The Silver Lining in this Very Dark Cloud

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on the Employment Law Today podcast. At the end of the show, the emphasis was placed on candidates and I discussed some of the positives for candidates in the age of COVID. I’d like to recap them for those who did not see the show.

1) Candidates are concerned about how to explain why they are unemployed. Today, it’s not an issue. It is not the candidate’s fault that they were laid off. Everyone understands what COVID has done to businesses. Candidates do not have to defend themselves. They have done nothing wrong. They are victims and everyone knows it.

2) An ironic concern that job seekers have always had is how they are going to interview if they are employed. It’s ironic because at first they are worried that they are not getting any interviews, and then they are worried that they are getting them! Can they interview doing their lunch hour? Will the employer see them after work? Thanks to COVID, this is no longer an issue. Since most people work from home, candidates can easily schedule a video interview at a mutually beneficial time with the boss being none the wiser.

3) Until they actually meet the employer in-person, the candidate is on their home turf, so to speak. No worries about being late for the interview. No worries about being in a room with other people making them feel like they are being drilled in a legal deposition. The interviewers are just little-bitty pictures on a computer screen. For shy people, this is a huge advantage.

4) Candidates can show off and send subliminal messages. We all know about “virtual backgrounds.” When I am on a Zoom call, some of the participants use them to show off their work. A photographer displays his photos. An architect displays her buildings. But if you have nothing to show that is work-related, if you use a virtual background, people (like me) will immediately think you have something to hide. Usually it it is a messy room. Employers don’t hire messy people.

This means that you can use a real background and display things that may lead to more in-depth conversations that otherwise would not have taken place. For example, I have had numerous veterans as career counseling clients. They had their medals/citations framed. They did not like to talk about them. I told them that modesty was the last quality a job candidate should reveal in a job interview. The compromise was that they hung their framed medals on the wall behind them when they were interviewing. Employers always asked about them and that always led to more in-depth discussions and, in many cases, job offers.

Of course not everyone is a war hero. I certainly am not! But I always do video calls from my home office which is a room lined with books. It is amazing how many people recognize books that they have also read and, as a result of finding that we have something in common, a relationship develops. In my case it may not be getting a job offer, but there’s no real difference between looking for a new employer and looking for a new client. Establish a personal rapport with an employer, and you are more than half way to a job offer.

What if you have nothing to display? Simple. Display a clean, well-organized room. That sends a very positive subliminal message.

To conclude, let’s consider some of the “musts” when it comes to video job interviewing:

Be early.

Make certain your computer is working properly.

Don’t sit too close to the computer. If you talk with your hands, your mannerisms are magnified and that can be a distraction. The same is true for facial quirks. We all have them. There is nothing you can do about them. So don’t obsess over them.

Practice. Use your computer’s video camera. Record yourself so you can see what you do well, what you want to avoid doing, and that the room looks the way you want it.

Make certain there is no bright light behind you. That will cause glare. And if you are sitting in front of windows that look out onto the street, close the blinds so you won’t be distracted.

You need to be dressed professionally, but it is silly to wear a suit and tie when interviewing for a job from home. It may be a nice touch, and the effort may be appreciated, but I doubt it will be held against you if you don’t. (Ladies, sorry, but I can’t think of the female equivalent of a suit and tie. You are on your own!)

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS. He is an honors graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from where he received is doctorate in International Relations majoring in International Law.