As associate dean for career management, I lead the school’s efforts to prepare our students and alumni in finding what each uniquely defines as meaningful work and to develop opportunities and partnerships with the premier employers Fuquans want to join.

Since March, our team has been working diligently to help our students, alumni and employers to navigate the many challenges of virtual recruiting during COVID-19. Along the way, we’ve seen firsthand how job seekers can succeed despite the uncertainties and rapid changes. Here are a few insights that can make a big difference.

1. Check your tech.

Before you can make a genuine connection in an online coffee chat or ace the interview for your dream job, make sure your preparation includes the virtual where, when and how.

  • How do you ensure a calm, quiet and distraction-free environment for Zoom, Teams or FaceTime chats, especially if you’re at home with family, roommates or pets?
    • Let others know you have an important meeting or interview coming up and keep the door closed to minimize interruptions.
    • Don’t worry or overreact if you have an unplanned visitor. Keep in mind, the recruiter is likely dealing with the same challenges.
    • Keep the pings and alarms of electronics from getting in the way. Charging your laptop, closing windows on other apps, and turning your phone to silent mode will allow you to focus on the conversation.
  • How do you ensure your internet connection is stable? Position yourself in the part of your house with the best reception and see if others can refrain from using the network until your video call is finished.
  • How do you look on camera? Check your outfit, lighting, background and camera angle so the overall effect is professional. You may need to put a few books under your laptop so the camera is at eye level or slightly above.
  • How do you sound on camera? Do a test run by recording yourself on Zoom or a similar application. You’ll not only get to see how the setting looks but you can also hear your voice tone and volume to see if adjustments need to be made.

2. Showcase your personality authentically.

The walk to the conference room is still happening, albeit in a virtual capacity. Think about how you’ll manage the ‘small talk’ that typically comes at the beginning and end of virtual interviews. You’ll feel more comfortable and confident about the informal aspects of the interview with an intentional plan in place.

  • Include pops of color in the background that can also serve as conversation starters, such as travel photos, sports memorabilia, artwork or other items that tastefully showcase your interests and hobbies.
  • What does your body language convey? The online setting naturally offers fewer non-verbal cues, so it’s important to set a positive tone. Lean in slightly with good posture—so you’re at about an arm’s length from the camera—to demonstrate your attention. Let the interviewer know you’re listening by nodding at key times. Perhaps, most importantly, smile genuinely! 
  • If you have a hard time remembering to look at the camera, which is like making eye contact when face-to-face, put a brightly colored, small post-it arrow pointing at the camera to remind you.
  • Review your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and/or bio on the company’s website before your meeting. You may find you have one or more interests, experiences or backgrounds in common that can be a great way to break the ice

3. Have resources ready during the interview.

Maximize the advantages that virtual recruiting presents! Enjoy having to wear that uncomfortable business suit for only the interview instead of all day. Keep your notes or references in view during the meeting. Think of it as an open book exam that will help you come off as well informed and polished.

  • What questions do you want to ask the interviewer? What are the key value-adds you’ll bring to the role? Keep those notes off-camera but in easy view. Consider a document stand next to your laptop so your eye contact flows naturally.
  • Have the company’s website open in a browser so you are aware of what’s being featured on their homepage or you can access a specific department or blog easily if it’s brought up on the call.
  • Keep the organization’s social channels or recent press releases available, either in a browser or printed, so you can reference its most recent news or the key messages they are communicating.

4. Show you can successfully adapt to a different and evolving way of conducting business.

Differentiate yourself by demonstrating you have the agility, grit and courage that organizations need right now.

  • How have you adapted during the quarantine? What have you learned about yourself professionally or personally?
  • How does hiring you help the organization address some of its unique challenges right now?
  • Describe a recent difficulty you overcame, what you did, and how it made the situation better.
  • Demonstrate how your team skills have shined recently and have positively impacted a group to which you belong.
  • Think carefully about the examples or stories you share. Be sure to highlight not only job-specific skills but also your interpersonal and communication skills.  

5. Be ready for conversations with top decision makers.

In many organizations, senior leaders are taking a more hands-on approach to recruiting. Executives are often more willing to spend additional time in interviews, having in-depth conversations because they too are working from home and because making smart hiring decisions is especially important right now.

6. Stay in touch after the interview.

Your work isn’t done after the conversation ends! Candidates become more memorable and demonstrate authentic interest by finding appropriate opportunities to remain visible and connected.

  • Send a thank you note via email, customized to highlight the unique conversation you had. Review how it looks and reads in advance by sending it to yourself.
  • If you attend an online seminar or read an article on a topic that you discussed in your meeting, send a note to share the link or information. It’s a great way to continue the conversation and to show you’re active professionally and stay abreast on current issues.

7. Stay positive and connected.

It’s easy to feel isolated while hunting for a job from home all day. Please know that you are not alone!

  • Are you approaching the job search with curiosity and a growth mindset? Take a few minutes after every interaction to take note of what you thought you did well and what you can do differently next time. It’s easy to skip this step but pausing to reflect will help build on your strengths, minimize pitfalls, and feel more in control of the process. Your notes are also very handy when you receive an invitation for a next interview with the same employer.
  • Stay in touch with your personal as well as your professional network. Talk to family and friends who aren’t in a job search to help you remember there’s a world outside of resumes, cover letters and interview prep. Have a FaceTime call with that childhood friend who always makes you laugh and helps you see the positives in your situation. 
  • Keep the people and routines in your life that help you feel balanced, centered and optimistic. Develop or maintain a focus on nutrition, exercise, relaxation and quality sleep, as those positive habits fuel your mind and body to be at your best when job leads present themselves.

We’re grateful to the recruiters, alumni and students who’ve shared their recent experiences from virtual recruiting and lessons learned so we can understand and incorporate these real-time insights to benefit our community. In true Team Fuqua fashion, we are learning and working together to navigate these uncharted waters!