5 things to never do in an online job interview

As the economy has taken a hit from COVID-19, many workers are looking for new employment. Here are five don'ts from three HR experts.

The coronavirus could make remote work the norm, what businesses need to know

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the economy, with many employees—especially those in the travel and hospitality industries—finding themselves without work, or with reduced hours. As workforce costs are a significant portion of the budget for most companies, cutting back on employees has been a main way that they can stay afloat during COVID-19—and HR experts are predicting a second round of cuts in workforce costs in the near future. 

During this period of transition and uncertainty, many people have been forced to look for alternate work. And as the coronavirus has kept people socially isolated, more and more prospective employees are turning to video conferencing for their interviews—a trend that has been increasing in recent years. "This could mean interviews with recruiters, or hiring managers," said Brian Kropp, chief of research in the Gartner HR practice. "Most interviews that were in-person have shifted to becoming completely virtual."

Video interviews might include a group chat or a recorded interview that your prospective employer could view later. Either way, it's critical that you take this interview just as seriously as if you were doing it in person—perhaps, even more so, as you're missing the critical elements of an in-person interaction.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

Here are five "don'ts" from three human resources experts:

  1. Don't rely on your computer for information

Since you'll be behind a screen, with easy access to the internet, it will be tempting to think that you can quickly search the web during your conversation to pull relevant material. Or you may think it's fine to read from a document on your desktop. This is a mistake. Make sure you're fully prepared for this interview, the same way you would be in person. Learn the background of the company, and the person interviewing you. Memorize as much as you can, so you can be at ease during the interview, instead of frantically scanning your browser for answers.

2. Don't forget the small talk

You won't be given a physical tour of the office space, and you won't be bumping into other employees while passing through the break room. But it's important to still be warm and friendly at the start of your interview, as you would in person. Your hiring manager wants to get to know the real you, so make sure you treat them as if they're really there, showing that you're curious about their day and how things have been going at the office. 

"Try to be as relaxed as you can," Kropp said. "While it is a formal interview, you want to make it as informal-feeling as possible. Don't go too far, don't use slang or profanity, but it's OK to have a normal conversation."

3. Don't be too casual

While small talk is important, it's equally critical to show your employer that you're professional. This means you need to dress appropriately, speak professionally, and act the way you would in a business setting—even though the interview might be conducted from your living room. The video interview is just as serious as if you were in person, so make sure you treat it the same way. 

4. Don't do the interview from your bedroom

Your interviewer is not only seeing you in the video, but your whole environment. So make sure you make it look professional. That means you're not doing it in a car or outside, and if you must do it from the living room or bedroom, clean up the background, put away your laundry or anything distracting in the background. Make sure the lighting is good and the backdrop behind you is simple and plain. Also, "avoid meeting in a public location where it might prove difficult to control noise or your background," said Andrew Belasco, CEO of College Transitions. "Video and auditory distractions can ruin an otherwise solid interview performance."

"It doesn't have to be an office setting, but it can't be the laundry room. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it can't be bad," said Kropp. This also means kicking out your roommate, Kropp recommends.

5. Don't leave your smartphone on (as well as notifications on your laptop)

Many of us get notifications on our phone or desktop, to alert us when an email is coming in, or when a meeting is about to start. But "the person on the other end actually hears that," Kropp says. So make sure everything is completely silent before your interview begins.

"Don't let notifications distract from the interview especially if you are screen sharing, use an app like Muzzle App to mute notifications that might not be relevant," Tim Campos, founder and CEO of Woven, a scheduling platform, said. "You don't need your doctor's appointment reminders to pop up when you're trying to showcase your portfolio."

Also see

The latest cancellations: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide (TechRepublic)
The tech pro's guide to video conferencing (TechRepublic download)
Coronavirus domain names are the latest hacker trick (TechRepublic)
Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)
As coronavirus spreads, here's what's been canceled or closed (CBS News)
Coronavirus: Effective strategies and tools for remote work during a pandemic (ZDNet)
How to track the coronavirus: Dashboard delivers real-time view of the deadly virus (ZDNet)
Coronavirus and COVID-19: All your questions answered (CNET)
Coronavirus: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Employee in office

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