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As we approach another period of lockdown here in the UK, the ‘virtual’ nature of recruitment will be ever more important. Many in the social sector have been adjusting to the new technologies for the interview process such as Zoom or MS Teams…. but not everyone is ready for the change or prepared to embrace it. Don’t be disheartened: you can sell yourself and your skills through a screen, just as easily as you would in person. Just take a step back, and think about any adjustments which could make a difference.

Here, at Careers4Change, we have held some very amusing interviews during lockdown, from a candidate based in a camper van to avoid the noise of their children, to interviewing during a hailstorm in a glass conservatory where the candidate was inaudible. We’ve had dogs racing across the screen, cats jumping on laps, kids finishing their allotted film time and asking what’s next, Amazon ringing on the bell not once, but several times during the call, dubious clothing hanging from bookshelves, beds not made in the background ….and it goes on!

Of course, what is most important is what you say and how you present yourself but, it is also important to think about what else you are revealing to your interviewer through your living space behind you.

With most social sector clients doing interviews virtually, here are some hard, fast rules:

Before the Interview:

  • Dress as you normally would for a social sector interview with a potential future boss. No joggers or PJs I’m afraid! Be fully dressed, not just from the waist up — what you wear can influence your thinking and negotiating skills, and even hormone levels and heart rate.
  • Be informed and well-prepared. Make sure you have done your research on the organisation, know who the team members are, explore the background of the CEO, understand the organisation’s values and their social impact ambitions. Sitting in your bedroom or lounging on a sofa in your living room can feel very casual, but get yourself interview-ready by writing down a few quick pointers before it begins.
  • Trial a Zoom call with a friend or family member first, especially if you have never conducted one before. With our sudden reliance on technology, candidates do run the risk of being judged by their technical capabilities. By testing out the technology and being fully prepared, you can avoid any technical glitches. Having said that, as recruiters we do take into consideration the potential that virtual interviews have to create unfair bias.
  • Set up your interview ‘space’. Think about the backdrop. Find a room with a neutral background which is not too distracting and make sure that the space is as uncluttered and organised as possible. Again, conduct a test call to see what your friend/family member can see behind you. This may be judged, even subconsciously.
  • Check your internet connection. If it is likely the line will go down, make sure you have the interviewer’s contact details so you can continue on a Whatsapp video call or skype instead. You can agree that with the interviewer in advance, but normally they should offer that option themselves.
  • Make sure you will not be disturbed by anyone else in the house, including your pets, kids, partner or the DPD delivery man! Let your household know a few minutes before and even put a sign up if necessary.

During the interview:

  • Try and be natural – don’t read your answers off cards or post-it notes. Our experience shows that some candidates will over prepare and therefore come across as robotic and struggle with questions they aren’t expecting.
  • Don’t move around too much. Try and sit still and poised, as you would do in a normal interview and avoid taking continuous sips from large coffee mugs!
  • Give yourself time to answer and give additional interviewers time to interject, if there are others. There is often a time lag on Zoom calls so we all have to be patient and mindful of the pace.
  • Be as energetic and enthusiastic as possible as Zoom calls can become monotonous exchanges. The conversation should be dynamic where you really emphasise your motivation for wanting to join the organisation and express your passion for contributing to social change.
  • Don’t leave the interview without asking a question. As an interviewer, my pet hate is to ask ‘do you have any questions?’ – and there are none. It can be interpreted as lack of interest.
  • Ask what the next steps of the process are so you are aware of the decision-making time frame and know when to follow up.

Technology has impacted on the balance between work and home life. The nature of recruitment and employment has potentially changed forever and, when Covid-19 restrictions have eased, we will be faced with a different working environment, new kinds of digital collaboration and remote working being accepted as the norm. But it is too early to predict what the future of work will really look like.

Employers will have to think more strategically in future, building a workforce that is ‘future-fit’ and able to respond to other crises going forwards. How this will impact on the recruitment process, and what employers will demand of new employees, is yet to be seen.

If you have been job hunting during Covid-19 and have learned some valuable lessons along the way, whether it is with regards to Zoom calls or anything else, and have managed to secure your perfect job with your dream employer, please share your stories of success with us on LinkedIn or Twitter.