The dos and don’ts for virtual job interviews can be applied to most important virtual meetings. We compiled the list after having supported two recent executive searches for county-level EDOs (Vance and Chatham Counties, NC). Virtual interviews became common place due to the pandemic, but they are here to stay for at least the early stages of the search. It is easy to meet with candidates from a wide range of geographies quickly, and it is easier to get the search committee together. These tips will help you avoid some common pitfalls.
- Location – Think through the location you will use for the meeting and avoid places susceptible to loud noises. Barking dogs are fun on Zoom once in a while, but it makes it hard to hear and distracts interviewers. When thinking about location, also think about the time of day you’ll be in that location. If the interview is at 3:30pm will your kids be storming into the house after school? Does the light change in the late afternoon?
- Practice – Practice interviewing with a friend in the same environment and same attire you will use/wear for the interview. Ask for a critique on your camera angle, microphone, lighting, background, internet connection, etc. Black attire while sitting in a black high back chair makes you look like a floating head. Some light angles make you look tired rather than energetic. Your background says a lot about you – books, Metallica poster, kids’ sports photos, etc.
- Equipment and Connection – Practice on the same equipment and internet service you’ll be using during the interview. Do not plan to squeeze in the interview while in your car using McDonald’s Wi-Fi. Oh, and make sure your device is charged, and you have a cable and outlet as a backup. Since you do not know how many cameras might be on during the meeting, make sure you use the strongest internet available to you, with a wired connection being preferred. Here is a link to test your speed.
- Platform – Ask which virtual meeting platform will be used and practice on that platform. You may be a Zoom wiz, but the interview may be in Teams. Know how to mute/unmute, share your screen, and change views (gallery vs. speaker).
- Body Language – Pay attention to the virtual body language of the interviewer(s). It is hard to read body language in a virtual interview so notice when people start checking email and turn their camera off. It may be time to shorten answers to get to the point faster.
- Time – Keep track of time. If it is a 30-minute interview, and you have only covered two questions in 20 minutes, take note and shorten your answers. Interviewers typically have several questions to cover.
- Names – One great thing about virtual meetings is that you can often see someone’s name in their tile. Use that to your advantage to respond to people by name. Since some people use a phone number, initials, or coded username, get a list of participants in advance and google a picture to place the face on the screen with a name.
Getting to the interview step takes pre-work. Invest time in a good cover letter that summarizes your expertise and explains why you want this specific job. Do your research on the position, community, and organization. Tailor your resume to this specific position rather than submitting a cookie-cutter. Show demonstrated interest by following up. These are all important steps to land an interview.
The musical chairs of economic development positions typically comes in waves. We are seeing a lot of movement right now. We expect it to continue for two reasons: 1) the silver tsunami is ongoing; and 2) as the economy recovers, communities will be investing more in economic development.
Good luck on your next search!