You’re almost there. Your CV garnered interest and landed you an interview! You need to seal the deal, so what is the best way to prepare? In 2020, when about 89% of employers have adopted virtual interviews, mastering the digital interview isn’t just a step towards the future, it’s make it or break it.
From senior recruiters and hiring managers, we outline our best tips and the burning questions and answers you wanted from our The New Normal Candidate Career Lab.
Start by asking yourself two questions: Why this job? And why me? Employers favour candidates who show genuine interest in the role and company. Take time to review the role you applied for and make sure you fully understand what is expected from you. It might seem obvious, but spend some real-time on their website and make sure you analyse the copy they use to describe their product/service or their latest blog posts. The content that comes out of an organization will tell you how they want to be seen, how they see themselves, and what they think differentiates themselves from the competition (perhaps it’s their culture, innovation, commitment to transparency...etc). Then prepare concrete examples of how you’re going to fit in this picture - that could be from your relevant experience, your career goals, or even the reason you’re looking for new opportunities in the first place.
There are pros and cons of having a virtual interview. First, it’s important that you make sure all your tech is set up properly and will work seamlessly throughout the interview. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong - whether that is Zoom on your mobile or having your respective cables on standby for a charge. Secondly, aim to look straight at the camera. Wandering eyes and looking away from the screen can indicate a distraction, so if you’re going to have notes/post-it’s during the interview, keep it placed near your webcam! Lastly, even though the interviewer won’t actually be in the same room as you, you need to ensure your setting remains professional. Avoid messy backgrounds, having the light source behind you, or having family members step in and out the frame, and remember to still dress the part. Wearing a snazzy outfit doesn’t just show you take the interview seriously, it’ll also help boost your confidence and put you in the right headframe.
Q: How do I explain being let go from my previous job?
KJ: Well, it depends on why you have been let go. If you were made redundant during a time like this (COVID-19 layoffs), it’s understandable and the interviewer will probably not ask too many questions on it besides what you’ve learnt from it and how you’ve taken the time to improve yourself/upskill since then.
Rina: Yes, as KJ said, it’s important to be honest on why you’ve been let go. If it was a problem with your previous organisation, explain it well and demonstrate how you’ve changed that behaviour or would tackle the situation now. Also, remember to keep it professional. It’s a big red flag for employers when we see candidates outrightly criticise their last company or their previous boss and try to pass blame.
Prerna: What interviewers are really trying to see from this question is whether the reason you were let go was something that could be a problem you’d carry in to your next job. Like, is it a pattern, or a one-time thing? Or was it not because of your performance at all? Have you made the best out of the situation? It might seem overwhelming, but being let go is actually not that uncommon and doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable conversation.
Engaging the Interviewer
A lot of people can get caught up with giving the ‘perfect’ or ‘textbook’ answers that they forget to actually listen to the interviewer and have a proper conversation with them. Building rapport and having them your interviewer feel like they actually ‘click’ with you will help you be remembered after a handful of sessions with other candidates that probably have similar qualifications as you.
Q: What tips do you have to show you’re actively listening?
KJ: Sometimes I’ll have candidates try to talk about everything they’ve prepared they forget to answer the question I already posed. To prevent that, it’s best to reference the question the interviewer posed into your answer before you begin and make sure you leave enough pauses for the interviewer to actually respond to your answers and perhaps start a give-and-take discussion on it.
Rina: I like to throw in situational questions when I interview candidates because I feel like it tells me a lot more about their past experience and the way they process information. Consistency is key with those questions because it shows you’re answering the questions genuinely.
Q: How important is a follow-up email after the interview?
Rina: I’ve noticed that follow-up/thank you emails are less common in Singapore than anywhere else, but an email after the interview is always welcome! It’s the perfect time to note conversation points and reiterate your interest in the company, as well as if necessary, address anything you could have said better or made a mistake in saying.
Prerna: A good template of this would be “I realised after we spoke that when you asked me about X, I should have said Y. I realised I’d misunderstood the questions afterwards and wanted to correct it” or even “I should be honest about the fact that I don’t have a lot of experience in X, but I believe my experience in Y would be really useful in helping you achieve Z.”
KJ: I would always recommend candidates to send a LinkedIn to invite to the hirer to stay connected with them regardless of the outcome. It is also absolutely fine to follow up with another email after a week post-interview to ask for feedback or a status update. This not only shows interest but also proactiveness.