Tools and Tips for Successful Interviewing in a Remote Market

On February 24th, 2021, our panel of industry recruiters and HR specialists shared how to “get noticed” in the current market! Cortney Aranoff (Principal of Talent Mine Inc.), Jillian Calkins (Senior Recruiter, Nordstrom Product Group), Elinor Ittah (Founder, Global Talent Scout Executive), and Leslie Julich (Senior Vice President of People & Culture, Hanky Panky Ltd.) described what stands out for them on resumes and what skills people need now versus pre-pandemic, along with some helpful tips for a successful video interview. The panel was facilitated by Membership Committee Co-Chair Margaret Breslin!

The first speaker of the evening was Elinor Ittah! She shared the importance of being interview ready by knowing your message and goals. Know your skills, values, beliefs, accomplishments, and what you’ve done to overcome hurdles. Let your natural curiosity and desire to develop come across with a “can-do” attitude. Hiring managers are looking to add someone with a positive attitude who can implement their skills and learn new ones. Put an emphasis on what you do best but stay humble.

Hard skills and soft skills are both essential to the interview process. Hard skills are the technology we use, our skillsets, and what is needed to execute work productively. Soft skills help form relationships and engage people in new ideas, which is essential for an organization to function effectively. Communication skills, problem solving abilities, and compassion are all points of interest to the recruiter/hiring manager, and bringing up these concepts becomes more important in video interviews. Unexpected things always come up, so empathy, creativity, and teamwork are all necessary for a healthily functioning organization.

In the interview process, it is important to stay true to yourself and be honest about your abilities. 
Research the company and understand how your values relate to the company’s values. Find commonalities to bring up in conversation to establish a connection. Be aware of how you fit into the organization culturally, as well as your added value to the team. Articulate your points clearly and be consistent throughout the interviews.

Video interviews give more control over first impressions since you get to control your environment. Pay attention to your image and background. Make sure your phone is muted, your laptop is charged, and that your camera is distanced properly, setting the stage for a free dialogue interview. It’s good to project and pause, noticing facial expressions and reactions. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself before the interview to start with a positive vibe. It could be cleaning, cooking, exercising, music, or whatever works for you!

When the interview starts, the most important thing is to make a connection with the person you’re interviewing with. Make eye contact and smile. Interview is a dialogue, not purely a presentation. Listen, hear the person, think, ask questions and share your feelings. Give positive feedback, like reacting to a question with a phrase like “I’m glad you asked.” The first impression goes a long way. Control the speed of your speech. Let the other person finish speaking before replying. Don’t be overly eager. Some of the best interviews are conversations. Share your passion and why you like what you do.

Leslie Julich touched on the importance of social media in your job hunt. Social media presence shows that you’re current, even if accounts are private. LinkedIn is an important tool where people will find you after receiving your resume or a referral. Resumes should have a link to your profile. Consider utilizing your connections and reaching out to others in the company for a favor. Keep your profile private and be sure that your photos represent your image. What do you want to represent about yourself? Have a personality, but not overbearingly. If the company doesn’t respect your character, they won’t fit well with you down the road. Dress professionally unless it isn’t fitting to your profession. Video interviews are only the upper body, so some accessories can help you appear polished.

Have good grammar on your resume. When writing a cover letter, keep it succinct, focused, and current. Less is more sometimes. Avoid listing dates other than dates of employment. Resumes should consist of a career summary with adjectives about yourself. List your technical skills, service, soft skills, as well as hobbies and interests if they’re related to the company. Don’t give too much information on the cover letter as it’s not a repeat of your resume, it’s additional information with insight. It’s meant to clarify things that aren’t exactly transparent.

When networking, show a positive attitude and try not to come across as desperate. Be focused. People want people that other people want. If someone does a favor and connects you, share your gratitude with a gift perhaps. Appreciation is important when looking for work. You want people to do whatever they can for you, and if you show appreciation, they will be more willing to help.

If there’s one thing that sticks, it’s listening with the intent to hear, not respond. Maybe pause, or repeat the question, or give positive feedback. Listen and respond accordingly. Tie-in discussion points. Stay in the moment. Find out if it’s a job that will work for you and have some natural questions. You have talent and will bring a lot to any organization, remember that! Sell yourself well as they need to sell you as well.

Cortney Aranoff started by touching on cross-border employment, stating that differences exist but aren’t the focal point. Recognize differences and be aware, especially of time zones. When interviewing online be aware of your dress, appearance, and background. It’s all in the details. Know your surroundings, make eye contact, adjust noise levels, and do whatever you can to create an optimal interview environment. The detail put into the interview typically goes into your work as well.

Don’t take recruiters lightly. The recruiter plays a critical part in the development between you and the role you’re applying to. They’re a gatekeeper and must analyze you more than the company itself. They’re assessing you to see if you’re competent enough to present to their client. Good communication with a recruiter could be the key to success. They will give you the tools to prepare you for speaking to the company. If possible, read through questions and be ready to answer them. Have examples of relevance on hand. Thinking on your feet is part of the experience of interviewing online.

Be prepared for the final interview and be consistent throughout the process. Don’t answer the same way every time, but have information that matches so that you don’t cause confusion. If you’re comfortable with the content you’re delivering and seeing a screen with yourself, there will be little room for error. Since there’s no face-to-face interaction in remote interviews, eye contact, engagement level, and body language are all very important. Be authentic to your needs and who you are as a person. When sending a thank you note, be timely and let people know if you forgot to mention any relevant information.

Make sure you get the point of key successes across and that you’re following a recipe for success that works for you. Your pre-interview routine, preparedness, dress, and the detail involved are all important because you’re under a microscope. It is different from an in-person meeting. There are many distractions in an office but when online, it’s just you and the hiring manager. Whatever gets you there is just as important. Put thought into being positive, routined, prepared, and curious. The questions you ask should be thoughtful. Take notes if needed as people appreciate the attention to detail.

Last to present was Jillian Calkins! She advised that you understand the core values of the company you’re applying to. Note what’s being done to keep employees connected and safe. Companies are still figuring things out during the pandemic. Know what is non-negotiable for you regarding work. Consider their expectations regarding timeliness, community involvement, benefits and if they have long-term remote strategies.

Recruiters are figuring out assessment tools. You could ask about those tools to know what virtual toolkits and new collaboration tools are being used in the working world. Virtual work tools and task management tools are plentiful. Have a backup plan ready and give your interviewer your cellphone number in case connection is lost.

Try keeping your resume concise and under 2 pages with bullets limited to 1 or 2 lines. List remote work preferences if they are non-negotiable, along with your city and state, on the top of your resume. Highlight the role you’ve played for your organization in the past year. If you don’t have previous experience, highlight skills on your resume that may be relevant.

During the interview, engage and make eye contact. If needed, you could place your resume and notes behind your laptop as the reference may provide comfort. Lighting should be in front of you and projected at your face. Perform a test ahead of time to be sure everything is working properly, and have a plan B. Use the same self-care routine as you would in the outside world. Present and dress well to feel put together and it will come through in the interview. Be aware of your body language and check your mannerisms through practice.

Thank you to all the amazing panelists for this incredibly helpful knowledge! We appreciate you sharing your time and knowledge with The Underfashion Club.