For the first time in ages, I’ve been going for interviews. But times have changed since the last time when I circled jobs in the wanted ads in the British Medical Journal or GP Magazine, sent off a CV then got called for interviews (or not). The new all-virtual interviews are a totally different experience, so as a public service I’ll point out a few potential traps for the interviewee in the world of Zoom and Teams.
Clothes are compulsory for almost all roles for which formal interviews are required.
20th Century: Wear your only suit. If this is a dinner jacket or a tracksuit re-evaluate your wardrobe or your life choices.
2020s: They say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. My interviewer was a bit surprised when I logged on dressed as an astronaut, especially since she was expecting a middle-aged GP.
2. WHEN TO ARRIVE
20th Century: Two choices. Option one is to leave home way too early just to be on the safe side, spend an hour walking in circles round the block before realising you’ve lost track of time and have to run the last 100m in a suit and posh shoes and arrive hot and sweaty at the last moment. The alternative is to leave the expected amount of time for your journey, get delayed by leaves on the line or the wrong type of snow (even though you’re driving and it’s mid July) and still end up having to run the last 100m and arrive hot and sweaty at the last moment,
2020s: Log in a few minutes ahead. Briefly panic at a lack of internet signal then… up pops the circle going round and round and round: Look into my eyes – you are feeling very sleepy. Then “the host knows you are here and will let you in soon”. How soon? How do they know? Can they see me? Is this bit part of the test? Best advice – assume it’s a trap and that they’re watching and rating you like a white mouse in a lab experiment.
3. WHAT TO SAY
20th Century: Be prepared. Have an A4 folder of notes in your hands. You will not consult this folder. It doesn’t matter that it contains a load of blank sheets, a few doodles and a takeaway menu. The purpose of the folder isn’t to be prepared, it’s to look prepared. And give you something to do with your hands so you don’t have to worry about spilling a drink.
2020s: They cannot see your hands so you can do what you like. I recommend clasping the hands lightly to avoid fidgeting. Or go all-in and do high level fidgeting such as using a yo-yo, practicing conjuring tricks or playing the accordion (although with careful use of the mute function with the latter. No one likes a show-off. Or an accordion player). Nevertheless this still helps you avoid the dilemma of…
20th Century. If offered a drink accept gratefully. Be decisive. Go for whatever you like as long as it’s exactly the same as what the interviewer is having. Remember though: tea can seem old fashioned, coffee is the drink of the stress-head. Perhaps just a glass of water? Do not request squash, a pint of Stella or an Um Bongo (as I have found to my cost. twice.)
2020s: It’s unlikely you’ll be offered a drink or plate of biscuits in a Zoom meeting. If things are going badly you may stall for time by requesting a glass of water or a custard cream from the interviewer. This is liable to be met with some confusion giving you valuable seconds to pretend to drop your pen, disappear out of shot of the camera and crawl out of the room to weep in your kitchen until they tire and log out. On which subject…
5. FINISHING THE INTERVIEW
20th Century: When the interviewer says thank-you and stands up, that is your cue to leave. You will not gain points for talking beyond this point even if you produce your Oscar, your Olympic medal or your Nobel Peace Prize. Please leave.
2020s: When the interviewer is finished she will say how lovely it has been to speak to you. Agree and reciprocate regardless of how true this may be. You must now smile benevolently until she finds the red button to end the session. This is fine unless she is unfamiliar with the system in which case you have to hold the smile way beyond anything that looks natural. The red button to end the session is like the button that opens the trapdoor above the pit of crocodiles. Whoosh! Your interview is over. Unless she asks…
6. HAVE YOU ANY QUESTIONS FOR ME?
20th Century: Yes, then ask a question of little interest to you but that might sound impressive to the interviewer about promotion prospects, equality or pensions in the hope it will make you sound ambitious, socially aware or committed respectively. Do not ask about holiday allowances, disciplinary procedures or redundancy payouts as these put out the opposite message.
2020s: Have you any questions for me? Still a tricky one. Saying no makes you sound underprepared. Having lots of questions makes you seem needy (and, ironically, also underprepared). I have found through experimentation the best answer to the question question is “God, no! I’ve done my research and there is nothing you could possibly tell me about your organisation that I don’t know already thanks to my extensive interview preparation.”
Then triumphantly wave your thick file of notes towards the camera.
But not your accordion.
One thought on “…Interviews”
You have covered every angle for any future interviews Rick – very funny.
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