How to get a new job remotely

Jun 30, 2020
The pandemic has changed how we work, meet up with friends and see family. It has also changed the recruitment process. Here is all you need to know about remote job interviews.

Words by Sinead Smith, Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO

The new normal? The now normal? Whatever it is that we are calling it, there isn't one area of our lives that has remained untouched by COVID-19. We have been asked to bend but not break, pivot but not fall and nothing has required more reactivity, proactivity and creativity than our approach to work. 

Technology made it possible for businesses to respond quickly and effectively when the call to batten down the hatches came through in mid-March. Zoom, the popular video conferencing software, reported a 50% growth to 500 million users in April 2020 while Microsoft Teams experienced a 70% jump to 75 million daily users in the same month. These apps have allowed our businesses to stay open, our clients to feel engaged and our teams to remain collaborative. Crucially, they have also made it possible for companies to continue to interview, hire and onboard talent remotely. 

The setup

Technology is great until it’s not. How many times has your WiFi dropped during a Netflix binge or your phone died mid-call? Now imagine those things happening during a remote interview – stressful, to say the least! However, there are some things that you can do before your interview to futureproof yourself against the frustration of frozen video or patchy audio. 

  • Make sure that you have access to a strong WiFi connection. You can test your WiFi capabilities using a tool like Ookla. If it suggests a problem, reboot your router and try again.
  • Sit as close to the router as is reasonable while ensuring that your background is appropriate (more on this below).
    If your house historically has poor phone signal, don’t hope for the best at this important moment. Get out in the car and drive to somewhere that will allow you to take the call uninterrupted or use a landline if you have one.
  • Test the software or app beforehand with a friend – make sure you know how to access the video, that your webcam is working and that you have any dial-in information to-hand.
  • Place your phone on silent and turn off any notifications that may have audible alerts. 
Setting up for a remote interview is also about the aesthetics of the space around you. Consider what is in the background of your picture. Ideally, sit against a blank wall but, if that is not possible, ensure that what is behind you is neat and orderly. You should sit facing a window or suitable light source – don't allow yourself to be backlit as it will cast you in shadow. Try to avoid echoey rooms and make sure that anyone else in the house understands to stay quiet. 

The conduct 

A common refrain from both candidates and clients has been that video interviews have dismantled some of the more uptight elements of the traditional interview process. Gone is the stock artwork, the straight-backed chairs and vast boardroom tables. In their stead are squishy sofas, fridge magnets, family photographs and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Getting that glimpse into the humanity, the personality and the identity of whom you are speaking with engenders a sense of ease and relatability. Having that visual reminder of this shared experience – the very reason you are interviewing from your home – can bypass some of the more conventional interview speak and lead to more open, fruitful conversations. 

However, be warned: don’t allow a shared taste in IKEA armchairs to blind you to the fact that you are still interviewing. You are still being assessed. You are still expected to perform and to sell your experience. Likewise, the client is still expected to properly inform you about the company, the culture and the role. 
  • Be professional but, don’t be afraid to be friendly – you already know at least one thing you have in common with your interviewer so don’t be afraid to ask after them and how they’ve found the transition from work to home. It will help break the ice.
  • Dress professionally – don't be tempted to be all “business on the top, pyjamas on the bottom” just because you are sitting down. Dress as you would for any interview.
  • Give good listening cues and posture – nod, smile, sit up straight and try to maintain eye contact.
  • Speak clearly and be aware of any delays, static or patchy connections that may impact communication.

The follow-up

As with any interview, the follow-up is key so, don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a different mindset just because it wasn’t an in-person meeting. If you are represented by a recruitment consultant, provide feedback on how you felt it went and your interest levels. This will allow them to revert to the client for reciprocal feedback and keep the process moving. If you have applied directly for a role, it is a nice touch to drop a polite email the next day to HR or the Hiring Manager and thank them for their time, reiterate your interest and ask for feedback.