After living in the UK for seven years, I recently decided to make the move back home to Australia.
I wasn’t in a position to move back without a job lined up, so that meant one thing: I had to do the dreaded job interviews remotely. In vastly different time zones, no less.
Interviewing by video conference was a novelty to me a few months ago. Now, with the global outbreak of COVID-19, it’s commonplace occurrence. Many companies around the world are looking to extend their work-from-home (WFH) policies until at least the end of the year, meaning office interviews won’t be the norm again for at least six months.
Most companies are actually much more relaxed about remote hiring than you might think, especially in the technology space. However, if it’s not a situation you’ve been in before, there are things you can do beforehand to make sure you’re ready for the interview format as well as the content.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the right conditions.
If you’re in a different timezone to your interviewer, don’t be scared to ask for a meeting time that’s right for you. Seeming alert and engaged on a video call is hard at the best of times. Don’t make it harder on yourself by interviewing at a time where you’re likely to be bleary-eyed from sleep or distracted by upcoming meetings at your current role.
Personally, I’m an evening person. I can happily stay up until midnight and be productive. Ask me to be awake at 6am for an interview, though…oh dear. You definitely won’t get the best of me. I asked to schedule all my interviews at the start of the Australian workday, which meant I was often still up late into the evening in the UK. But that was when I was at my most engaged, so it worked for me.
Even in the same timezone, put some thought into when you’re at your best. What’s the best time of day for you to find a quiet spot, prep and get your thoughts together? In the current COVID19 lockdown, most people’s schedules have changed to fit their new WFH life. Any good company or recruiter will be happy to negotiate on interview times, so make sure you ask if you need to.
Double-check the tech.
Technical issues do happen and interviewers understand that. However, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’ve done your best to prevent any obvious mishaps.
First, is your internet bad? This is the most common frustration in any video call, so if you don’t have a great connection installed, look into buying a portable 4G or 5G hub to use for interviews. That way you’ll have your own connection and won’t be battling all the Netflix and YouTube streaming in the house!
Secondly, try to make sure you have access to a device with a working webcam and microphone. Remote interviews are awkward as it is; both the interviewer and interviewee benefit from seeing each other face-to-face and talking without the interruption of a poor microphone or camera.
Make sure to eliminate as much background noise as possible by using headphones. There’s no need to fork out on Beats or Airpods. Any pair with a built-in microphone should do the trick. My set was less than $15 from a local phone shop and they did just fine.
Lastly, get familiar with the platform you’ll be video interviewing on. If you can, set up a test call with a friend to make sure everything works. Don’t be too quick about this, either — play around with screen-sharing, annotation, grid views and other features of the platform until you’re fully comfortable. This will save any awkward long pauses in the interview.
Dress the part.
I know, I know. It’s such an effort to even put on jeans these days. However, just because we’re at home, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to make an effort for the interview.
In-person interviews offer a wealth of opportunities to show off your personality. Physical cues are much easier to read in-person than over video conferencing software. In-person conversation can feel a lot more natural, meaning that there’s usually some
Forget about definitions like formal, smart-casual and casual for a moment. Instead, ask yourself the question, “What does my best self look like in my ideal workplace?” My own ideal workplace, for instance, brings out my creative and outgoing side and gives me the space to express myself. During my interviews, I made the effort to dress a little more creatively than I usually would, with a pop of colour and a great pair of glasses. It helped me channel who I want to be at work: someone who’s professional, but also fun and inspired to think outside the box.
If you’re someone that’s super casual, don’t wear anything too formal and restrictive. Instead, wear something pared-down and comfortable, but make sure you’re well-groomed and clean. And don’t be afraid to show a little personality!
Nailing the technical interview.
So you’ve been through the first round. It’s time for the dreaded technical interview.
First things first, get your screen organisation sorted. Got a second monitor or laptop? Use it. Are there shortcuts on your machine to switch between tabs and screens? Learn them. I personally use a screen organiser app called Magnet which allows me to snap windows to where I want them on the screen.
Why is this important? You’re going to be anxious, busy and focused in the interview. Knowing how to navigate seamlessly between your code editor and browser will be important for keeping you in the zone. 💪
Make sure you’re crystal clear about explaining your work. In-person, you’d be able to physically point to your work, whether it’s a line of code, an architecture diagram, or a wireframe. This is a bit less intuitive over video.
In lead up to your interview rounds, try to get as much practice pairing on tasks as possible. The more naturally collaboration comes to you, the better you’ll feel in the interview.
It’s not just an interview, it’s a two-way conversation.
It can feel frustrating to hear people say, “You’re interviewing the company, too!” when it often doesn’t feel that way. After all, as the interviewee, you’re the one with more pressure on you to perform.
However, we’ll all likely be working remotely for a while. Some of us are even keen on doing it more often in the post-COVID world. A remote interview is a great way to assess if the company you’re interviewing with is remote-friendly. This isn’t just about the work tools they use, either. Make sure you ask about what the remote onboarding process looks like. How will they facilitate you meeting everyone? Are there social calls? Is the company committed to ensuring the wellbeing of their staff?
If anything seems off, have a think about whether they’re the right company for you right now. Job hunts end in success when you keep your goals in mind during every interview.
You can follow more of Ellen’s writing on Medium.