember: an online meeting is not a phone call. “You have to be present for the person on the other side of the computer screen,” said Ms. Hartman. “Making this a personal connection through an impersonal device is possible, but it is a skill that you must develop. Online interviews could be the new normal not just because of the coronavirus crisis but if it works well, companies will realize that the cost savings can be meaningful, and they will more broadly adopt the practice.”

“It may never displace in person interviews for final hiring decisions, but getting to that final cut?” she asked. “Yes, being great at online interviews may be a significant differentiator for opportunity.”

Related: Crisis Management: Leading in Times of Great Uncertainty

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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