Robert Half's Heard in the Lunchroom® blog series offers real-world advice on navigating tricky topics that can impact your professional happiness and career prospects.
You never know what you’re going to face once you send in your resume for that great job opportunity, so get ready to be adaptable. Everything from video interviews to bizarre questions may be coming your way.
One of the big reasons candidates find interviews stressful is that there is no standard process. Some companies conduct a phone interview first, while others bring you in to meet with multiple people. Still another may want a video interview — and that doesn’t take into account the mystery of what the hiring manager will be like. Friendly? Tough? Who knows.
Whatever scenario your interview follows, we have your back with tips for nontraditional and challenging situations.
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Not all job interviews are created equal. Check out our tips for nontraditional interview circumstances, from video chats to oddball questions.
Nice! You don’t even have to drive in for this one; you get to interview from the comfort of home. Don't get too excited, though. A Skype interview still requires careful preparation so you come across well on camera.
1. Pick a clean backdrop. Think carefully about where you’ll sit and inspect the background. You don’t want the interviewer to see a basket of laundry or your child’s soccer gear behind you. The ideal setting is well lit a wall as the background. Be sure, too, that the area is free from noisy interruptions.
2. Dress up. The camera may see you only from the waist up, but it’s best to dress like you’re headed for an on-site interview. You never know when you might need to stand up or move, and you’ll definitely raise eyebrows if you have pajama bottoms paired with that suit jacket.
3. Make eye contact (with the camera). Resist the temptation to glace at the image of yourself on the screen and instead give your entire attention to the hiring manager. Look straight into the camera so you’re making eye contact with the hiring manager.
4. Test the tech. Familiarize yourself with all of the features you may need during a Skype interview in advance so you know it’ll work right. Also check your positioning in front of the camera, the lighting in the room and how your outfit looks on screen.
5. Get posture points. Sit up straight, smile and speak up so you’re coming across well to the interviewer.
Also check out our short video for advice on handling video interviews.
Turn curveballs into home runs
Some interviews aren’t at all what you expect. Here are a couple of challenging scenarios and job interview tips if faced with them:
1. Field odd questions like a pro. Don’t be alarmed if the hiring manager asks you a question that seems to test your IQ instead of your job knowledge. These questions help reveal a candidate’s creative thinking skills. If you get one of these, think about what’s really being asked and answer as honestly and thoroughly as you can.
2. Overcome bad vibes. Sometimes it seems like the hiring manager sized you up the moment you met and for some reason already decided against you. Stay on pint with the answers to their questions. When applicable, make sure to include examples of your accomplishments and success. Additionally, ask relevant questions to assure the interviewer that you are engaged and interested in the position.
3. Meet more of the team. If the hiring manager changes up the structure of your interview and decides to have you meet with other employees, this could be an encouraging sign that they’re interested in you. Take the opportunity to learn what others on the team do, and relate your contributions to their roles in the company.
It’s phone interview time! Before you sit around in your sweat pants and wait for that scheduled call, here’s what you need to know:
1. Prepare — then prepare more. Make sure you’re up to speed on the company, job description and your interviewer ahead of time. Prepare as though this is your one and only chance to convince them to hire you. One benefit of talking on the phone is that the interviewer can’t see you, so you can keep your research notes and/or your laptop with key sites loaded up in plain sight.
2. Know your answers cold. The call may start with (or consist entirely of) typical interview questions. These questions, although basic, can determine who gets an in-person interview. The difference between knowing exactly what you want to say and fumbling for the right words could make the difference.
3. Create a good interview space. As with video interviews, a private room with no audible distractions — barking dogs or a neighbor’s lawnmower, for example — is ideal. Also make sure you’re comfortable, whether you like to stand or sit while on the phone. Mute your laptop, disable social media notifications on your phone and make sure no passersby will disturb you. Curating this space ensures you can keep complete focus throughout the call.
It takes time and effort to prepare for — and execute — a strong interview, whatever for them meeting takes. How well you walk into the situation often determines how well you walk out of it, and how good an impression you make on the hiring manager.