Interviewing during COVID-19 introduces a whole new level of complexity to the process for both employers and job seekers. During a recent call I had with an executive we were preparing for an in-person interview, I was asked, “What’s the etiquette for the interviews? Should I wear a mask?”
Here’s my best advice for navigating interviewing during COVID-19:
Interview remotely if possible
Since the pandemic started, we’ve had some of our client organizations successfully hire candidates with 100% remote interviews. In some instances, our candidates have made relocation decisions without ever visiting in-person by relying on remote site-visits, virtual community tours, and virtual house hunting. While some organizations and candidates are comfortable with a 100% remote hiring process, understandably we’re also seeing some that aren’t comfortable progressing without the reassurance of a face-to-face final interview. If you have any concerns about an in-person interview, make sure you advise your potential employer and see if they’ll accommodate virtual interviews. Most employers are extremely understanding in the current environment. We’ve seen organizations be especially flexible for candidates that are transparent about having a high-risk family member or other reason for needing to be extra diligent about staying healthy and avoiding potential exposure to COVID-19.
Ask your recruitment contact what the protocols will be for interviewing on-site during COVID-19
Many of our client organizations have added information to their careers page on their website about the ways they’ve changed their hiring process in response to the pandemic and what job seekers can expect from them when interviewing during COVID-19. Be your own advocate and if the organization doesn’t have current information on their website, call ahead of time and ask what their policies are. To assist my candidate, I called the hiring organization to ask what their office protocols would be during the individual and team interviews of the candidate. They assured me there would be a “6-foot rule” during all interviews (even during team interviews in a conference room). Interviewers and the interviewee could wear masks if they felt more comfortable. Armed with this information, the candidate was able to prepare accordingly.
Wear your mask
Ideally, you’ll hear from the employer that everyone will be wearing a mask during your interviews. In that case you should absolutely wear one or you risk looking inconsiderate and cavalier about the pandemic.
Even if the employer you’re interviewing with doesn’t have a mask requirement, my team and I highly recommend you wear one when interviewing during COVID-19 to protect your health. To ensure your mask doesn’t put you at a disadvantage in your interview:
- Obviously, you’ll be wearing a suit to your interview. It should go without saying, but your mask should also be “professional.” Don’t attempt to make a statement with your mask but rather look for a solid colored mask or a mask with a small, simple pattern.
- The way you carry yourself will be more important than ever. Practice good posture, and ensure you carry yourself confidently.
- Masks slightly muffle our voices; put a bit more power and volume in your voice when wearing your mask to an interview.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- Masks make it harder to see the non-verbal cues your interviewers are projecting. It will be harder for you to tell they’re smiling to let you know that you hit a home-run response to a question, or have a puzzled look letting you know your response may have been off-base. You’ll need to listen more attentively than usual and may need to ask more questions to determine what your interviewers are thinking.
- Nearly everyone is more stressed than normal right now and potentially experiencing feelings of fear, uncertainty, loss, or loneliness. Be extra patient when interacting with others including your interviewers.
Final thoughts on interviewing during COVID-19:
The interview process is going to look different for the foreseeable future. Your goal hasn’t changed despite all the new challenges of interviewing during COVID-19. Ultimately, you need to convey to the employer “if you hire me, you’ll get these specific benefits” which is key to getting the job offer.
Here are some additional resources to help you succeed in your job interviews:
Written by Steve Bennett, Vice President of Kirby Partners