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“Am I on mute?” Interviewing for a Job in 2021

February 4, 2021

By Kristin P. Leonato, Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives, University Career Services


“Job interviews are the worst,” shared one of my University Career Services colleagues when she interviewed for her current role. Perhaps you agree? Interviews often feel like “the worst” for the people on both sides of the hiring process; hiring decisions have long-term impacts on an organization and for the person being interviewed. Yet interviews are also an opportunity for everyone involved to learn more and think critically about the best way to move forward.

For some, virtual job interviews feel even more complicated or overwhelming compared to in-person interviews. Adding the layer of technology can create additional unease for candidates who are new to job searching, as well as those with more than 30 years of work experience. I hope to assure you that virtual job interviews are really just the same old thing. When preparing for virtual interviews, the basics of job interview preparation will see you through, whether you have to drive to your interview or just turn on your computer.  

For all job or internship interviews, it is helpful to hone in on three things that make you most qualified for the position and be ready to share examples where you demonstrated those areas of knowledge, strengths or experience.  Use the job description and the available information about your employer or organization when deciding where to focus.  Our Career Readiness Guide has detailed information about interviewing and the best ways to prepare beginning on page 74.        

Even if I’ve convinced you that virtual interviewing is basically the same as interviewing in-person, I bet you still would like some tips to make your best impression online. So here you go!

  1. Practice
    Practice in advance and prepare examples, especially for the omnipresent and often hardest question, “Tell us a bit about yourself.”  For a virtual interview, practice on camera with a friend or family member or using our interview practice resource, InterviewStream. I know it feels awkward and weird — do it anyway. 
  2. Dress with intention
    Dress for your virtual interview as if it is in-person… even the parts you think will not be visible on camera.  You want to feel confident during an interview and give the impression that you are very interested in the position you are interviewing for. Dressing with intention is like putting on your uniform before the big game; it helps you get physically AND mentally prepared for what comes next.
  3. Set the stage
    Take time to prepare the area where you will conduct the interview.  Consider what is viewable of your life in your background and if that is in line with what you are trying to convey about yourself in the interview.  It doesn’t have to be a bland, beige wall absent of any life, but it should be an image you are happy to convey to your potential employers. 
  4. Consider your lighting and camera angles
    There are many helpful YouTube videos about how to position your camera and ambient light to help you feel confident on screen.
  5. Eliminate distractions!!!
    This is often the hardest part.  Kick out your roommates; hire a babysitter; go over to your mom’s house; turn off Alexa; lock the door — whatever it takes. Create an environment where you can completely focus on the interview and have the mental clarity to do your best.  

After wrapping up the interview, but before going back to the rest of your life, you must complete one final task: write thank you notes!  Write a separate thank you note or email to everyone you met with that day, including how much you enjoyed meeting them and thanking them for the opportunity to interview.  Do this immediately so you don’t have a chance to forget later.  Thank you notes are always appreciated and are one more way to stand out from the crowd.  

From preparing to showcase your strengths in advance, to writing thank you notes afterward, many parts of the job interview process remain the same in 2021. These five tips will ensure you make a positive impression whether you are interviewing on-screen or in-person. 

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