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What You Need to Know to Successfully Interview for a Job in the time of COVID-19

Getting ready to interview in the time of COVID? Even job interviews have changed in the time of COVID-19. Here's what you need to know to avoid blowing your chances.

The global pandemic has brought a number of challenges and changes to every aspect of life. Interviewing for a job during these unprecedented times is no different. Here is what everyone that is interviewing for a job during the COVID-19 pandemic should know:

Scheduling is Critical

Timing is everything in today's job search market. The communications that you have with the potential employer or recruiting firm to schedule the interview can make or break your application. Consider the following to make sure you don't blow your chances before the interview is put on the calendar:

*Be ready, quickly. Companies that are hiring now are doing so for an immediate need and they have to sift through countless applications. So, be ready to move forward when you get that call or email to schedule an interview. Don't wait to respond as someone else will likely take your spot.

*Pick from the times proposed. You don't want to be perceived as difficult or high maintenance by the person trying to schedule your interview. Picking from the times proposed or identifying several options when asked is important because it illustrates your interest in the job.

*Clarify the specifics. Make sure to confirm with the person or system scheduling your interview the details of your interview. For example, will it be by phone, video, or in person? Who will be in the interview? Dresscode? Internet requirements? All of these details matter and you want to have them sorted out well before the interview so that you can focus on what is most important.

*Give yourself time to prepare. Make sure that you have some time to prepare adequately for the interview. This means pulling the job description, preparing your talking points, and doing your research. Don't take too long, but do make sure that you have the time needed to do the best you can in that interview.

In-Person v. Video

Interviews have continued without much disruption post-COVID. This is particularly true for those companies that were set-up for remote work or sufficient technology. However, most people prior to the pandemic had not participated in an interview by video. Now, depending on location and the focus of the particular job, many companies are continuing with a hybrid of interview styles - meaning both in person and by video. Here is what you need to know about both interview formats:


*Face Coverings. The decision to wear a mask or not has become a political statement. In some contexts, they are legally required. In other settings, there is no clear-cut rule. Thus, if you are interviewing in person and you want the job, make sure that you are prepared to follow the legal regulations in the particular setting and that you adapt accordingly to the specific interpersonal dynamics of the interview.

*Hand-shaking. This has typically stopped. However, if the person greeting you at the interview extends their hand, then you will need to be prepared to respond. Know whether you feel comfortable shaking hands before you walk in the door and have a couple of responses ready to politely respond to the person if you aren't ready to shake hands in order to avoid an uncomfortable interaction.

*Entry Protocols. Most companies that are working on-premises have been legally required to institute protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19. This could be things like temperature taking, contact tracing, and other safety checkpoints. Regardless of the specifics, know that they will all take additional time in your arrival and make sure to plan accordingly.


*Internet Connectivity. All video interviews will require some access to the internet to participate in the meeting. Make sure that you schedule the time of the video interview so that you can be in a location with reliable internet connectivity.

*Device Compatibility. Not all systems or devices are the same. Make sure that your selected device is compatible with the requirements of the employer's chosen video platform. Take the time to download the application and to update your system as needed before the interview. This will ensure that you have plenty of time to find a back-up if your selected device will not work with the interview system.

*Pick Your Spot Wisely. A video interview means that the person (or people) on the other side can see your surroundings. So, make sure that you select a spot to sit that enables you and your audience to focus on the interview. Do not pick a location where there is something inappropriate, political, or otherwise distracting in your background. A neutral background with decent lighting really is key to ensure that what you have to say is heard in the way that you intend it to be.

*Narrate Your Actions. Keep in mind that anything off the camera cannot be seen by the people on the video interview with you. Thus, it may be necessary to narrate what you are doing or to ask permission to take an action during the interview. For example, you may need to look off camera at your notes or at a second screen. Tell the people what you are doing before you do this in order to avoid having them think that you are distracted, unprofessional, or disinterested.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Like everything in the time of COVID, you need to prepare for the unexpected during the interview. This means not only preparing your answers for the interview, but also preparing for the fact that things may not go as planned. Here are the things to think about when preparing your contingency plan for the interview:

*Get the Right Contact Details. You need to know who to contact and how should you not be able to participate in the interview as planned. This could be for any number of reasons, including but not limited to, quarintining for COVID exposure, device malfunctions, or other demands. The same type of unexpected things can happen to the person (or people) that are supposed to conduct your interview. So, make sure you know before the interview who to connect with and the best way to do so should there be any last minute issues or concerns.

*Nothing is final until it is final. There are always other candidates and many economic reasons why you may not get selected for the job. This includes internal hires, hiring freezes, and rescinded offers due to unexpected closures/financial impacts of COVID. So, make sure to keep up your job search until you and stay focused on your best interests until you start in the new job.

*Expect Things to Take Longer. This is true across the board - from the actual interview to the post-interview decision making process. Know that everything can take longer in the time of COVID for many different reasons. Do not let this hold you back. Give yourself, and the interviewers, the extra time needed to make sure that the interview (and hopefully new job) can start off on the right foot.

Have a big interview coming up and want an expert to help you prep? Schedule an interview prep session today with our expert career coaches.