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Lockdown interviews – beware of mirrors!

Lockdown interviews – beware of mirrors!

Posted on 2nd February 2021

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Well, we’re back in lockdown, although this time there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve got pretty good at doing online interviews over the last 10 months and there is no doubt that even once ‘normality’ is restored, we’ll continue to do more.  There is also no doubt that candidates need to be aware that while much of the preparation for an interview online is the same as for one face-to-face, there are some key differences which you can plan for, but (as we know from the last 10 months!) some still fail to do so.

We can’t say this often enough, but preparation is key. However, in addition to the things you do for a traditional, face-to-face interview (learn about the company, those who will interview you, the role, etc.) there is more to do for an online assessment. 

Let’s start with what appears in the background.  Do you want people to see your kitchen/bedroom, study wall?   In a conventional, face-to-face interview you are on neutral territory and all candidates are treated the same but on MS Teams/Zoom etc. your choice of background can say a lot about you…

Many people still go for lots of books. Others put a photo of some scenic countryside behind them.  Yet others are happy to display their children’s paintings.  On a recent call, I saw a tasteful, nude painting on someone’s living room wall. You may like it, but remember that not everyone will (especially someone from a culture that is not comfortable with nudity).  

WFH boxer shortsAs a general rule, anything that distracts attention from you is not good.  I don’t want to hear your mobile ringing or emails pinging in the middle of your explanation as to how you are going to transform the software engineering team.  Similarly, your broadband going down halfway through is not just unfortunate, but generally preventable. Check everything before you press the ‘video’ and ‘audio’ buttons. Make sure there aren’t five other devices sucking up your broadband width at the same time.  And of course, remember to look straight at the camera and maintain eye-contact with your interlocutors.  In particular, and as in a ‘normal’ interview, make sure you answer the specific questions put to you and not the ones you want to answer. Think on your seat -  adopt the old mantra of two ears, one mouth and use them in those proportions.  And please, please, make sure you don’t dress “inappropriately.”

What is inappropriate?  If you’re applying for a techie job, no-one expects you to wear a (male or female) business suit (although you wouldn’t half stand out if you did!).  Don’t rock up in your pjs, and above all, don’t think that you’ll get away with being half-dressed. This sounds obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised. Yes, some people are that stupid. For example….

‘Good Morning America’ reporter Will Reeve went live wearing a suit jacket and a pair shorts last year. He claimed he "didn’t know anyone at home would be able to see his full outfit." He was wrong. He was somewhat embarrassed.

More recently (and more embarrassing still), early this year, the Mayor of Antwerp thought it would be OK to do a Zoom interview without trousers.  Like Mr Reeve, he wore a smart shirt for his interview, which was with Belgium’s Radio 2. Unfortunately, he hadn’t realised that his room contained a mirror which revealed his error. As the Mayor ruefully noted: “I’ll remember this for a long time.” I can guarantee that so will your interviewers, and once they have finished laughing they will probably cross you off the short-list!

Matt Druce, Be-IT

Posted in Recruitment News

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