A little bit about me: I'm a fourth-year International Co-op student who came from Hong Kong to Canada to pursue my degree in Communications and a minor in Publishing at SFU.
Last year, I was inspired by an SFU alumna to apply for Co-op to gain corporate work experiences. I had already done 2 co-op terms at SFU and thought it would be worth it because I want to work outside of SFU and set my foot in a “new” door. I attended almost 15 virtual interviews and it took me two months to land a co-op position. I experienced lots of ups and downs during the co-op seeking, as you could see from the brain exploding meme!
Getting an interview is a positive sign but it could be very challenging because it requires a lot of preparation while maintaining your schoolwork and other commitments. Being rejected by those countless interviews was the worst feeling I had experienced because I felt devalued. Through those experiences, I gained many insights into how to make the most of my virtual interviews.
I know there are many tips and tricks for virtual interviews, but I realized that practicing self-care is very important for job seekers to keep in mind during this global pandemic. One of the things I stopped doing was scrolling through my newsfeed on LinkedIn. Posts like "I came from nothing and just got a job at Microsoft" (no offence to Microsoft) can make you feel like your accomplishments are smaller in comparison. I had reached a point where I wanted to give up finding a co-op position. I doubted my ability and my skill-set, and I felt my self-esteem sinking.
It is totally reasonable to feel down during your job hunting. Finding a job is technically a job so it is critical to take a few days off before you emotionally break down. The key thing is to never give up! You never know what is waiting for you in the future. You can view your rejections as reflections. After an interview, you can reflect on your performance by thinking about what you did well and what you need to improve on.
Pro tip: Gather a list of interview questions from all the interviews you have been through so that you can develop a better answer in the next interview. Review your previous volunteer experience to recall your self-confidence!
Know Where to Look
Strike a balance between looking at the camera and the interviewers. Although you are not making eye contact in the traditional sense, this is the way that the interviewers perceive and understand that you are interacting with them. With that said, be aware of staring at the video camera too much because I found that looking at the screen sometimes can normalize the tension between you and the interviewers. You want to create an engaging interview time instead of making an intense conversation with the interviewers. What I did was, I looked at the camera when I was answering questions and looked at the screen when the interviewers were asking questions, so that I can have a little gap to relax and feel more comfortable.
Pro tip: Elevate your laptop to eye level by stacking books or boxes underneath it.
Be Aware of What's in Frame
Your outfits and background still matters. Be mindful of interruptions from your family members or roommates. If you are not comfortable with showing your house’s background, create a customized background with your own logo. Make sure it is simple and professional. I created my own background with a simple faded grey image and my logo to associate with my job application design to make myself more memorable.
Pro tip: Master your lighting by getting plenty of light overall or even position two lights.
Prepare Technology Requirements Well Before the Interview
Install the necessary software or sign up for an account on the platform your interviewer is using in advance. I remember a time when the Wi-Fi was down in my residential area an hour before an interview. I was very frustrated as you could imagine because the situation was very unexpected! Thankfully, I had installed Zoom and Microsoft Teams the day before the interview. I was able to attend the interview with my mobile data.
Pro tip: Test your gear, video, and audio. Use earbuds or headphones to enhance your audio quality.
Use Notes or Cue Cards
The biggest benefits of a virtual interview is that the interviewer cannot see what is not on camera. Thus, take advantage of your interview space and make answer notes. In my experience, I used cue cards to analyze the specific duties and responsibilities on the job description and formulate my answers. As you can see the image below, I wrote social media management experience in one of my cue cards so that I can answer the interview questions confidently when the interviewers ask about the related skills and experience.
Pro tip: Take a pause when you face difficult questions – it demonstrates confidence and that you are taking the questions carefully and seriously. You can also take notes during the interview to capture key information and do not be afraid of asking clarification of the questions.
Bring Extra Enthusiasm and Be Present
Your facial expressions or reactions translate differently when on-screen. I put a smiley face sticker next to my laptop so that I would not forget to smile and show my passions during the interviewer. I used to feel uncomfortable and tongue-tied when public speaking, but I began pushing myself a little further when attending virtual interviews. For instance, I took the initiative and sought the employers’ permission to present my personal pitch to give them an overview of my experience. This way, I had more control on my first impression, boosted my confidence, and demonstrated my creativity! You can see my personal pitch below:
Now, all you need to do is keep applying for jobs, practice for your interviews, and take good care of yourself! Fingers crossed!
This blog was originally posted on the SFU Surrey-TD Community Engagement Centre website on January 28, 2021.