‘Cheat’ Your Way to a Great Remote Job Interview

‘Cheat’ Your Way to a Great Remote Job Interview
Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock
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Chances are that if you’ve landed a job interview in this pandemic-stricken economy, you’re doing it over a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Google Meet. But even if you’re a friendly type who thrives off the organic energy of face-to-face interaction, the remote interview format can work to your advantage.

Though you can’t convey that gregarious attitude IRL, there’s a tactic you can use that’s invisible to the people on the other side of your screen, and it involves referencing cues that only you can see. I’m talking, of course, about literally having notes off camera that you can subtly refer to in case you veer off track.

There’s nothing wrong with this

For some reason, referring to notes during an interview is often viewed as gauche, like a way of cheating by failing to remember the perfect script to perform before an audience. Screw all that. It’s impossible to know everything that an interviewer is going to ask you, so referencing various general instructions off camera is a way to keep your mind at ease if a curveball is thrown in your direction.

Of course, don’t be too reliant on the notes you’ve prepared, but consider them supplements that merely bolster the larger talking points you’ve already mastered. The notes can contain facts about the person (or people) interviewing you, information about the company, and reminders to talk about certain accomplishments and attributes you think will help your chances.

Position them off camera

Practically speaking, you want these notes — whether they’re Post-Its, small sheets of paper, or whatever format you’d like — positioned away from view of your webcam. That’s pretty easy, as you can tape them to a wall behind your computer, or just have them laid out on a table either to the left or right of your screen. Another key note: Always use a marker that you can easily read at a glance. You don’t want to rely on them like some kind of teleprompter, so keep the directives big and bold enough to absorb discretely.

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Also, remember the basics

It’s always good to gloss over the basic etiquette of nailing a job interview over video. When you’re not glancing at your notes every now and then — remember, don’t make it too obvious! — make sure to look into your webcam. The webcam projects the image that the other people on the call actually see, and it makes more sense to set your gaze toward them as opposed to having a wandering eye.

Additionally, make sure you’re in a quiet place with good lighting, as people need to see you, obviously. Wear clothing you might wear to in-person job interview. If it’s a group interview, mute your microphone if there are long periods in which you’re not speaking. When it’s time to thank them for their time and sign off, do so with a wave, which is the clearest way you can demonstrate that you know the interview is over.

We’ve been living through this marathon pandemic for over a year now, so we all understand the basics of videoconferencing, but having notes on hand, positioned away from the camera, will only help your chances of maintaining poise when virtually interviewing for your next job.

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