Note: this column isn’t intended to provide absolutes, but rather offer a reflection of real-life experiences and insights that can be useful as you develop the plan for your current or future career.
“Virtual” is just one part of a virtual interview. Here’s how to put your best foot forward for the other half.
In my first “Let’s Talk HR” column, I outlined seven tips for acing an online job interview. However, the virtual aspect of a job interview — making sure your lighting is right and your technology works — is just one piece of the puzzle.
In this second of a two-part series, I offer a checklist of five key actions you can take to go into your interview discussion confident and poised.
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Do your research.
At first glance, this might seem obvious — but you’d be surprised by how many interviewees don’t take the time for this important step. A job interview is a two-way street, and it’s an opportunity to learn about the company just as much as they’re learning about you.
A thorough look at an organization’s website and social media channels should be able to give you a baseline knowledge about their culture, DEI initiatives, community giving, history, and other information that may be important to you as you’re looking for the next place to build your career. In addition, be sure to research those at the company you’ll be interviewing with — you might find a detail about them or their work that you can work into the conversation.
Note: It’s good to take your time with this research, so make plans to do it ahead of time — if you save it for a half-hour before the call, you might not remember the details you just learned!
Tap into your network.
After your interview is scheduled, be sure to look up the company on LinkedIn and see if anyone in your network works there — or better yet, knows the person(s) that will be conducting your interview. See if you can gather any additional insights on the company or those you’re meeting with by asking specific questions — i.e., is the position a new role? What do they think of the culture, or work/life balance? What’s the organization’s broader vision?
By tapping into your personal and professional connections, you might be able to pick up valuable information you can use to further show your understanding of the company’s competitive advantage, opportunities, and challenges.
Note: If you don’t have anyone in your network that works for the company, consider widening your search to partners, customers, and vendors. They may have some helpful insights!
Have your talking points ready.
Ever had your mind simply “go blank” when you were asked a question during a job interview? Having a short set of prepared talking points can help ensure that doesn’t happen. First, anticipate the type of questions you might be asked to answer during the interview. Consider your experience, projects you’ve worked on, your capabilities, and your skillset. Then, write out a brief (1-2 sentence) anecdote that clearly demonstrates that experience.
These anecdotes can cite data and statistics — did you increase sales by a certain percent, or create a measurable improvement? Is there a great story behind the success of a project that you can speak to, or a lesson you learned? Focus on telling a compelling story and showing your experience — not simply telling it.
Note: Once you’ve solidified your talking points, rehearse them! They should sound conversational and natural.
Be your authentic self.
If you’re interviewing for an especially competitive position, chances are others that are also in the mix for the role have a similar skill set as you. For this reason, it’s important to differentiate in another way — by being authentically you.
Don’t be afraid to mention something personal and memorable about yourself — whether it’s an interesting hobby, the name of your pet, or a life event. Pay attention to not only what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it. Interviewers are evaluating behavior as much — if not more — than your skillset and work experience, so be sure to let the real you shine through.
Note: As you consider what you might share about yourself, always view it through a professional lens. If you’re not used to talking about yourself, take it slow — you don’t have to reveal anything more than you’re comfortable with.
Nail the closing.
A strong closing is an essential part of an interview — both what you say at the end of the interview discussion and what happens after. When you sense the interview is coming to a close, ask the interviewer if there’s anything you’ve said that needs further clarification or elaboration — i.e. is there anything precluding me from being the top candidate for this role? It’s a great opportunity to gain feedback on the fly, provided the interviewer is being authentic and willing to provide the feedback. After the interview, be sure to follow up with a note — email or written — thanking them for the opportunity to interview and expressing your interest in the role.
Note: In your follow-up, do a short recap of the interview experience — what you learned about the company and/or role and how your skills and experiences directly tie into each of those items.
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