At Home Office Careers our members often ask, “Is there going to be an interview if I apply for a work from home job?”
The answer is “yes, possibly.” If the applicant is a serious candidate for the job, an important step in the evaluation process may be the interview, because an employer wants to get to know the candidate, just as in a traditional, on-premises application process. But as we’ll discuss below, the interview of the home-based job seeker will almost always be a virtual interview, conducted electronically, with the participants being hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.
While not every job you apply to and are considered for will involve an interview, I recommend you be prepared for the day an interview is scheduled. In fact, as a candidate for a work from home job, you should realize the importance employers place on trying to get to know you before making an offer. This is confirmed by research:
We recently conducted a survey among the HR managers of organizations across the U.S., and one of our findings is that employers find it harder to recruit work from home employees compared to traditional employees:
One of the key reasons for this is the inability or inconvenience of meeting the applicant in person. But that does not mean there is not going be an interview – quite the contrary, since the employer does want to “meet” you.
Expect A Virtual Interview:
But unlike a traditional interview, the work from home job applicant’s interview is likely to be a “virtual interview,” conducted remotely. You might live on the West Coast and the employer could be located on the East Coast, or at least far enough that it would not be cost-effective for you to travel to the interview. Thanks to technology, employers now can conduct virtual interviews with applicants regardless of where they located, and at no expense to anyone.
Virtual interviewing is typically conducted by telephone and by Skype video. There are techniques I’d like to share with you to help make interviews of either type successful. So here are tips for “Acing” the virtual interview.
Tips For All Types Of Virtual Interviews:
Tip: Sounds Of Silence:
First an important caution, for either type of virtual interview: To maintain a professional atmosphere and to avoid distraction, you will need to ensure that kids and dogs are not going to create noise. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to conduct your virtual interviews without background disturbance. And that also includes not having the TV or radio playing loudly. Make sure the washing machine is not heading into the high-speed spin cycle and no one nearby is flushing the toilet. Silence please; your interviewer will appreciate it and you will have a better interview without concerns or distractions.
Tip: Your Social Media Profile:
Before your interviews begin, make sure your Social Media profile is up to date, and is a good presentation of whom you are. You should have at least one online profile, on Google+ or LinkedIn, for example, so that employers can add to their knowledge of you before the interview.
Put your Social Media connection link into your resume, and be especially careful that your profile shows you in a way that will not be embarrassing. We’ve all heard stories of someone losing out on a great job offer when it was discovered that their Social Media profile showed them in compromising positions, partying and drinking. Your intimate personal side may okay for friends and family, but not if a prospective employer might see it. So be sure to put the positive into the “social” of Social Media.
Tip: “Tell Me About Yourself”
Some interviewers love to toss this question out at the start of an interview, and many candidates who haven’t thought about it are caught off-guard. But it’s quite a good question, if you think about it, because it allows you to “take charge” of the interview right at the start, and present your most important and distinguishing qualities. To prepare for this question, practice completing these phrases: “I am regarded as professional and capable because . . . I’m proudest of . . . my most important achievements are . . . I believe I am highly qualified for this position because . . .”
How To Ace The Telephone Interview
As should be obvious, a telephone interview is very different from a face-to-face or in-person interview, in several aspects. First, there is no visual feedback – you are not able to see the interviewer’s reaction to what you are saying. You are also less able to determine when it’s a good moment to say something, for fear of interrupting. We’ve all experienced telephone conversations when both participants start to speak at the same time – it can be uncomfortable for both – leading to a series of embarrassing starts and stops. This requires a higher level of sensitivity on your part, as the person being evaluated, so that you do not appear overanxious. When in doubt, always pause to let the interviewer speak first.
Another key difference is total dependency on what you say, and – this is critical – how you say it, since these are the only inputs to the interviewer. So here are the key tips to help you “ace” the telephone interview.
Tip: Be Prepared
Prepare for the interview in advance, and even try to allow time to give yourself a brief rehearsal, asking the questions and then answering them. Do this when you are alone and can actually speak the answers aloud. By doing this you will smooth out your response and may discover that some of your answers or self-descriptions need a bit of work – best to learn this in advance!
Here’s another good reason to be prepared well in advance. I remember my first telephone interview. It was for a job with a research company and was scheduled for later that day, but then the call came a couple of hours earlier than scheduled. The interviewer was in her car, on the way to a meeting, and wanted to use the time productively. Fortunately, I had taken notes on what I wanted to say about myself, including my experience and the accomplishments that were relevant to the job I was being interviewed for, and I was ready. The interview went well, and while I was surprised at the early call, it was a valuable lesson to be prepared. The interviewer asked quite a few questions about my perspectives on various subjects, and how I would approach the job I was applying for.
Tip: The Good Listener
That interview led to a second interview with another person at the same firm. I was well prepared again. But unlike the first interview, this time my role was more to listen than to speak – the interviewer was more focused on presenting the company to me so I could determine if I could fit within their corporate culture. When this type of interview situation occurs, it’s best to resist the temptation to interrupt, so you can say what you’ve been preparing to say. Instead, listen attentively; take notes so you can ask questions about what the interviewer said, and only when there is a clear pause in the interviewer’s statement should you offer to share some accomplishments or ideas that you’d like to present.
Tip: Select The Location
Today, we all have mobile phones and are free to have a telephone conversation anywhere – the days of being connected to the wall and tied down to your home are over. This gives us great flexibility to speak from wherever we want.
A few years ago I was preparing for yet another telephone interview. I was in Los Angeles and the caller was in San Francisco. I knew I had to be away from my home office at the scheduled time of the interview, and realizing that I certainly did not want to be on the street, or in a noisy café, I considered the alternatives. My choice was a Post Office. This provided a quiet corner, in a place where people do not tend to be loud, as they might be in a café or retail store or most other public places. The interview went well, and when the follow-up call came a few days later, thankfully I was able to be in my home office and free to speak comfortably.
Acing The Skype Interview
There is an increasing tendency for employers to use digital video media to conduct a virtual face-to-face interview. The most popular platform is Skype, probably because it is so widely used, is available everywhere, and costs nothing to join and use. You have probably seen Skype in use on TV, when newscasters hook up with an expert or a reporter who may be on the other side of the country – or the world. So it’s important for work-from-home job seekers to be ready to have a Skype interview.
(There are other platforms that an employer may prefer, including Google Hangouts or a video conference service like Go-To-Meeting, but Skype will usually be the only live video service you will need.)
Tip: First, Set Up Your Skype Account Now
If you do not yet have a Skype account, get one set up. Do it today, if you can, so it’s ready when you need it. Go to www.skype.com and create a new account. You will be asked for a username that will become your Skype address, so take a few minutes to think about the impression that Skype address will have on a prospective employer. Avoid silly names that are best for family and friends, and if you do have a Skype account with a frivolous name, either change it or create a second account. Your name is a good option, and if your name is already taken, try registering a version with periods between words, like Janice.L.Williams or add a few numbers to your name like JaniceLWilliams468.
Because you are going to be seen as well as heard, it’s a good idea to present yourself as if you are heading to an in-person interview. Here are some presentation tips to help make sure you make a good appearance:
Tip: Control The Environment
Take time in advance of the interview to prepare where you will be seen during the interview. The background will be the walls and surroundings of your home office or any other room where you will be seated with your laptop or desktop computer. You may also use a tablet like an iPad or a Smart Phone. Just be sure that you test to see what the interviewer will see – try to avoid too many personal items in sight – it’s better to have a simple, clean and uncluttered background.
You may conduct the virtual interview with a Smart Phone, but only if you are comfortable with the small screen.
Be careful not to position yourself with a window or bright light behind you, because that may cause glare, and make it hard for the interviewer to see you!
Tip: Check Your Appearance
Resist the temptation to look too casual, even if you normally work at home in your pajamas and bathrobe! You want to look relaxed but serious, committed. Ask yourself “How would I dress for the interview if it were at the employer’s facilities?” It’s probably not necessary to dress formally; business casual is okay.
Both men and women need to make sure they are well groomed. Again, use the standard of being in the interviewer’s office – how would you like to look?
Tip: Using Notes & Taking Notes
Just as with the telephone interview, you may have notes to refer to, if needed to help remind you of things you plan to say. But in a virtual interview on Skype, be discreet with the note referrals by not appearing dependent upon them. Importantly, do not read from your notes – it will appear to be a “canned speech” and most interviewers will not be impressed.
Finally, can you take notes while being seen on Skype? Yes, if you want to write, do so briefly and try not to lose visual contact with interviewer.
In conclusion, if there is one word to sum up the most important recommendations for successful virtual interviews, it’s preparation.
Do you have a virtual interview experience to share? Please let us know what worked for you – and what didn’t, so we can all benefit and improve our interviewing skills going forward.