Virtual Selection Interviews

The number of staff around the globe working from home has increased each day as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions on travel and social distancing regulations have combined to force recruiters and managers to conduct a greater proportion of their selection interviews online.

Much of the content of an online interview will mirror an “in person” interview but the use of video changes a great deal. Preparation remains a key to success …

Your research

Your preliminary research before the online interview remains as important as ever. Check the role profile or job description carefully to determine whether a competency based or behavioural event interview is likely. Find out about the organisation, the reason for the vacancy arising, whether you will be expected to work remotely, how the job will be different as a result of current global conditions, who the interview panelists will be and prepare some scenario-based answers to questions using the STAR method, if appropriate.

The STAR interview question response method allows you to provide concrete examples or proof that you possess the experience and skills for the job at hand. 

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Using this approach, you first set the scene, outlining the situation. Then you describe your task or purpose. Thirdly, you outline the action you took, what you actually did. Finally, you highlight the result.

This answer framework is particularly helpful in responding to competency-focused questions, which typically start out with phrases such as, “Describe a time when…” and “Share an example of a situation where….”

Your space

You will want your personal space, the background to your interview, to be clean, uncluttered and business like. A plain neutral wall is good and a background of appropriate shelved books can be helpful in certain circumstances. Zoom allows you to combine lighting, a green screen and an artificial background and that may be useful if applying for certain, more creative, roles. Select clothing that does not feature checks or stripes and that contrasts with your background colour scheme.

Check and recheck your camera positioning. A laptop with built in camera can produce an unflattering angle that is best avoided in a selection interview. A separate, stable camera, with integral microphone, positioned at eye level generally works much better.

You will not be offered a tea or coffee during a virtual interview so should always anticipate the need for a sip of water and have a glass (not a bottle) of water on your desk. A short, stable glass is better than a tall, thin one as a taller glass can be knocked over far too easily. Keep fluids away from computers, microphones and cameras.

The most natural looking interviewees use an off-screen microphone. This may be part of your camera set up and is to be preferred to a headset. If you must use a headset ensure that the integral microphone does not transmit your breathing as this can be very off putting.

Managing your opportunity

With video interviews you can grab the opportunity to position notes in front of you, beyond the camera, and on the wall. Your interviewer does not need to know they are there if you arrange your space effectively.

You are likely to have the opportunity to practice your engagement with the camera before your interview.

You will want to become comfortable looking directly at the camera and to avoid speaking to your notes or to anything else in your room. Looking away, briefly, as you think about your response to a question is natural and engaging but your gaze should thoughtfully return to the camera as you talk. Good eye contact, through the camera “window” remains as important as ever.

Try to speak “through the camera” to the other human being. Allow your facial expression to complement and underline the meaning you are seeking to convey. The hint of a smile can soften your expression and is very engaging.

Always make eye contact with your interviewer when they are speaking to you.

In your enthusiasm to engage try to avoid “over talking”. Get into a conversational pattern by allowing your interviewer to talk first: they invited you to the meeting and will want to set it up for you. If you hold back initially, you should find a natural pattern of listening and responding develops between you.

Check that you have set your microphone volume to a pleasant audible level and that you are not broadcasting breathing noises. These can be of putting and slightly sinister and may arise if a headset is poorly positioned.

To ensure that your interview opportunity isn’t wasted, disconnect any device that does not need to be online throughout the period of the interview. This will stop them ringing or buzzing during the meeting and maximise the bandwidth you will be needing for the video interview. Turn off any pop ups you normally have running in the background on your computer for the same reason.

Let other people in your house know what you are doing when you are being interviewed, ask them to answer the door to callers and respond to the telephone calls that will, almost certainly, come in during your meeting.

Turn off or remove any telephone that you have in your space before starting the interview.

Close the door of your space but only after you have put an appropriate sign on the outside of the door!

Work out, in advance, how you will respond to a power cut.

Arrival time

You should practice arriving on time for a call beforehand. Clearly, you don’t want to be late but, online, you may not want to be overly early either. It is not uncommon for an interviewer to use their personal online meeting room for all their interviews. Whilst this isn’t particularly good practice on their part, you do not want to crash into another candidate’s interview, so be very careful about “arriving” early.

Set up a couple of test meetings, with a friend, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the technology, to work out how long the connection and arrival process takes. Use your experience to gauge your arrival arrangements.

Prepare for dialogue

Too often candidates make little valuable use of the interview opportunity to ask their own questions. Your research should equip you with pertinent questions that demonstrate engaged, intelligent interest in the organisation and the role itself. Don’t be afraid to ask about the organisation’s hiring timeline and whether the role will be located remotely until the pandemic has passed – or forever.

Aim to express your questions so that they convey real interest in the role. You can underline your interest and engagement in the process by gently leaning forward in your chair at times during the conversation. Avoid over doing this as it can come across as aggressive.

Humanitarian Development Opportunities

In the course of humanitarian development career related coaching I find that I am often asked two questions that are essentially about either “widening” or, alternatively, “focusing” the search for suitable opportunities.

Here is my initial raft or “go to” list of search suggestions with some evaluative commentary.

Going deeper or broadening your search

  • DevelopmentAid:This is a very large database with a reasonable search function but be aware that many of the opportunities found here will also feature on the Impactpool database where the search facility is easier to use. Many opportunities are not actually visible unless a fee is paid.
  • Human rights funders:As the name suggests this vacancy board is focused on selected jobs at major philanthropic foundations and charities that are working on human rights.
  • Devex:This very broad source of opportunities claims to cover the whole international development industry and the number of opportunities listed would suggest this may well be accurate. It offers the chance to create alerts in a way similar to Impactpool but less than half of the jobs are actually visible unless a fee is paid.
  • ReliefWeb:This broad source of humanitarian, relief and conflict jobs has a good search function.
  • Devnetjobs:This broad source of opportunities also claims to cover the whole development industry through a vast online database but, again, most functions are only available on payment of a fee.
  • UN Jobs:This covers mostly UN roles and some consultancy opportunities, as the name suggests, but also some other roles within the humanitarian and development sector. The scattered adverts make the experience of using this less than pleasant and the search function is difficult to use effectively.

Focusing your search more narrowly

For altruists wanting to address the world’s most pressing problems through their work

  • 80000 Hours:This is a very focused and well curated set of (mainly) job opportunities geared to meeting the career development needs of highly skilled and well-educated altruists. It mostly features roles in the US or the UK. The vacancies advertised are refreshed regularly. All the opportunities offer the chance to make a contribution to the resolution of some of the world’s most challenging problems.
  • Bridgespan:This advertises US philanthropic and charitable foundation roles, both paid and volunteer. It has an excellent search facility.
  • EA Work Club:This includes vacancies, projects and consultancy opportunities in the US. It is focused on effective altruism cause areas.
  • Social Enterprise Google Group:A collaborative, extensive and ever-growing list of roles in social enterprise and related fields. Well worth keeping up to date with. There is no search facility.

For procurement and supply chain opportunities

  • Procurement iNet: This website is an interface between career opportunities in procurement, supply chain management and related fields and employers/contracting organisations and clients. It publishes opportunities from multilateral and bilateral agencies, international consulting firms, etc.

For communications and behavioural/organisational change specialists

  • Social Enterprise Google Group:A collaborative and extensive list of roles in social enterprise and related fields. Worth keeping up to date with. No search facility.
  • C4D network:Provides a good weekly email for members of highlighting jobs and consultancy opportunities in the communications and behaviour change arena. This is a searchable online job board available to all.
  • W4MP:This started out with the title “Work for (an) MP” and now has a strong focus on Westminster, UK, roles and roles associated with UK politics. Also serves as a credible source of UK thinktank jobs but has no search ability.

For accountants and auditors

  • AFID: AfID offers every type of accountant or auditor, from anywhere in the world, the opportunity to use their skills to support a broad range of non-profit organisations globally. Volunteer assignments of between 2 weeks and 12 months are advertised alongside permanent roles.

Focus on Africa

  • NGOJobsinAfrica:Quite a large number of jobs, some at junior level. A fairly limited searching ability.
  • CoordinationSud:A website with a good search function. A more limited selection of opportunities focused on disaster relief, populations at war, or development (including economics, education, health and agriculture). Especially strong on opportunities in Francophone countries and with French NGOs.
  • AFID: AfID offers every type of accountant or auditor, from anywhere in the world, the opportunity to use their skills to support a broad range of non-profit organisations in Africa. Volunteer assignments of between 2 weeks and 12 months are advertised alongside permanent roles, particularly in Africa. Good search facility.

For French speakers

  • CoordinationSud:A website with a good search function. A more limited selection of opportunities focused on disaster relief, populations at war, or development (including economics, education, health and agriculture). Especially strong on opportunities in Francophone countries and with French NGOs.

For environmentalists

  • Environment Jobs in the UK: This source carries typically 250 or more job vacancies in the UK environment sector and is beginning to cover international environmental roles, contracts and consultancies.
  • Green Job List:A monthly climate change and social purpose focused jobs newsletter. Almost all are US based. About 60 opportunities per issue.
  • CharityJob:the UK’s largest and most specialised job board carrying non-profit, NGO, social enterprise, community interest company and voluntary jobs including numbers in the environmental sector.

For UK-based job hunters

  • ACF: A select, usually small, list of UK charity jobs. Usually senior and frequently board or trustee roles.
  • CharityJob:  The UK’s largest and most specialised job board carrying non-profit, NGO, social enterprise, community interest company and voluntary jobs
  • Bond: A UK-based vacancy database providing access to more senior vacancies in programming, fundraising, advocacy, communications, research, leadership or monitoring and evaluation.

IT and Technical roles in the US

  • Tech Jobs for Good:Here you will find tech jobs at social impact companies, foundations, and innovative non-profits within the US. An impressively large number of roles but a surprisingly limited search facility.

Looking fo Volunteering opportunities or Internships?

Many of the job boards listed here provide access to volunteer roles and internships but here are some that typically offer a wider range of both.

  • Idealist:This has good searchability and includes many non-paid opportunities.
  • Bridgespan:Covers US philanthropic and charitable foundation roles, both paid and volunteer. There is an excellent search facility.
  • AFID: AfID offers every type of accountant or auditor, from anywhere in the world, the opportunity to use their skills to support a broad range of non-profit organisations globally. Volunteer assignments of between 2 weeks and 12 months are advertised alongside permanent roles, particularly in Africa. Good search facility.”
  • VSO: VSO have been sending volunteers to Africa and Asia for over 60 years. Their preparation and support arrangements are excellent and their opportunity search engine for experienced professionals is well regarded.

 

Develop Your Career With Branding Practices

Brand differentiation is usually taken to mean ‘setting your product apart from its competitors as a basis for preference’. In career development it is certainly useful to know about overall leadership strengths and weaknesses as this influences the access the individual has to career opportunities. However, at leadership level access to career opportunities may be somewhat determined by a subtle combination of leadership capabilities with certain significant career competences that we may dub the “three knows”:Three Knows

Know how competences concern job related knowledge and work related skills that are reflected in employee, team or business unit performance. Know why competences are seen in the way in which leaders (and others) understand their own motivation and are able to identify with organisational goals. Know whom competences are about networking both within and outside the organisation.

Leaders with these “three knows” stashed in their toolkit are unlikely – especially in today’s changing organisations – to rely over much on career pathways. They are more likely to see career development as a network of ‘crazy paving’ that they lay themselves. They are also likely to recognise that career paths are increasingly likely to be diverted and interrupted and that their own career development may be facilitated by lateral and other moves. Leaders who are adept at managing their own careers also tend to recognise that learning and career development can occur at any age and career stage and that access to opportunities is influenced by family, personal and community roles and can be facilitated by work outside paid employment.

The way you present yourself to your employers, both current and future, plays a crucial part in career success and satisfaction. If you get it right, it can enhance your profile at work, helping you to win interesting projects, promotions and the respect of your colleagues. It will also increase your chances of being the successful candidate at job interviews or attracting clients to your business if you’re self-employed.

Open Learn provides free online learning from the Open University and their course, Personal branding for career success, will help you to pick your way through the concept of personal branding, developing and refining your own brand, and choosing tools and tactics that allow you to present yourself to current and future employers in an authentic and effective way.

You’ll consider your own values and strengths, identify the key skills employers’ look for and learn how to present and evidence those skills appropriately, whether you want to raise your profile with your current employer or are looking for something new. Presenting yourself online and in person brings different challenges and you’ll look at a variety of platforms and approaches in more detail.