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How college students can ace their Zoom video interviews for internships and entry-level jobs

Posted July 28, 2020 by

For years, employers of college and university students and recent graduates have gradually shifted their recruiting strategies away from almost exclusively on-campus information sessions, career fairs, and interviews.

The shift didn’t result in fewer students receiving offers or being hired. The shift did, however, result in a change in tactics and strategies, including how employers allocated their budgets. The cost of recruiting a student through on-campus interviewing is about $6,275. Employers who shifted their emphasis even partially toward using more sources like social media and job boards like College Recruiter discovered that the average cost of hiring students online is about $460 for professional and often below $100 for hourly roles. It is little wonder, then, that many of the largest employers of students and recent graduates were already in the process of shifting more of their recruiting efforts online even before COVID-19 forced all of them to massively and, perhaps, permanently change their approach.

To successfully source candidates through online recruiting, employers typically advertise their job openings on leading job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and College Recruiter. The ads may take the form of traditional, duration-based postings such as the $75 for 30-days that College Recruiter charges or performance-based postings, such as paying something like $0.25 to $0.75 every time a candidate sees a posting on the job board and clicks to go to the employer’s career site to, hopefully, apply. College Recruiter calls its cost-per-click (CPC) product, JobsThatScale.

One or more interviews are typically then scheduled once the student or recent graduate has seen the job posting, clicked to the employer’s career site to apply through its applicant tracking system (ATS) software, and heard back from the employer. Before COVID, those interviews often consisted of an in-person interview at the employer’s office. Now, in-person interviews are rare and have largely been replaced by interviews using Zoom, HireVue, Modern Hire, Google Meet, Skype, or other video service.

For the recruiter, a video interview is likely something that they have a lot of experience doing. Even a new recruiter has likely conducted dozens and more experienced have hundreds or even thousands under their belts. For the student or recent graduate, many are experiencing their first video interviews now, or perhaps have only completed a few. None of us are born knowing how to successfully interview by Zoom or other video platform, but there are some ways that will help ensure that the video interviews are successful:

First, at least 30- and preferably 60-minutes before your interview, completely power down (not just re-start) your computer, router, and modem. Almost all connectivity issues can be prevented by taking the few minutes necessary to do this. Almost nothing could be worse than your video or audio being garbled. Realistically, the recruiter or hiring manager will be interviewing multiple, well-qualified candidates. If your technology makes it hard for them, they’re probably going to hire someone else.

Second, consider purchasing an external camera, microphone, or both. I use a 2019 iMac at work and it has an excellent camera, but the microphone is lacking so I purchased a used, Blue Yeti USB microphone. They’re just under $300 new on Amazon but I snagged one for $50 on Facebook Marketplace. The sound quality is FAR superior to the built-in microphone on my desktop computer and so much easier for the person I’m talking with to understand what I’m saying.

Third, make your bed. Seriously, employers want to hire people who are thoughtful and well-prepared. If the room you’re in is a mess and they see that, that’s going to turn them off. Virtual backgrounds are often available through the video services, but they don’t always work well. An option is to simply hang a solid colored bed sheet behind you. Oh, and don’t sit with your back toward a bright light like a window. That silhouettes you and makes it hard for the other person to see your facial expressions. You want the light to be on your face, not the back of your head.

Fourth, and this is really hard for many people, don’t look at the video on your screen. Computers typically have a little light beside the camera to serve both as a visual cue that the camera is on AND a place to focus on while talking with someone else. If you find yourself looking away from the light (and the camera beside it) and to the video, then close the video so the only thing to look at is the light. When I’m talking to someone on video and need to look them in the eye (look into the camera), what I typically do is shrink the size of the video so that I can barely see them and move that window to the very top center of my screen. That way, it is immediately under the camera. When I’m sitting a few feet back, it looks to the other person like I’m looking right into the camera and, therefore, into their eyes. Eye contact is very important to establishing trust. If you can’t (or won’t) look someone in the eye, they will often infer that you’re hiding something. That’s the kiss of death in just about any job interview.

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