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A job interview can be a scary and stressful experience — but it doesn't have to be.
In order to understand how to tilt the scales in your favor, especially as so many interviews move to virtual platforms like Zoom, we reached out to Erica Devaney, a hiring manager with six years of experience staffing positions like copywriters, editors, and UX writers.
Hi, y'all. My name is Erica Devaney.
I've probably interviewed hundreds of candidates in my time at Red Ventures and I love it. I enjoy getting to know prospective new coworkers and digging into their skills, experiences, and potential for growth.
Our interview process typically includes five one-on-one interviews on your interview day. Each interviewer focuses on a specific area, such as how your experience would help you succeed in this role or reviewing your portfolio.
All our interviews will be over Zoom for the foreseeable future, so candidates need to prepare differently than they used to. You'll save some time on the day of your interview, since you don't need to drive to the office or worry about traffic or parking, but you'll still want to set aside plenty of time to make sure your Zoom is ready to go when you need to log on.
Whether your interview is over the phone, on Zoom, or — one day! — back in person, there are many things you can do to feel confident and prepared.
How to Prepare for a Zoom Interview
Before each interview I conduct, I spend a few minutes reviewing the information the candidate has provided and developing specific questions I'd like to ask them alongside the common questions I typically ask. I usually prepare for interviews shortly before the interview, so their resume, writing samples, and any project they've completed for us are all fresh in my mind.
Similarly, to prepare for your interview, I suggest researching the company and the role you're interested in. This effort should give you a better idea of what you're really interviewing for and help you feel confident that the role is right for you. From the recruiter's perspective, it's easy to tell if a candidate has no idea what they're interviewing for, and it makes them look unprepared.
You should also reflect back on your experience and gather some examples of projects that made you proud, feedback that helped you grow, and challenging projects that taught you lessons. It doesn't matter whether these experiences and examples are from classes, internships, or past jobs. What's important is having some examples in mind so you don't have to take too long during your interview to come up with responses to questions.
On the flip side, you don't want to spend so much time preparing that every one of your answers sounds rehearsed or memorized. I want to get to know your personality and enjoy a conversation with you, not hear you offer answers you've memorized.
I typically prepare around 7-10 interview questions for a 30-minute meeting, leaving some time for follow-ups as well as to see if the candidate has any questions I could answer or concerns I could address.
While every interview — and interviewee — is different, there are a few practical steps candidates can take to be better prepared for a Zoom interview, which I outline below.
Zoom Interview Preparation Tips
Candidates who take the time to prepare for an interview tend to stand out. Here are my top recommendations for successfully interviewing online, whether this is your first or fiftieth Zoom call:
- Test out the interview platform in advance.
- Use the best internet you can access.
- Have a plan B if your internet is shaky.
- Find the quietest place you can.
- Consider using a virtual background.
- Choose your outfit based on company dress code.
- Research your interviewers.
- Prepare personalized questions for each interviewer.
- Send your thank you note — or any follow-up questions — promptly.
Test out the interview platform in advance of your interview
It's never a bad idea to ask a friend to meet with you on Zoom before your interview to get familiar with the platform -- and test your internet connection. This preparation will give you a chance to troubleshoot any issues beforehand and enjoy a more seamless interview experience.
Use the best internet you can, and have a plan B
If your internet connection turns out to be shaky on the day of the interview, don't worry. It happens to everyone at some point! In that case, I suggest you try turning off your camera. This usually helps improve the sound quality.
Find the quietest place you can
I always recommend candidates find a quiet space for their interview -- though no one will hold it against you if a pet or child pops into the background. We all understand the struggles of pandemic life.
Consider a virtual background
A virtual background could help you have one less thing to worry about. For example, a virtual background can help hide a cluttered space or minimize the chance of someone walking through the frame.
Match your outfit to the company culture
I suggest getting an idea of the company's usual dress code and aligning your outfit that way. For example, at Red Ventures, we have a casual dress code, so as long as you don't look like you slept in your shirt, you'll probably be okay! But if you're interviewing at a place where employees are required to wear suits every day, you might want to dress up.
To do this, I would check the company's website for an About Us page or photos of employees working together to get an idea of what they would typically wear (when they can be in the office, of course). You could also ask your recruiter.
Get a list of the people who will be interviewing you and do your homework.
Check out your interviewers' LinkedIn pages and come up with some personalized questions you could ask each of them about their role and time at the company.
Thank-you notes are always welcome!
If you're planning to send notes or additional questions to your interviewers, I recommend you don't wait too long. Sometimes we discuss candidates as soon as the next day, and we'd love to hear from you before then.
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