by Jasmine Beecham, M.S.
PhD Candidate, Applied Social & Organizational Psychology
IUPUI School of Science
With one of the highest surges of COVID-19 currently going on and new variants abound everywhere, more and more conferences are turning to virtual options and hiring managers are leaning on virtual interview options. To put your best professional foot forward while remaining in your personal space, here are some tips to keep in mind when considering how virtual may be different than what you’ve experienced in the past!
Prepare for all virtual events
Get a professional background image: Set a professional background so others are not distracted by what is going on behind you. Zoom has a built-in option to blur your background but if there is lots of movement behind you, you can download a simple zoom background of an office or even an IUPUI-themed background. Upload images to your zoom account and then you can filter what background you use, or just use a stock one that zoom provides you with. If you often get distracted looking at yourself in the zoom window, this can also help reduce your own distractions, so you are not focusing on everything around you.
Have enough lighting to show your face well: Having your camera on but being in a dark space will not help very much. Make sure there is enough clear light so that you can be clearly seen and visible. This will help people better see your smaller facial changes, especially for those who are visually impaired.
Make sure you have a stable internet connection: Plan ahead so that you will not get spotty internet or get disconnected. You can get an ethernet cable to hook up directly to your internet in your home. If your internet at home is not good, see about reserving a library study room to work in or sitting at another place on campus where you will have a secure connection throughout the whole duration. If you go somewhere public, make sure to pack some headphones so you can hear clearly.
Check the time zone: Make sure to check before all scheduled events, whether conference or interview, what time zone it is listed in. With many people living in different locations than perhaps the company headquarters or where you live, it is important to make sure you clarify this and are on time. It helps you be more prepared, as you do not want to lose an hour of prep time that you thought you had or show up an hour late and miss it.
Leave your camera on: Unless the presenters ask to be the only ones with their cameras on, leave your camera on. It helps those presenting to get visual feedback from the audience. It also acts as both showing that you are engaged and motivating yourself to stay focused instead of multitasking now that you know you can be seen. If you have a hard time not getting distracted or doing two things at once, this is a good way to give yourself more of a reason to have to stay engaged. If this is a session where you want to ask questions or follow up with the presenter, this also will help to show your interest and make you memorable when the Q&A session arrives.
Look ahead at the session schedule: Make sure to read the descriptions of different sessions and attend the ones that most align with either your research interests or areas that might fill gaps in your research. It is nice to hear about information you already know, but if multiple sessions are happening at once, you will want to strategize and visit whichever one will help your current research questions or needs. Use the time before the conference begins to map out the top sessions you want to hear and any questions you may have so that you can block out those times and arrive prepared.
Pull up notes next to your screen: Whether you have a dual screen or just printed notes, make sure to have resource material next to you during your interview. With interviews moving to virtual platforms, it is important to use your resources to be as prepared as possible. Pull up the materials you provided beforehand to be selected for an interview (e.g. resume, curriculum vitae, cover letter, letters of recommendation, etc.) and read through them once more. If there are areas you haven’t reviewed in a while, such as your research duties on a project from 3 years ago, make sure to look back at your notes or pull any relevant materials up and give yourself a refresher. This will help you stay calm and prepared for any follow-up questions they may have on the materials you submitted.
Look ahead: Review the company and job information beforehand and write down any questions of the job duties or other areas you may have. It is helpful to ask specific questions to show that you paid attention to the company or job description itself. If you cannot think of any position-specific or field-specific questions, some good questions to ask to gain a more accurate image of the job can be:
• what a regular day would look like in this position
• what they look for in an ideal candidate
• what skills they train new employees in and what skills they look for employees to already come with
As they tell you more about the company or role, feel free to take notes or ask questions as you learn more information you are curious about. The interview is the best time to communicate clearly not just the company’s expectations and questions but yours as well, this is a dual interaction so go in confidently and treat it as such!
Whether you have a virtual conference, virtual interview, or just virtual class, it always helps to prepare ahead of time! This can help you brainstorm ahead of time, make sure you have everything you need beforehand, and feel relaxed in that you are putting your best foot forward. If you are feeling extra nerves, you can always ask a friend to help you practice beforehand! If you are presenting at a conference or having an interview, feel free to ask a friend to zoom you sometime so that you can make sure your camera, microphone, and internet all work properly. If it is your first conference or interview virtually, this can help you more accurately picture what it will be like and receive feedback to adapt before the real deal. Can’t find a time that works for everyone or too shy? Record yourself! You can record yourself in zoom, save it to your computer, and then watch it back from an outside perspective. Make sure to leave yourself time for a few takes and a buffer window to shake off the nerves.
Stay safe, stay hydrated, and stay prepared!