With no end to the health crisis in sight, it’s clear that using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, Google Meet, and many other video conferencing platforms will be part of the “new normal” work experience for the foreseeable future. For those new to the job market, this trend will include remote job interviews.
Interviewing for a new job is stressful enough in the best of circumstances. It’s especially fraught when you face the double whammy of a health-economic crisis. For one thing, the stakes are higher. With the unemployment rate topping 10%, there are many more job seekers per job opening than there were prior to the pandemic. Adding in a remote interviewing component is bound to challenge job seekers of all stripes because it introduces so many more opportunities for things to go wrong.
But things don’t have to go wrong. If you know how to prepare, there is a lot you can control. And what you can’t control you can manage. If you’re fresh to the job market it is worth reviewing some best practices about remote interviewing to make sure you avoid the most common gaffes and put your best foot (face?) forward.
Before you do anything else, make sure you are comfortable with the technology you will be using. Make sure to download the required app well in advance of the interview so that you aren’t caught needing to update your software minutes before you are supposed to go live. Showing up late to an interview is a cardinal sin – even when the reason for your lateness is that you were struggling to get the video technology to work.
Test your mic, your camera, and your connectivity. Are your voice and image clear? Are you framed well? (The top of your head should be half an inch from the top of the screen.) Ideally, you will be looking neither up nor down at the camera, but straight into it. And make sure your lighting is good. If you’ve got a light source behind or to the side of you, you risk looking like a ninja, like you have a halo, or are the subject of an artistic exercise in chiaroscuro. All of them are distracting. The best practice is to be lit from the front, near a window, if possible. Everyone looks better in natural light.
Ask a friend to help you test things out to be absolutely certain that you are ready before your interview. Attention to these details are the low-hanging fruit of remote interview prep. Failing to do them could signal a fatal lack of preparedness to your interviewer…and first impressions are lasting.
One big difference between in-person and remote interviewing is that you bear all the responsibility of managing the visual perspective that a hiring manager has of you. That’s not limited to your attire, which is still as important as ever, by the way (at least from the waist up). It also includes the backdrop of your living environment.
Many people new to video conferencing have unwittingly displayed their unmade bed, streaking toddlers, family squabbles, or worse during a call.
“I was once in a corporate meeting with several people, including one guy whose roommate began using the toilet behind him without closing the door,” said Anne Lipsitz, executive career consultant at The Barrett Group. “He had no idea what was happening behind him, and it was pretty awkward when we suggested he close the bathroom door during our meeting.
Auditory distractions – like barking dogs, crying babies, and door bells chiming – should also be managed as much as possible. When in doubt, keep yourself muted at all times except when you are speaking.
Many online conferencing platforms have a designated button on the keyboard for quick mute/unmute function, like the space bar for Zoom, or the “M” key for Bluejeans. Make sure you know which button to use during your call and employ it as necessary.
If you like to use headphones during video calls, best to ask permission before your interview, to ensure they won’t divert your interviewer’s attention. In short, the rule of thumb is to minimize any possible distractions lest they become things by which your interviewer judges you.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Controlling for potential problems is crucial, nevertheless, the best laid plans often go awry. How you handle those situations matter. When things go south unexpectedly, make sure you have a contingency plan. If a sudden hurricane comes through and wipes out your power, make sure you have a phone number to let your interviewer know that there is a problem.
In the world of remote working, an embarrassing family interruption is much more likely than a hurricane, as demonstrated by the now famous BBC interview of a man whose segment was disrupted by the hilarious appearance of his two young children bursting into his office, and the even funnier commotion of his wife skidding into the scene to hustle them out.
It’s a very bad interview when no one remembers – or even cares – about your comments because something more interesting has happened over your shoulder. So how to handle it?
“Acknowledge it and absolutely own it,” said Annie Meisels, an actress and public speaking coach whose business, A Powerful Voice, now caters to workers trying to connect with others in a virtual setting. “If you seem embarrassed, it becomes a negative. But if you own it, you don’t look bad – you look human. Introduce your child or your dog to your onscreen audience, crack a joke, then try to move forward smoothly.”
Done right, the situation could end up demonstrating some pretty great characteristics about you, like adaptability, humor, and grace under pressure – all highly valuable assets during the current crisis. It may even help build a human connection with your interviewer – which is much more difficult to do remotely than in an in-person setting.
Try to Make a Human Connection
You absolutely have to work harder to make a human connection through a screen. A number of studies suggest that a huge percentage of interpersonal communication is non-verbal, and during a remote interview you don’t have the luxury of a handshake, a walk down a hallway, or a leisurely lunch. You have 30-60 minutes to be authentic, and small details count more than you think.
“Project your voice! Make sure you are articulating well,” said Lipsitz. “And be mindful of where your eyes are – try to look at the camera and not at the image of your interviewer or of yourself more than necessary. It’s as important to get people at “Hello” in a video interview as in real life, so you need to seem attentive, responsive, and have a smile in your eyes.”
People who aren’t naturally high energy personalities might need to fake it lest they come across as disinterested and lose an edge to their competition. Tricks include leaning in to show interest, deliberately varying your vocal range, and asking conversational questions that can connect you to your interviewer. Try to prepare some appropriate anecdotes that might help your interviewer relate more to you. People who reveal personal information about themselves are more likely to feel a human connection.
By the way, if you want to take notes, ask permission so that your interview doesn’t think you’re distracted, unengaged or – worse – checking your phone. Set expectations up front to avoid judgement.
With luck, the next time you’re planning to change jobs, you will have the option to interview in person. Likelier than not, however, remote interviews are here to stay in some form. Not to worry – with an eye to these basic tips, and a little practice, you can be as successful in your job interviews whether they’re conducted live at an office or remotely from your home.
BLM protests successfully put the issue of racism and racial prejudice front and center in the national debate in the same way that the #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual harassment and gender bias in 2018. In the wake of these protests, employers will surely feel pressure to recruit and promote more Blacks, as well as other underrepresented groups.
As with women, a redress is way overdue for Blacks in the workplace. Last December a significant study about the status of corporate diversity efforts in the U.S. found that Blacks face myriad obstacles to professional advancement and workplace success that Whites just don’t experience – and don’t even see. The report, “Being Black in Corporate America,” which was produced by the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit group focused on workplace diversity, included these key findings:
Blacks, who comprise over 13% of the U.S. population, occupy only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S.
58% of Blacks, on average, have experienced racial prejudice at work, with that number reaching as high as 79% in the Midwest.
Fewer than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black – at last count there were only five. (According to Fortune Magazine, there have only been 18 Black CEOs at the head of Fortune 500 companies in the past 20 years.)
If you’re a jobseeker, lack of diversity is a critical issue regardless of your skin color, gender, or sexual persuasion. Why? Because studies prove that companies that are racially and ethnically diverse perform better than companies that aren’t. They also show that companies with weak track records on diversity have a competitive disadvantage. Can you say “job security?”
The Covid-19 crisis will likely make or break many companies. Finding solutions to the challenges they face will require innovations and new approaches that a diverse workforce can bring most effectively. Therefore, jobseekers of all demographics would be smart to target diverse companies in their job search.
In short, companies that aren’t diverse may not have much of a future.
Diversity to the Rescue
It might seem an inauspicious time – the middle of a pandemic that has sent the economy reeling – for supporters of diversity to be pressing their case. Companies often lose focus on their diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals during economic downturns as they face other pressing challenges. That was certainly true during the 2007 financial crisis.
But now is exactly the right time for companies to ramp up their efforts to improve D&I according to global consulting firm, McKinsey.
McKinsey, which tracks corporate diversity, found in its latest report, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, that the business case for diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever. When it comes to gender, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile – up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014. It also found that the greater the representation of women, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.
When it comes to ethnic and cultural diversity, the results were even more impressive. Top quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability. That is up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014.
On the flip side, companies that ranked low on gender and ethnic diversity faced a steep penalty. They were 27% more likely to underperform on profitability than all other companies.
So, what’s the secret sauce in diversity? Quite simply, diversity unlocks potential. Novel products and solutions are created when people of varied experiences bring new ideas to the table.
Consider the Broadway hit, Hamilton, for example. A highlight of the Fourth of July weekend for many people was the opportunity to stream Hamilton on Disney+. The show, written by a Latino, featured the original cast, of which nearly everyone was either Black or a person of color.
That might seem ironic for a show that features the white men that were America’s Founding Fathers. But very quickly skin color takes a backseat to a unique retelling of the country’s nascence, and the West Indian immigrant at the heart of it, because it is performed in an incredibly creative, unconventional way.
The success of Hamilton is a good example of how diversity, and the fresh ideas that accompany it, can take shake up an institution – in this case, the Broadway musical industry – and create a new formula for success. After all, who would ever have guessed that a historical epic about a White man and his penchant for policymaking told through hip-hop and rap – musical styles that originated with young, urban, Blacks – would become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time?
Another key finding in studies about corporate diversity is that sometimes diversity isn’t enough. Workers in diverse environments won’t give their best performance if they don’t also feel included. Inclusion means a sense of fairness of advancement opportunity, freedom from bias, and an ability to be themselves.
Workers of all stripes who feel a lack of inclusion or belonging will be less engaged in their work, less loyal, and less likely to stay at a company. In fact, they are less likely to even pursue a job at an organization if they perceive that organization to be non-inclusive. Women, LGBTQ+ and racial or ethnic-minorities are particularly prone to feeling a lack of inclusion, but workers in all demographics report a lack of belonging at work.
It’s bad news for everyone at a company when a portion of the workforce isn’t engaged. Imagine trying to execute a project when your team members are thinking more about leaving the company than about their responsibilities.
As a jobseeker, it’s not easy to ascertain indicators of inclusion at a company from the outside. But looking at the diversity of people at all levels is a good start – especially the executive level. Look for processes and policies that promote equality of opportunity and transparency. You should also look at who is accountable for D&I efforts. Ideally, they will be on the plate of core-business leaders and not just relegated to the HR department.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the numerous crises our country faces simultaneously: a pandemic, an economic crisis, and race protests roiling the nation. But it will be a silver lining, to be sure, if the intersection of these events results in employers taking significantly greater steps towards advancing diversity and inclusion goals.
Doing so will benefit not only underrepresented groups, it will also benefit workers of every demographic. Best of all, the innovation and creativity it ushers in will position companies to survive, thrive, and, if necessary, rethink their entire business models.
In short, diversity in the workplace will be a win-win-win.
The employment numbers for May are still ugly, but by this point they shouldn’t shock anyone. Economists have been telegraphing for the past two months that the economic worst of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic is yet to come. If Goldman Sachs is to be believed, the economic worst has arrived – with GDP shrinking to unprecedented lows and unemployment stretching to unprecedented highs.
But there is a silver lining to bottoming out. Now begins the upswing.
To be sure, the labor market has borne the biggest brunt of the economic downturn. In just eleven weeks the unemployment rate has rocketed from one of the lowest it’s ever been to one of the highest it’s ever been.
We can all take heart in the indicators suggesting that the second half of the year will be better, and that investors expect unemployment to improve relatively quickly. But, let’s not kid ourselves – business in the post-Covid world is likely to be dramatically different, and some of the hardest hit industries – amusement parks, movie theaters, hotels, clothing stores, and airlines – may not recover for some time, if ever.
Other industries will rebound, however, as will companies that are bold and agile enough to adapt to a new business-as-usual. The employment market, too, will likely transform, with job opportunities growing and declining in unexpected places and ways. Jobseekers who know where to look will have an edge.
The breathtaking speed with which the pandemic swept the globe caught everyone off guard and every sector has been affected. Industries such as Video Conferencing & Software Developers, which enjoyed an overnight surge (growth is up 19.1% in 2020 so far), have even faced unique challenges (think Zoom). Still, the pandemic and the uncertainties about when it will end creates better conditions for some businesses than others.
Top performing industries to date according to industry research platform, Vertical IQ, include liquor stores, fruit and vegetable manufacturers, grocery stores, home centers and hardware stores, internet, TV, and mail order retailers, janitorial services, paper products manufacturers, and pet food manufacturers.
Focus on remote working
Going forward, industries and businesses that support the exigencies of social distancing and the practice of spending more time at home – be it for work, schooling, or entertainment – will make out well, especially in the short term.
According to industry market researcher, IBISWorld, which offers specific analysis of the coronavirus impact on individual industries, technology will be a sure winner, especially software and systems that facilitate remote business continuity, unified communications-as-a-service platforms, and cloud computing capabilities.
Other industries with a rosy outlook will include online furniture sales (for remote workers setting up home offices), and Employee Assistance Program Services (for the anticipated uptick in mental health issues associated with remote working and quarantining).
Because many educational institutions will continue remote learning into the fall, online tutoring services and educational consultants (to help train teachers and administrators in online teaching) are expected to see greater demand.
Retail stores have shuttered, but online shopping has surged – a trend that is expected to grow. Online grocery shopping, in particular, is booming. Compared to pre-Covid days when just 11% of consumers bought groceries online, in the four weeks ending April 7 more than half of shoppers reported placing an online grocery order – 33% of them first-timers to online grocery shopping!
Besides groceries and tangible goods, people are also consuming all kinds of media online, especially video streaming services and video games.
Business advisory services
Not surprisingly, many businesses will be seeking advisory assistance on whether to maintain operations and how best to do so. Management consulting, accounting services, and other advisory service businesses, therefore, will likely see a boost in demand.
Demand for Janitorial Services and other industries involved with the prevention of infection will boom as state and local economies open and try to stem fears by a wary public.
Industries related to medical instrument and supply manufacturing, medical services, software, medical supplies, and, especially, labor in the healthcare field will see a rise in demand. In addition, many medical providers can expect to see a surge of caseloads by patients who opted to put off discretionary procedures until after the pandemic peaked.
The pandemic has also supercharged the prospects for telehealth. McKinsey recently reported that “Covid-19 has caused a massive acceleration in the use of telehealth. Consumer adoption has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.”
Industries Likely to Sink
In the post-Covid world there are many industries that jobseekers should think twice about targeting. In fact, when it comes to sinking and swimming, Forbes contributor Stephen McBride minces no words: “For many industries, this crisis will prove to be the final nail in the coffin. [Three] industries will NEVER return to what they once were,” he writes.
These industries are:
Movie Theaters – Why risk infection when you can stream movies at home?
Department Stores – Many first-time online shoppers will eschew shopping in physical stores now that they know how convenient online shopping is.
Office Space Operators – The growing awareness that widespread remote working will be part of the “new normal” means many businesses won’t renew their office leases.
Many industries will take years to regain their former strength, especially if human contact is important to the business. Leisure & Hospitality, for example, was hit harder than any other industry, with unemployment reaching nearly 40% (see graph). And because travel has dried up, demand for hotel rooms and restaurant seats may not rebound for a long time. Individual hotels and major operators are projecting occupancies below 20%, a reality that may force many to close. According to IBISWorld, sector revenue is forecast to decline 11.2% in 2020.
Within this industry are subgroups, such as performing arts, spectator sports, museums, amusement parks and national and state parks. Some will fare better than others, but all will face challenges going forward.
This sector is victim to substantially reduced industrial and consumer spending. According to IBISWorld, revenue for this sector is forecast to decline 18.4% in 2020. The segment of the industry related to medical supplies, however, will be an outlier in the overall decline.
This sector is volatile in the best of circumstances, and pre-Covid it was already facing stagnant productivity, low levels of digitization, and low profitability according to global management consulting company McKinsey. It was ripe for disruption, and the pandemic will force it to innovate if it is to fully recover. The sector revenue is forecast to decline 6.8% in 2020.
On the upside, low mortgage rates and pent up demand will kick in once the larger economy recovers. Moreover, public investment and infrastructure projects are sorely needed in the U.S. Initiative on these is unlikely before the presidential election, but if the government moves forward on projects in 2021, it could offer a lot of employment opportunity.
Automakers have started to reopen plants, but continuing supply chain and health safety concerns, not to mention waning consumer demand, will continue to hamper the recovery of this industry.
The air travel industry will be even more vulnerable. Revenue is expected to decline 6.3% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 fallout. U.S. airlines carried 51% fewer scheduled service passengers in March 2020 than a year earlier – the largest year-to-year decrease on record and the lowest level of air travel in almost two decades. Demand is unlikely to recover without a concurrent rise in consumer sentiment and improved economic conditions.
Accelerating Trends and Paradigm Shifts
It’s important to keep in mind that the pandemic isn’t fully responsible for the trajectory of a given industry. New trends in the global order of business have been underway for years thanks to advances in digital technology. Analysts say the pandemic is simply accelerating these trends.
The result may well be a paradigm shift.
“Covid-19 will force a rebirth of many industries…, re-assessing and re-imagining modes of consumption, supply, interaction and productivity,” writes Mohit Joshi, president of global technology firm, Infosys Limited, in his article, Who will be the winners in a post-pandemic economy?
As counterintuitive as it may seem, now is a great time for talented workers to consider a career change. No matter the industry, companies will survive based on the choices they make now, and choosing good talent is paramount.
McKinsey notes in a recent report that “forward-looking companies know that…the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgement, and creativity that people bring to work…This means getting the right people in the right roles to create value.”
This is good news for jobseekers, but they shouldn’t forget that, like companies, those with a healthy combination of resilience, agility and a willingness to adapt to the new normal will be the most successful.
Does your job search seem to be a series of complex activities and programs? A list of ever-changing To-do’s and To-don’ts? Can it appear to have a life of its own? Does it feel like it is out of your sphere of influence? You might perceive that you live in a world of reaction, where each day blindsides you with a new and unexpected frustration. Or you may feel that your job search is more like living in a “Murphy’s Law” situation where anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
But, there is a cure.
In Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism, we are told that the seen and unseen world can be divided into two groups: those things we can influence and those that we cannot.
Even if you do not follow the philosophy of mystical enlightenment, let’s see how we can use the reasoning behind it and apply it to your job search.
Take a moment and think about your day, breathing in and out.
As you see yourself getting organized for your day, take a few minutes to visualize the events and people that may impact you, through planned meetings, emails, televisions broadcasts, alert notifications or serendipity/the pipeline/LinkedIn connections, etc… and breathe.
Now deliberately plan the positive… and breathe. Plan the active steps you are going to take to improve your positioning through each of your interactions.
If you feel your human nature beginning to erode your newfound purposefulness and you allow fear of rejection and faith in all things Murphy to bring in the clouds…. stop a minute. Take a deep, cleansing breath and…
Let it wash over you like the cleansing waters of the…okay, right, so just let it wash over you, we’ll hope for the best on that one…. and breathe.
Let go of all the things you cannot control. Let go of any fear and frustration that appeared… and breathe. Let go of other’s reactions. Let go of outside influences that cause chaos in your day. Let it go, all of it.
Let it go… And breathe.
Do you feel better after that exercise? Did you find a better realization of your influences and the things you are able to control? Maybe. Maybe not.
But whether or not that exercise helped center you, we hope that you realize that there are things in life (and the job search) that you cannot possibly predict, control or directly influence. The Barrett Group’s recommendation is to observe, witness, and watch it go by (really, all of it).
Then after it goes by, take a sober, critical look at what is left. Realistically decide what you can do now or in the future. Come to a practical resolution of actionable tasks that will make a difference for you, the ones you love, and the world.
Then do it!
We would be interested in hearing from you if you are having problems with your job search technique, or if you believe it will never work, or if you could use guidance.
The Barrett Group can refine your job search, allowing you to take control of what matters most to you while releasing those circumstances that are beyond your control. Contact us today to get started.
Are you in a midlife career change? Are you changing careers at 30, 40 or 50 years of age? Do you need a new career? If you are currently experiencing difficulty in your job search, we’re here to help. Please send a message with your information or call.