Succeed with Your Online Interview

Portrait of happy beautiful stylish young woman in glasses sitting, looking at her laptop screen on video call and giving hand to handshake, toothy smile.

In a world where COVID-19 is disrupting the way we conduct business, candidates and recruiters are participating in online interviews now more than ever. It is still essential to have an impeccable resume and tailored cover letter so that candidates can stand out from other competitors and secure an interview. Once granted the interview, be ready with the following tips for online interview success.

 It starts with contact

The online interview typically starts with an initial phone call from the recruiter, followed by an email invitation. 

If the recruiter misses connecting with you, your voicemail should be professional, free from background noise, and most importantly NOT FULL. Once you have received the call, spoken with the recruiter, and scheduled the online interview, you must prepare.

Pictures Say 1000 Words

Similar preparation should occur as you would for an in-person interview. You will select clothing and accessories that represent you well and give you confidence. 

Also, you will select a location for the interview that is clutter-free and has a digital connection that will be uninterrupted. Some services offer a blurred background. If you cannot blur your background, make sure the items behind you do not distract from your interview. If you are living in a place with other people, be sure that your interview location is away from interruptions.  

Practice Makes Perfect

Next, practice a conversation with a friend on the platform—whether it is Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. By practicing communication, you will note where to look while speaking. Many candidates look down at the screen when speaking instead of into the camera, which can be distracting. This dry run also provides you with an opportunity to see how you will appear on the screen and your background.  

Be Prepared 

Research the firm thoroughly before the interview. List out questions you might have. Google top interview questions and be ready to answer the “Tell Me About Yourself” question concisely and with energy. Print your resume and cover letter and review these before the interview. I recommend preparing 3 to 4 stories about yourself that convey your strengths. You can incorporate these into the answers you provide, which will help you become more memorable with the recruiter.  

You should have your resume, cover letter, and any samples that are relevant to your interview saved in a location on your computer that is easily accessible so that you can share documents with ease if asked to do so.

Be Respectful

Respect the recruiter’s time. Be on time. Just like in a face-to-face interview, be ready 15 minutes early. When you connect on the call, you will have already set yourself up for success because you look great, you prepared, you have tested the technology, and all of that proactive work will pay off because the confidence you have will show through.  

Good luck with your interviews.  

P.S. Remember to follow up with a well-written thank-you note.

Career Success Center FAQ’s COVID-19 Edition

Online job interview. Online conference. Business online.

How is the Career Success Center providing service during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Your Career Success Center at the University of St Francis is ready to assist you virtually. Students and alumni can submit resumes for review to careerservices@stfrancis.edu and can also request virtual appointments via https://stfrancis.joinhandshake.com/  or via email.

We can meet via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Our job board stfrancis.myhandshake.com is also available for Job search, use the same credentials you use to sign in to your classes with us. If you are considering a change in major, we offer career conversations and assessments too.

Reach out today and let us know how we can help. It is a great time to dust off old resumes or get yours started. Our Virtual Coffee and Careers meeting takes place on Tuesdays from 11 a.m.-Noon. Let us know where to send your invite. You can also call our Director, Maribeth Hearn, at 815-740-3384 to talk about services and programs.

What should I do for connection? 

LinkedIn

With much of the nation on a shelter in place order, you can use this time to connect with others online. We recommend reviewing your Linkedin profile, updating old information, adding certifications and keywords, and of course, connecting and building relationships with your network. If you can create useful content, do it. If you can like, comment or reshare a post, do it.

Support your people and stay positive.

If you don’t have a Linkedin profile set up—start one today. There is a free and paid version. Start with FREE and use it.

Zoom

If you haven’t already set up a Zoom account, you can connect with friends, family, and coworkers via the video chat service.

The quality is excellent, and you will feel more connected than just on a conference call or phone call.

Microsoft Teams

Similar to Zoom, Microsoft Teams has a video chat where you can stay connected and hold meetings online. It works very well and even allows you to blur your backgrounds (for those working from home settings). If you are managing a team remotely- this service can keep everyone in the loop and provide face to face virtual connection.

How Can I Use This Time to Make Me a Better Job Candidate?

It is a great time to update resumes, connect with new and existing contacts online, and learn.

If you have always been meaning to learn a new skill, this is the time. Interesting in learning a new language, download Duolingo. Between sites like YouTube, libraries with audiobooks, and online books and apps, you will find a plethora of ways to gain a competitive edge and use those new skills.

 Where Should I Look For Jobs?

The Career Success Center recommends that you use the Handshake job board at https://stfrancis.joinhandshake.com/ for jobs and internships.

Workforce Services Division of Will County has a job board too: http://www.jobs4people.org/job-seekers/job-board/

Whom Can I Talk To About Internship Questions?

Betty Kohl is the Career Success Center’s Employer & Internship Support Specialist. You can email at bkohl@stfrancis.edu   Her phone number is 815-740-4295.

The Center is in the process of updating the forms and how students will go about obtaining the 6 signatures that are required to start an internship.

You can search for Internships on the USF Handshake Job board at www.stfrancis.joinhandshake.com log in with your USF credentials.  You can choose connect with the Career Center and appointments to schedule one online.

Can I Drop Into the Office for Services?

The Career Success Center is working remotely to serve your needs and abide by the Shelter in Place directive. You can email careerservices@stfrancis.edu to schedule a one to one virtual appointment or call our Director, Maribeth Hearn 815-740-3384.  You can go to stfrancis.joinhandshake.com to schedule appointments too. Choose the service and it will show you availability.

Working from Home

WFH is a new experience for many employees due to COVID 19.  WFH can be a rewarding and positive experience. It can also be challenging and difficult to not only keep up with your work but to continue creating quality work too.

These five tips should help you establish some ground rules for yourself when working in your environment:

  • Be Disciplined – Create a schedule

Working from home means far more distractions and temptations than usual. There is no traffic to beat, no train to catch. It can be extremely easy to get distracted by household chores, family members and a full refrigerator.

Creating a schedule allows you to know exactly what time you should be awake and working, when your breaks are for your coffee etc. and when lunch is. You may think that you are disciplined enough to not need a schedule, but keeping to it keeps your mind sharp and will allow for an easier transition back to normal working life when things return to normal once more.

  • Location, Location, Location

Choosing the right place to complete your work is crucial. Work typically has less distractions than home; there is always something that you will find at home to do instead if you are in the wrong location. Do not use your bed as your workspace; make sure you are somewhere quiet, with good lighting if possible and away from any other distractions such as a television.

  • Set Priorities

Similar to working life at the office, some tasks are more important than others. Yet without the hierarchical framework of a traditional office, it can be difficult to prioritize tasks and organize your workflow. To-do lists, checklists, etc. are great ways of establishing a list of jobs to complete for the day or for a certain time-frame. Staying in touch with your team or superior is also important. Structuring your day around objectives set by yourself, fellow workers and your boss is crucial to success when working at home.

Just as important is knowing when to stop working for the day. It is dangerously easy to take work home with you when you are working from the kitchen or the living room. Once your allotted work hours are over or your to-do list is complete – stop.

  • Select the proper tools

Work from Home means using your furniture or creating your own desk space. You may not have the spinning, comfy office chair at home. But that doesn’t mean you cannot invest in one and any other equipment you may need that will make work-life just that little bit easier. A comfortable chair that allows your eyes to be at the computer screen level is important. You do not want to be slouched over or craning your neck to see your work. Finally, make sure you have the necessary tools and software at home to allow you to do your work. Without WIFI at home, most employees will not be able to accomplish much. Communicating with your work and supervisor often will allow you to keep updated on what software you need.

  • Practice Self – Care

Working from home tends to lead to fewer sick days and working through illnesses you normally would take off. Staying in tune with your energy levels and your well-being is of great importance, especially in current circumstances.

Job Searching in the LGBTQ Community

The LGBTQ community offers many resources for members of the community, especially in regards to job searching. While job searching, it is important to understand what resources are available and how to use them. Recently, legislation has been changing to put policies into place to protect the LGBT community in the workforce.

Some questions may arise such as:

Should I disclose my sexual orientation on my resume or in my interview?

How do I know if my employer is committed to equal practices?

How do I read the culture of the workplace?

How do I decide which employer will be right for me?

Searching for a job that will be a right fit for you and provide a welcoming environment doesn’t have to be difficult. So long as you are able to identify your career goals, and you utilize the resources provided to you, you should be successful in your job search. Below are some links to pages providing helpful information for LGBTQ candidates actively on the job search:

 

 

Student Alumni Mentoring Program at USF

We met with Aubrey Knight, Director of Alumni Services, to discuss the processes and benefits of the Student Alumni Mentoring Program, also known as “SAM” at University of St. Francis. The program matches students of all levels and majors with an alumnus in the same field to provide guidance, networking opportunities, and career opportunities. It is an opportunity for students to build connections with their mentors, other students’ mentors, as well as other students in the program.

How does the SAM program work?

Student and alumni both submit applications at the beginning of the school year (student applications are due October 4th). The applications are then looked at from a career standpoint first to pair students with alumni who are in the field that the student is pursuing. Next, the applications dive further into interests, hobbies, aspirations, etc. and these are also taken into consideration when making matches. It is important that the pairs have qualities in common to create that connection that will be beneficial to both the alum and the student.

What can students gain from the program?

Both parties gain access to an extensive professional network by participating in the SAM program. Along with gaining access to the alumni mentors, by connecting with them, you also gain access to their professional networks. Students also get one on one interaction with their mentor in the form of monthly communication for discussions and guidance.

What are the requirements?

For anyone interested in joining the program as an alumni mentor or a student mentee, an application must be submitted, and the pairing process takes about a month. Once students and alumni pair, they are sent an email with information about the mandatory induction dinner, held in early November where they will become acquainted with each other in person. After the induction dinner, it is only required that SAM members attend the Career Networking Dinner in February. Also, the pairs of students and alumni are to converse monthly; whether it be via email, text, face to face meeting, etc. Every month, members will receive an email containing discussion topics and resources to help ease the process. This program designed for the busy worker as well as the busy student keeps requirements low and communication open to accommodate busy schedules.

What are some successful outcomes of SAM?

There have been many success stories from the SAM program. One international student paired with the CFO of In-N-Out Burger, and the CFO took care of the student’s flight costs to fly out to California and participate in an internship with In-N-Out, that this student may not have been able to participate in given the flight costs. Also, a student who matched with an alumnus in Washington DC was able to utilize the alumni’s network to get an internship in Washington DC. These are just a couple of the many students who have gotten internships, jobs, and otherwise great benefits from the SAM program.

For more information, contact Aubrey Knight at aknight@stfrancis.edu or visit stfrancis.edu/sam

Don’t Bring Your Phone to an Interview

In preparing for the big interview, you make a mental checklist of everything you need: extra resume copies, business cards, notepad and pen, keys, phone… Phone? Do you need to bring your phone to your interview? In short, no.

First and foremost, you definitely shouldn’t be using your phone during an interview, checking your phone, or have your phone on the interview table. It creates a barrier between you and the interviewer, especially if it is in plain sight or being distracting by chirping throughout your interview. It is best to be turned off or silenced, and tucked away out of sight in a pocket or purse, or not on you at all.

Bringing your phone to the interview can relay a message about you: you aren’t trustworthy, you are dismissing towards the interviewer and the position, or that you just don’t care. The interviewer is looking for a candidate who is genuinely interested in the position, not somebody who would rather check Instagram than set aside 30 minutes of time to have a meaningful conversation.

On a recent episode of 20/20 with Diane Sawyer, interviewers are unsuspectingly interviewing recent graduates that are actually actors. They do a range of different things with their phone in the interview from putting it on the table and not touching it to taking a phone call during the interview. After, the recruiters were questioned on their thoughts about the actors; they described the phones as distracting. They confided that this is an often occurrence, and they dislike giving interviews to people who are distracted by their phones. They advised job seekers to not be on the phone while waiting for the interview and to keep it out of sight as a sign of respect so that the candidate can maintain eye contact and engage in the conversation

Overall, bringing your phone (and sometimes even smart watches) can hinder your chances of getting a job after the interview. Leave them on silent, out of sight, or even leave them at home if you can’t resist the urge to look at it in an interview.

Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are the skills that will help you to be successful at any job you may have. These are sometimes called soft skills and they include skills like emotional intelligence, communication and working with others. These skills can be attained from experience in different jobs, clubs, extracurricular or cocurricular activities, and volunteering.  Written and verbal communication, teamwork, and workplace adaptability are all great examples of transferable skills, and these skills will give you an advantage in your job search.

Highlighting your transferable skills during an interview can make or break your chances of getting the job, no matter what your previous experience is. Employers look for these skills to know that candidates can excel in the workplace. Employers may still hire candidates that don’t necessarily have experience in the field but still have the skills to be able to perform the job well. What they are looking for is potential; talk about the skills you acquired from experience and how they will relate to the job for which you are applying.

When you search for jobs review the job description and try to match your skills to the position. According to Forbes, these are some of the most common transferable skills that you can begin developing today (Yate,2018):

  • Technical
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Multitasking
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Leadership

We recommend that you improve these skills by taking more demanding roles at your current job, taking any classes or attending workshops that your company may offer, and overall being more aware of your interaction with coworkers and others. It may take some time and effort, but it will be worth it to enhance the transferable skills that you can take with you to any position.

Reference

Yate, M. (2018, February 09). The 7 Transferable Skills To Help You Change Careers. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/02/09/the-7-transferable-skills-to-help-you-change-careers/#756b21424c04

 

Finding Public Career Fairs

The University of St. Francis Career Success Center offers excellent opportunities from career fairs, career month, and other networking opportunities. These are all great resources to take advantage of, but it can never hurt to expand your network outside of USF. Public career fairs are a great way to do this. They are free to the public; all you have to do is register and show up! What’s stopping you? Get out there and build your network!

  • By creating a Handshake account, you have access to public career fairs as well as events at USF and other surrounding schools. Handshake is also helpful for tailored job searches, employer reviews, and connecting with your peers. Create an account at joinhandshake.com and use your MyUSF Portal information to log in and get searching.
  • jobfairsin.com is a great resource to find public job fairs not only in Illinois but other states year round.
  • nationalcareerfairs.com is another resource for finding career fairs all over the country, all through the year.
  • https://www.myemploymentoptions.com/register-for-virtual-job-fair/ offers online job fairs in addition to job listings open to all.

By attending multiple job fairs, you can expand your network, grow your confidence, and become a more marketable job candidate. Be sure to update your resume before every event you attend, and maintain a professional manner to be successful at any career event you may attend.

Remote Work: Is it for you?

With technology on the rise, remote jobs are becoming more and more sought after. Some jobs have become more flexible with part-time on-site work and part-time work from home options, and other jobs have moved entirely online. If faced with the opportunity, how do you know that remote work is right for you?

The first step in deciding if remote work is a good job for you is to know yourself and in which conditions you work best. Some things to take into consideration may be:

  1. Do you work better in solitude or a busy environment?
  2. Do you have an organized, quiet environment to work in at home?
  3. Are you able to set specific time aside to work throughout the day?
  4. Will you be able to complete your expected tasks from the comfort of your own home?

If you can meet work expectations from your home, remote work may be a viable option for you. If this is something that you are interested in, you can search for remote jobs just as easily as on-site jobs. Using “remote” or “work from home” in a keyword search on any job board will provide you with remote job opportunities.

It may be beneficial to take a remote position part-time to adjust to the new schedule and work setting before committing full-time if remote work is not your best way of working. Remote work may come with different working hours, forms of communication, and expectations and tasks. The job may take some adjustment and structure to be successful, but if remote work is a path you choose to take, you may find more job opportunities than you expected.

Dealing With Illegal Interview Questions

When interviewing for a job, you should understand your rights as an applicant. You have the right to certain privacies and by law, employers cannot ask you questions regarding specific personal information.

So what can and can’t an employer ask you in an interview? Specifics on age, gender or sex, religion, country of origin, disability, pregnancy, marital or family status, living situation, if you’ve previously applied for workman’s compensation, credit, and financial status are all examples of topics that should not be explicitly asked in an interview (“Illegal Interview Questions- What Not To Ask Candidates”, 2019). If the applicant offers the information on their own, that is at their discretion. The interviewer may ask around these topics in order to be sure that the applicant is available and physically capable of doing the job, but that is the extent that the questioning can go.

Why would an interviewer ask these personal questions in the first place? Some may ask because they want to get to know more about their applicants and they are unaware of what is appropriate and what is not, but applicants are still entitled to privacy rights. Especially in the cases of questioning that may have discriminatory motives, the applicant is not required to answer illegal interview questions.

So, what do you do if an interviewer asks an illegal or inappropriate question? Depending on your personality and comfort with confrontation, there a few ways to handle this situation respectfully and maturely. The simple one—answer the question. For example, if asked about your religious beliefs, you could answer “I attend church, but I prefer to keep my views separate from work” (Doyle, 2019). This way of dealing with the situation is much less confrontational, but still gives up the applicant’s rights to privacy. Applicants are also entitled to not answer these sorts of questions. If an applicant feels uncomfortable or like their privacy is being invaded by the questions, they could simply ask how the information relates to the job being discussed. If it doesn’t, redirect the conversation.

Furthermore, if a truly inappropriate or offensive question is asked, this is the time to decide if the employer is one in which you would like to work. IT is not a good sign if your interviewer is unaware of what questions can and cannot be asked. Pay attention to your impression of the culture at the workplace, and think about if it is one in which you would enjoy to work and thrive.

Although most HR personnel should be familiar with (and using) the appropriate practices for interviewing candidates, it may not always go as expected. If you are an applicant that is educated on your rights, and you communicate effectively, this should be of no issue.

References:

Doyle, A. (2019, March 14). Tips for How to Answer Interview Questions Employers

Should Not Ask. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer    inappropriate-interview-questions-2061334

 

Illegal Interview Questions – What Not to Ask Candidates. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from

https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions

 

For more information, check out these helpful articles:

https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/job-interview-questions-that-are-illegal-1918488

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer-inappropriate-interview-questions-2061334