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Social Graces: Here’s how to come across as personable during a virtual job interview

·4 min read

Q: How can you come across as personable during a job interview on the phone during the pandemic?

A: Simple — stay upbeat and positive. Likewise, be empathetic and take a genuine interest in others: Ask how your interviewers are doing, let them know that you hope they are staying safe and busy, and inquire as to what’s new and happening at their firm.

Times are challenging for everyone, but it’s important to remember: While change and disruption can be scary for many, they can also prove powerful catalysts for growth and innovation. Noting this, it pays to be an optimist, and relentlessly practical here — after all, interviewers are always on the lookout for clever problem-solvers and go-getters who can find ways to turn lemons into lemonade.

A can-do attitude and honest concern for others will take you far here, as will finding common topics of interest or shared experiences to build kinship. For example, millions of us have been on an “extended vacation” working from home since last March, just as millions of working parents know what it’s like to try to get through a workday while constantly being interrupted by pets and children.

The more upbeat you are, the more relatable you are, and the more you can reinforce that you’ve been using time spent away from the office to learn new skills, engage in professional development or pursue new projects, the more approachable and resilient that you’ll appear.

Remember: Leadership isn’t always about bold strokes or grand gestures. Sometimes, it’s just about finding ways to make the best of a bad situation or put one foot in front of the other. And we all go through ups and downs in lives and careers: The world’s most successful individuals continually get ahead by getting back up, dusting themselves off, and continuing to push forward if they ever stumble or get knocked down. You can score major points in a job interview — and quickly establish leadership potential — simply by showing that you’re the sort of person who knows that every cloud comes with a silver lining.

— Scott Steinberg, CEO, BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development

A: If you have the option of doing a video interview or a phone interview, I recommend you choose video because it’s easier to forge a personal and real relationship with the interviewer.

Before your interview, do some research on the company and your interviewer.

Think about how you present yourself. When you’re in a job interview, you have to realize you’re selling yourself and your experience, and why you should be hired over anyone else. It’s really important to make personal connections before you go into sales mode. Make sure you ask how your interviewer is doing. It can be open-ended, such as asking about the interviewer’s experience working from home.

Once you’ve got the job interview, that means you’re already qualified. And so at that point, you need to differentiate yourself. You have to show your work ethic and positive attitude. Most people who are seasoned at hiring are going to know that if you don’t hire someone with a positive attitude, one sour attitude can spoil a whole bunch. One of the hardest things to know when you’re hiring potential employees is their work ethic: Are they passionate about their work, or do they have a TGIF mentality?

During the interview, if you lose your train of thought or don’t fully understand the question being asked, it’s always OK to ask the interviewer to repeat the question. Or you can rephrase the question and say it back; this shows you’re an active listener.

When finishing your interview, you’ll most likely be asked if you have any questions. You never want to say you don’t have any questions because it looks as if you didn’t do your research. Make sure you ask at least two open-ended questions, not yes or no questions.

At the end of the interview, look at the interviewer, or smile through the phone if it’s a phone interview, and say, “You know, part of the reason I love XYZ company is (and say something specific). I’d really love the opportunity to work with you and your colleagues.”

Also have your thank-you note ready before the interview, so that immediately afterward, you can add something that you and the interviewer talked about and send it within an hour. This will also help you stand out.

— Samantha Ettus, work/life balance expert and author of “The Pie of Life”