I was staying at my parents’ house and was Skype interviewing with a small Environmental Engineering firm.
I was a bit nervous because I hadn’t ever done a Skype interview before. To prepare, I laid out my black blazer the night before the interview. I created flashcards with answers to tough interview questions. I threw my mom’s prettiest quilt over my brother’s bunk bed to create a clean background for the call. I covered up the huge zit on my chin with makeup. I tested Skype with a friend and made sure everything was working well.
I did everything right, right?
Nothing could go wrong.
Or so I thought.
The interview started, and I felt smooth and confident. My interviewer, Dave, came on screen and said, “Hi, Fatemah! Is that how you say your name? Faa-te-maah?”
“That’s exactly right!” I said to him, giving him my most winning grin.
Except I smiled too hard. The giant throbbing zit on my chin that I had carefully covered with makeup stretched and popped open. All kinds of grossness exploded out of my chin.
“OH EXCUSE ME!” I quickly bent my head and wiped the slime off my chin with the corner of my shirt, hoping he hadn’t noticed.
I wanted to dig a hole in my mom’s garden, lie down in it, and cry. I was disgusted with myself.
I became paralyzed with nervousness. The flashcards that I had laid out on my computer’s keyboard with all my answers lay forgotten. None of my responses were coming out right. I was stuttering.
“We’ll be in touch,” he said, with a kind a smile at the end of the interview.
But I never heard back from him. I had blundered through the interview and made an utter fool out of myself.
Virtual interviews have all the stress and formality of face-to-face interviews with the added tangent of technology. There is a lot that can go wrong.
Because there are so many variables involved with virtual interviews, something is bound to go wrong.
1. The Mobile Device Deviation
You are using your mobile device for the interview. Everything is going smoothly until your screen goes blank and you can’t hear anything. Panicked, you keep hitting the restart button but now the mobile device isn’t responding at all.
When this happens, don’t panic and start cursing like my client Sam did. He had no idea that the interviewers could still hear him on the other end. (Yikes!)
Instead, take a deep breath, tell the interviewers that you seem to be having a problem with your phone (say it even if the screen goes blank as the audio might still be transmitted) and restart your phone. Take the minute or so it takes your phone to reboot to think of an apology and brief explanation for the delay.
Ideally, use a laptop or desktop computer for virtual interviews. They are a lot more reliable.
2. The Accidental Noise
You are killing the interviewers’ question, but just as they ask another, an ice-cream truck passes by your window, filling the room with its loud jingle. Not only did they miss your awesome answer, the interviewers also seem irritated by the interruption.
When this happens, don’t continue with your answer as though nothing is going on.
Instead, wait for the noise to subside before apologizing briefly for the interruption and ask the interviewers to repeat the question.
Ideally, choose a quiet corner for your interview where you are least likely to be disturbed by any person or sound and use a headset with a microphone.
3. The Bodily Function
You seem to being doing well when suddenly, this morning’s breakfast churns in your stomach. It rumbles audibly and warns you that the massive fart you’re struggling to contain is about to rip. (Or, you know, you smile so hard you break your chin.) *Cries.*
When this happens, don’t try to cover up whatever is going on “smoothly.” (“Oh, haha that’s just my cell phone vibrating!”) Don’t let it cripple you into embarrassment.
Instead, politely say, excuse me, I need a quick second. Do you mind if I put you on hold? Run to the bathroom, do what you have to do, and remind yourself that you’re a human being, and sometimes, your body does things that make you cringe in disgust. We’ve all been there.
Ideally, eat a light meal an hour before your interview, go to the restroom ahead of time, and keep a box of tissues near you just in case.
I always advise my clients to be prepared to take on emergencies with a clear head and calm demeanor, showing interviewers that you can take all challenges head-on and win.