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Q&A with Career Advisor Steven Starks

Q: “Can I say no to Zoom/Skype interviews? I turned one down recently because it seemed weird to me, but now I’m wondering if that was the right decision.”

A: While I understand the initial discomfort with the idea of a remote interview, declining these requests may take you out of the running for the position. Using video platforms like Zoom and Skype for job interviews was trending prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that we’re practicing social distancing, video interviews are not only the go-to method, but often the only method in some cases. Though the process may look a bit different, live video interviews are similar to face-to-face interviews with the exception of how you prepare the technology and environment to ensure they go smoothly.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Test your sound/mic, video and internet connection before the interview.
  • Make sure your computer is charged or plugged in.
  • Find a neutral, distraction-free background.
  • Find a quiet location.
  • Make sure you’re well lit.
  • Place the camera at eye level and frame yourself from the chest up.
  • Run a live test to catch any glitches.
  • Look at the camera to make eye contact.

Q: “How do I approach my job search during the coronavirus pandemic?”

A: During this time, competition for jobs will increase. Therefore, instead of just submitting online applications, use this time to focus on specific companies in your target market. Leverage your existing network or LinkedIn network to introduce yourself to people who work in the areas you’re considering. Set up phone or video chats to get to know them and better understand what the company or job is like. This will help you create a network of professional relationships and gain valuable insights that could help you stand out as a candidate — or possibly get referred. Here’s an example of how to reach out in a way that’s not awkward:

Hi (name),

I came across your profile while researching (insert company). During these uncertain times, it feels a bit odd reaching out, but I’ve been exploring career options and was really interested in the work you do. Might you be available for a Zoom chat later this week or next? I’d love to learn what a typical day is like and our chat would help shape my thinking about the next step in my career.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

(your name)