Interviews in the Time of COVID-19: How to Ace Your Virtual Video Interview
COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways. Virtual interviews are a thing this year. After conducting so many interviews with fellowship applicants, I can tell you what worked and what didn’t.
Follow these steps to succeed in video interviews regardless of the field you are interviewing in, medicine or not.
1. Make sure your technology is reliable, fully charged laptop, good WiFi
2. Have a backup plan. If technology fails, have the interviewer call you on your phone. It’s better than nothing
3. Practice. You may know how to interview, but do you know how to do it virtually? If you haven’t done it before, call a friend on Zoom and practice for real. Get feedback.
4. Lighting is magic. The light shouldn’t be behind you, as it will darken your features and it will be difficult to see you. Sit by a window, have a gentle light shine on your face and/or maximize the brightness of your computer screen.
5. Center your face in the screen. Your face and upper chest should take most of the screen. If your camera is well below your eye level, then you may need to prop up your laptop.
6. Set the scene and your backdrop. Don’t have too many distracting things behind you. If you have a wall, having artwork, a clock or a plain wall are all fine. I loved seeing a focal point behind the interviewee, like a small plant. If you don’t have a wall behind you, make sure the room is completely tidy.
7. Dress for the part you want. Pants included, no need for shoes. Fix your hair. Clean up nice.
8. Remember that everything is a part of the interview, not just the one-on-one interviews. This includes any presentations you are requested to attend. Do not turn off your video camera. Show that you are interested. Nod, smile when appropriate.
9. Plan your greeting. There is no place for a handshake but definitely a smile. Address your interviewer by name.
10. Sit up straight and monitor your body language. This is so important. Stop playing with your hair, or worse, scratching your head. Don’t fidget. If your chair rocks or spins, and you can’t help but move when you talk, go grab a stationary chair (yes, I witnessed all the above).
11. Speak clearly and take your time.
12. Prepare a list of questions. Ask each examiner 1-2 questions from that list. It’s ok to repeat questions, no one will know. Make sure your questions are appropriate in the situation. Different questions are best left for people in specific positions like trainees, attendings, program directors, etc. (AKA future colleagues, future boss, etc.)
13. Keep pen and paper on hand to write notes if you need to.
14. Research your interviewees ahead of time. It’s always impressive when you engage with them.
15. Refamiliarize yourself with your CV. It’s all fair game.
16. Be prepared. Practice common questions like strengths, weaknesses, what you like about this job, research interests, etc.
17. Be authentic. Basically, don’t be fake. Don’t make up stuff.
18. Stay awake. Stay engaged. I know it can feel like a long day of interviews, and it can definitely feel longer than in-person interviews because you’re sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. You can do it!
19. Follow up. No need to send handwritten letters. I prefer an email with a personal touch.
20. Always remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Since you cannot be there in person, try to find out as much as possible about the program and the facility. Look on Google, their websites, their social media. Are these people you want to work with? How will this position get you to where you want to be? You will have to go with your gut feeling now more than ever.
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