Now, more than ever, people are hosting virtual meetings via platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet. Virtual interviews aren’t new, but now with social distancing, they are becoming the norm. Some students may have conducted a job interview using this technology, typically as a first step to eliminate candidates.
With a tight job market caused by the global pandemic, students need new skills to navigate the job search. This is where Heidi Harrison, director of Immaculata University’s Office of Career and Professional Development, is making a difference for Immaculata students.
“The interview process can be very stressful and students are now facing additional challenges to that process,” she states.
Since the stay-at-home mandate negated in-person career counseling, Harrison is holding individual virtual career workshops every week devoted to writing/updating resumes, using LinkedIn and conducting mock interview sessions. Many Immaculata students who have taken advantage of these services are graduate students who seek help to transition what they have learned in the program into tangible, and marketable, skills that will attract a recruiter’s attention.
After completing her dietetic internship through Immaculata following her master’s in nutrition, Jingze Tian wants to secure a position related to counseling, such as an outpatient dietitian or fitness dietitian. With Harrison’s expertise, Tian is able to demonstrate her counseling skills, through her curriculum vitae, cover letter and answers to potential interview questions.
“I would also like to know what points HR professionals are looking for and how I can better perform or respond,” Tian adds.
Erin Galway, graduating with a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling this spring, is grateful to have had a few recent phone screenings/interviews despite the pandemic. To help prepare for these interviews, she participated in a one-on-one session with Harrison that provided general interview tips as well as specific ideas for virtual interviews.
“One excellent tip is putting Post-it Notes with critical talking points around the edge of the interviewee’s computer screen during the virtual interview, so that the interviewee is not looking down or away from the camera/interviewer too much,” Galway reveals.
Recently Galway was offered one position in her field and has other interviews scheduled.
Switching careers to special education, graduate student Eileen Wainwright, who is pursuing PreK-4 and PreK-8 Special Education certifications, sought the help of Harrison to highlight the transferable skills that she could carry over into the teaching profession. Wainwright attended the virtual sessions on interviewing tips and techniques and benefitted from the sample interview questions and mock interviews.
Harrison suggests that interviewees prepare for the interview by checking that their technology is working properly and choosing an at-home interview space that is quiet, well lit and has an appropriate background. In addition, dressing professionally, researching the company, practicing commonly asked questions by webcam, and sending a thank you email afterward are all important steps under any interviewing situation.
With many employers moving to remote work and experiencing unexpected organizational changes, there may be delays in the hiring process. Harrison reminds students to be patient as it may take longer than usual for employers to respond.
Harrison suggests that students take advantage of any extra downtime to think about career development. This may be a good time to consider serving as a mentor or seeking a mentee. Mentorship can provide growth opportunities for both participants, plus it looks great on a résumé and sounds impressive in an interview.
Recruiters and hiring managers will also look to see what students have accomplished during this time, including additional training or certifications, continued education, online training, and volunteer work. These are all great additions to the résumé.
The best advice Harrison offers students is to work on what they can control, including updating and reviewing their résumé, practicing interviewing skills, creating and/or updating their LinkedIn and social media sites, networking and creating a list of potential employers and contact info.
“These are very practical tasks that will prepare students for when things start to get back to normal,” Harrison states.
Although circumstances may be different, Harrison is helping Immaculata’s students prepare for the job market, which is key to securing a career.