In this lesson, I will briefly go over online interviews and then I’m going to discuss the after-interview process.
With the rise of COVID-19 and the shutting down of in-person meetings in many schools, online interviews are increasingly being done. In general, the considerations for an in-person interview carry over to an online interview, but there are some important considerations unique to online interviews you should be aware of.
First, you must make yourself familiar with the application used for the interview, such as Zoom or Skype. If you have not used the interview application before, you need to practice joining a meeting, and figure out where the controls are for the camera and sound. Make sure you will be interviewing in a place with reliable WiFi.
If possible, have a practice meeting with a friend, so you know what technical issues might arise. This will allow you to be calm, professional, and prepared for your real interview.
Second, with online interviews, you lose much of the ability to “take charge” of the interview. Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do about that. On the other hand, in an online interview, you can have materials spread out on a table behind your computer to refer to, if need be. What you don’t want to do, though, is either pick up a piece of paper or appear to be reading from one during an interview. Remember that whenever you look like you’re saying something that is rehearsed or prepared in advance, you lose credibility.
Effective online interviewees will do the following:
- Smile (as always).
- Look at the camera (not the screen) when speaking.
- Speak loudly and articulate clearly. Don’t make them have to turn the volume up to hear you.
- Have a plain backdrop so you are the main thing they see.
- Make sure your computer is charged up if using a laptop.
- Be aware of lighting issues—don’t sit with your back to a window, as this will make your face hard to see. Ideally, you should have light falling on your face, so facing a window or a lamp is best.
- Make a special effort to look attentive.
- Speak with your hands—make sure that they are visible onscreen.
The practice session with a friend that I recommended earlier can also provide you with feedback on the points above so that you can make adjustments if needed. Be sure to hold the practice session in the same place that you plan to be for your actual interview. If you follow these steps, you’ll be in a position to make your best impression.
Now I’d like to turn attention to the conclusion of the interview. The advice here holds for all of the interview formats. Generally, at the end of an interview session, the interviewers will ask if the interviewee has any questions. It is a good idea to be prepared for this. In fact, you may want to write down a couple of questions to bring to the interview.
The one time during an interview you can pull out a piece of paper to help you is when you are asked if you have any questions. This has the advantage that you won’t forget your questions, but more importantly, it gives those questions added significance. Do some research before going to the school to find out how things operate, what the plusses and minuses are at the school, and how the school matches up with what you are looking for.
Do not ask questions that could be readily answered by looking on the school’s website. Your questions should focus on things about the school or the area that are not clear to you after you have done your homework. Be sure the questions matter to you and that they are not trivial or trite. That will not look good.
You should use your questions as part of what may be thought of as you interviewing the school. It is not, of course, an interview and you should not pretend that it is, but you should be sure to get your questions answered. One to two questions is good. More than that will get old. When the interview is done, take your leave professionally—thank the interviewers crisply—don’t linger or mumble. If your interview is on Zoom, make sure ahead of time that you know how to “leave” the meeting. After the interview, , be sure to get the names of the interviewers if you have not done so before. The names will be important for a follow-up thank-you note.
If you had a face-to-face interview, when you arrive back home from your interview (or within two days, if you are on the road), you should write a thank you note to the people who interviewed you. If you had an online interview, you should send the thank you notes within a day of the interview. You may use simple, professional-looking thank you cards with nothing but the words Thank You on the front and blank inside, for your note (absolutely no pictures or corny Hallmark™ verses). If you use these, handwrite your note neatly and legibly. Below your signature, print your full name clearly so they know who you are. Alternatively, you may send a typed letter on regular stationery and sign it. In either case, the note should be brief. It should say how much you enjoyed the opportunity to connect with them and it should thank them, both for the invitation to visit and for the interviewers’ time. It should conclude with a statement that you look forward to hearing again from them. That is about all that should be in the letter. You may send a letter to each person if you have their names, or you can send one to the committee if you don’t. You might be wondering if it is okay to send your thanks through email. You can do that, as long as you remember to be thoroughly professional. But, sending a real handwritten note through the regular mail may help you stand out from the crowd. In addition, a card gives something tangible that can be held onto instead of a message that can just be deleted.
In this lesson, I discussed the dynamics of an online Zoom interview and how to handle things after your interview is over. In the next lesson, I’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of the waiting game after the interview is over.