Anything that distracts your interviewer is not good. Technology is harder to control (although ‘Operator Error’ – i.e. pressing the wrong button – is a well-known issue!), but the human element in WFH means that there is much that can go wrong here, sometimes unexpectedly. At one extreme, your partner wanders into shot on the way to the shower, or your children make an unfortunate announcement or hurt themselves and come calling for mum or dad. Naturally, this applies as much to the interviewer(s) as the interviewee!
There needs to be an understanding on both sides that we are all in a difficult situation at present. I suggest you say that at the outset that you have done your best to minimise any chance of disruption but that you apologise in advance if anything unexpected happens. We (should) all understand if a wailing toddler suddenly appears on screen because they have fallen and only want you.
Probably No. 1 on the list of manageable distractions – remembering that first impressions matter – is the agonising choice over your choice of background. In a normal, face-to-face interview, you are on neutral territory and it’s the same for everyone, but online your choice of background can say a lot about you.
If it’s lots of books, are you trying to make a point about how intellectual you are (academics tend to go for books!)? If it’s your child’s paintings, will that make interviewers think you’re going to be distracted by your children rather than getting on with your work (it shouldn’t, but, sadly, for some it does). You may be rather proud of the arty nude painting on your living room wall (as I saw on a recent Zoom call), but it may not go down well with some (although others might quite like it!).
Please don’t let us hear your mobile going off or emails pinging across your screen in the middle of your explanation as to how you are going to transform the HR team.
Similarly, your broadband flickering in and out doesn’t help. As I said in my last blog (yesterday), check everything before you press the ‘video’ and ‘audio’ buttons. Also, look straight into your camera and maintain eye-contact. As in a ‘normal’ interview, make sure you answer the questions put to you and just don’t give the answers you want to give. Think, listen, respond. Oh, and make sure you don’t dress inappropriately.
But what is inappropriate? If you’re applying for a lab job, no-one (probably) expects you to wear a (male or female) business suit (although you might stand out if you did!). Don’t turn up in your jammies, jogging bottoms or otherwise look as if you’ve just been to the gym, and above all, don’t take the risk of being half-dressed. This sounds so obvious, but far too many people think they can get away with it. For example…
Last year, ‘Good Morning America’ reporter Will Reeve went live wearing a suit jacket and a pair of shorts. Apparently, he “didn’t know anyone at home would be able to see his full outfit.” Early this year, the Mayor of Antwerp was sans trousers during a Zoom interview. Like Mr Reeve, he too wore a smart shirt for his interview – with Belgium’s version of Radio 2. Unfortunately, he hadn’t reckoned with a mirror that revealed his predicament. The Mayor said: “I’ll remember this for a long time.” So will your interviewers, after they have finished laughing (and probably crossed you off the short-list!).
Julie Skinner, Benefits and Resourcing Specialist, RGU