If the prospect of your first remote graduate interview is a bit unnerving, that might not be such a bad thing. Much is at stake, after all. In this guide, we’ll help you set your anxieties aside by giving you an idea of what to expect, and how you can prepare yourself for success.
Find a Mentor and Practice
Before you rush into your first remote graduate interview, it may be wise to seek the advice of someone who has experience on both sides of the line. A mentor can help address any concerns you might have about the graduate interview process itself and about the specific technologies you’ll be using. Remote graduate interviewing can be a bit uncanny (most of us feel more comfortable speaking with people face to face) and the right mentor can give you the tools and perspective you’ll need to present yourself confidently and winningly.
To get you started, here are some observations we’ve made as mentors (and interviewees) ourselves.
Even today, when smartphones let us hold video conferences from nearly anywhere, telephone interactions are still critically important to most businesses. The way you present yourself over the phone can set the tone for an employer’s overall impression of you, so make every interaction count.
Be sure to answer each phone call you can, and never let a business call go to voicemail if you can help it. When answering, maintain an engaging, confident, professional tone. If a business-related call does go to voicemail, be sure to listen to the caller’s message at least once, and to jot down any important information. When calling back, strike a more formal tone than you may be used to. If you have the caller’s direct number, something along the lines of “Hello, my name is ____. I’m afraid that I just missed a call from you; is this a good time to talk?” If all you have is a switchboard number, maintain the same tone: “Hello, my name is _____. I missed a call from _____ [just now/earlier today/yesterday]. Is it possible to speak with them now?”
That much will help you set the tone for a successful interview down the line. As for the remote graduate interview itself, the best advice for telephone interviews also goes for video interviews. We’ll take a look at those next.
As intimidating as an in-person graduate interview can be, most job seekers find video interviews to be a touch more unsettling. And with good reason: we are better able to gauge people’s responses and moods when we are sitting with them face-to-face. We can’t do much about that, or about slow connections or the tendency for people’s voices to get lost when they all speak at once during a videoconference. But there are a few tricks to making video interviews more comfortable, and to make you more confident, and here they are:
1. Be Prepared
The only major difference between in-person interviews and their remote counterparts is the medium through which they are held. You’ll still need to do your research, both on the job for which you have applied and on the company and department that support it. Be sure to know how to write your graduate CV and learn it inside out; and find out other interview tips to land your graduate job can help too. You can even keep a copy of your notes and CV at hand, away from interviewers’ eyes. Just don’t read directly from them.
2. Dress The Part
It bears mentioning that you’ll want to present a professional appearance when you’re on camera. Dressing appropriately to the occasion – yes, right down to your shoes – will also help you approach your graduate interview with the right mindset. Be certain, too, that your backdrop is in order. A pile of laundry or a collection of takeout containers is not the accessory you’re looking for.
3. Establish Your Office
Conduct the remote interview from an area that’s yours alone—preferably a room at home with a locking door. Be sure that anyone else living with you understands that you will need things to remain as quiet as possible during your interview. Slamming doors and the thump of music from the other room might not completely scuttle your interview, and your interviewers might indeed be dealing with the same things, but they’re worth avoiding if at all possible.
4. Stay Poised
Your surroundings might be too comfortable by half. During a remote graduate interview, you should practice the same calm, confident body language that you would demonstrate in a face-to-face interview. This can be surprisingly tricky: we all tend to forgive ourselves little mannerisms like fidgeting, knee-bouncing, and hair-touching at home that we don’t bring to the office. Don’t bring them to your interview, either.
5. Test your Equipment and Connections
Before your remote interview begins, test every piece of equipment you’ll be using. You might even make a trial connection with a friend, just to be sure that everything is working as it should. Wait until an hour or so before your interview, if possible: a connection that worked just fine two days ago might have the hiccups today. If things still go awry during your interview, stay poised and handle them with good humour. If asked, you’ll be able to confirm that your side of things is working as intended—that degree of responsibility and foresight can be impressive in and of itself.