Virtual Interviews: Tips for Jobseekers and Employers

11 Tips for Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews have become increasingly common, including with state government agencies in Austin, TX. Before COVID-19, Peak Performers had been transitioning to conducting mostly virtual interviews because of their convenience for all parties. Now, living with the virus, you will find most employers, including Peak Performers, are conducting their interviews via phone or video chat or some combination of the two. Let’s look at some tips for both jobseekers and employers:

  1. Treat it like a normal interview. It’s important to take all interviews, regardless of how they are conducted, with the same level of seriousness. Preparation includes: studying before you interview (jobseekers should research the organization, employers should re-read the candidate’s resume), getting plenty of rest the night before, being well fed before the interview, and cleaning/dressing yourself professionally
  2. Mark your calendar. Prior to the event, make sure that you are prepared to do the interview. You should send out or respond to calendar invites to let the other party know it’s really happening. As an additional courtesy, you can send an email expressing your excitement and providing the other party with another means to contact you if there is connection trouble.
  3. Check technology. Test out the technology to make sure you are set-up and ready to go. If possible, make a test call to a friend or family member. In particular, you should make sure that your webcam and microphone work.
  4. Manage noise. Find yourself a quiet room in your home (not outside). Sounds like a dog barking, garbage disposal running, or someone playing music in the next room may not be something you notice but your interviewer probably will. If you’re concerned about background noise, wear a headset or earphones.
  5. Manage lighting. Find a room with good natural light when possible. Avoid sitting with your back to a window as this tends to turn you into a silhouette. Use overhead lights when natural light is unavailable or insufficient.
  6. Adjust your webcam. Adjust the angle of your webcam so that your head is centered in the frame and the camera clearly shows both your shoulders. Sit so you are directly facing the camera.
  7. Manage interruptions. Don’t forget to silence your phone and computer so it doesn’t interrupt you. Additionally, put a sign on your door and let household members know that you will be interviewing. If interruptions do happen during the interview, such as a child coming in to interrupt you, mute your microphone, deal with the situation patiently, thank the other party for their patience, and return to the interview. We’re all human and working under unusual circumstances—do what you need to do and then get back to it.
  8. Take notes. For employers this is really important, especially if you’re interviewing multiple candidates and need to recall who is who. Jobseekers should also have a pen and paper handy to take note of their interviewer’s name, email, and phone for follow up.
  9. Speak clearly. Remember to talk slower than you might do in person, especially if you are conducting a phone interview. Pause before answering a question to think about it and avoid, when possible, excessive filler words. You want to sound thoughtful and communicate clearly.
  10. Smile often. Remember to smile often, even if you are doing a phone interview. A smile brings a natural enthusiasm to your voice and is particularly important with a video interview.
  11. Look at the camera, not the screen. Finally, when doing a virtual interview, look into the camera as much as possible when talking. This gives the perception of eye contact during the interview.

Austin Job Seeker Resources

Peak Performers is an active part of the recruiting and job seeking community and connected to many organizations and resources that may help job seekers find work. Here is our curated list of Austin job seeking resources:  

General Job Seeker Services

Workforce Solutions is the operational arm of Texas Workforce Commission in providing various job seeker services. Peak Performers does not provide job seeker services and will usually refer job seekers onto Workforce Solutions.

You can turn to Workforce Solutions for services such as:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Free or discounted training and education opportunities
  • Workplace accommodation resources
  • Childcare assistance services
  • Resume and interview coaching 
  • Career coaching

http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/Job-Seekers

NEW! In response to the sudden rise in unemployment, Workforce Solutions has launched a “Jobs Now” website, which is a manually curated list of jobs that are still hiring despite current market conditions.

Additionally, they hold job fairs periodically throughout the year:

  • Bi-weekly general job fairs
  • Industry-specific job fairs
  • Public sector job fairs
  • Disability-focused job fairs
  • Second chance job fairs
  • Veterans job fairs

http://www.wfscapitalarea.com/CalendarEvents

Note: currently job fairs are suspended due to outbreaks in the COVID-19. The workforce centers are available via appointment only. This article will be updated when the job fairs are back in session. In the meantime, this link gives you a quick jumping off point to find services and get help.

There are multiple locations in the Austin area, and they’re open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. They accept walk-ins and appointments for job seekers with specific needs.

  • 9001 N Interstate Hwy 35 Ste 110, Austin, TX 78753 (North Austin)
  • 575 Round Rock W Dr Building H, Suite 240, Round Rock, TX 78681 (Round Rock)
  • 3401 Webberville Rd #1000, Austin, TX 78702 (East Austin)
  • 7701 Metropolis Dr, Austin, TX 78744 (South Austin)

Recommended Job Seeker Websites

There are a lot of websites out there to help job seekers find work and much of your time is going to be spent utilizing these resources. Gone are the days of walking into businesses and dropping off your resume at the front desk. “Help wanted” signs now hang in the digital window.

You should use all or many of these websites to aid your job search. Generally, these websites are free to job seekers and require minutes to start an account.

ZipRecruiter – this platform has taken the recruiting world by storm as it does a great job of proactively finding jobs that may be a fit and inviting you to apply. It is also pulls jobs from hundreds of other websites and centralizes them in one place.

Monster – this platform is used by many recruiters for its advanced search features. It also tends to attract many professional and information technology job seekers. From an employer side, the cost is rather daunting but that tends to attract larger employers looking for hard-to-find candidates.

Dice – this is widely used in the Austin information technology job search community. Dice tends to attract mid and senior -level professionals.

WorkInTexas – this is used in Texas by Workforce Solutions to post jobs. Jobseekers filing for unemployment will be required to build a profile….but take time to do it right—many job seekers don’t fill in all the information! Savvy recruiters use this website because it’s free and because it’s a snap shot of nearly all job seekers available, not just the ones who have their resume up on other platforms.

Glassdoor – jobs are posted to Glassdoor but perhaps more important are the tools to read company reviews and explore salaries. Glassdoor is an important part of your research toolkit so that you spend time engaging with reputable companies.

NEW! Austin Chamber of Commerce – in response to the COVID-19 unemployment crisis, the Austin Chamber of Commerce has launched a listing of businesses in Austin who are still hiring. Great for doing some research and discovering companies that you haven’t heard of before.

Austin Job Clubs

Job seeking can be demoralizing, especially if you’re told “no” over and over. It can be valuable to join a community of other job seekers to keep you motivated and to offer guidance along the way. Fortunately, Austin metro area has three prominent job clubs which you can become involved in. They will often feature speakers, job fairs, and resume workshops. These are free to attend—they ask for donations from previous job seekers and from employer sponsorships.

Job Seekers Network – Meetings in Northwest Austin every Monday

HIRED Texas – Meetings in Round Rock every Tuesday

LaunchPad Job Club – Meetings in North Austin every Friday

Note: currently job clubs are suspended due to outbreaks in the COVID-19. This article will be updated when the job clubs are back in session.

Additional Job Seeking Resources

Here is a list of common resources that I refer people onto who are looking for work:

AustinUp is a local nonprofit that connects older adults (ages 50+) with employers seeking experienced professionals. AustinUp also partners with AARP in order to connect older adults with a host of other services. AustinUp has periodic job fairs throughout the year as well as regular meetings.

Austin Urban League is a local nonprofit that seeks to help African Americans and other under-served urban residents with job training, housing programs, and education.

Texas Veterans Commission supports Texas veterans and their spouses who are looking for work and other services. Texas Veterans Commission career advisors work out of Workforce Solutions offices.

Dress for Success helps disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development resources.

Austin Community College Employment Readiness Training is a “boot camp” to help job seekers get ready to look for work. Perfect for those who have not looked for work for a little while and are feeling overwhelmed.

Need Help?

Weekly Webinars: Peak Performers is pleased to announce once weekly (Wednesdays at 9:00 a.m.) webinars to help job seekers find a job quickly. These are one hour webinars with plenty of time for audience questions. Sign up online: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe3O8lYbUriAc4UUaoDW4kl0v2pF5GWXatFw9-4AgycYsm3fg/viewform?usp=sf_link

So…What Do You Do?

Focus Your Job Search

This article is Part 1 in a three-part series about focusing your job search. Stay tuned for our next installment, coming next month!

Part 1: So…what do you do?

Don’t you hate that question? You get it at parties, you get it at job fairs, you even get it at the dentist! I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more than just my work. If I’m a job seeker, though, my resume is not the place to tell you who I am.

Employers get hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications for every position that they post. This creates a mountain of reading that recruiters just cannot do. Often, computers read your resume first and rate it based on how relevant it is to what the recruiter wants. Or, if you’re an overworked recruiter, you read really fast (i.e. 6-10 seconds per resume).

“Who” is a complicated question that gets to the core of our humanity. “What” is a lot easier to communicate. And in recruiting, it’s how we evaluate a candidate for further consideration. In this article, I want to get your resume from “Who” to “What.”

So Many Questions!

One of the hardest parts of the job search is knowing where to start. Full time work provides a location to work, equipment to work on, a community to support and direct you, and, in most cases, clear instructions on what to do on a day-to-day basis.

When you are seeking work, that can all go out the window very quickly. Job searchers must now turn inwards and answer a couple of deep questions.

  • What do I want to do?
  • What can I do?
  • What place (where) do I want to do it?
  • What do I expect from my work?

I have found these questions to be the most basic as well as the most troubling. I ask you to ask yourself, because every day that I’m at a job fair I ask job seekers, “what do you do?”

They say:

Entry-level job seeker: I can do anything!

Experienced job seeker: I can do everything!

Everyone Else: Whatever you want. I just need a job!

I get it…but I can’t help you know yourself. Before ever talking to a recruiter you should have an answer for these questions. We’ll take a deeper dive into each, but first you need to gather a few tools:

  • A copy of your resume you can write on
  • A pen
  • A highlighter

What do I want to do?

For just a minute, I want you to imagine a perfect world where you don’t need to work but instead just want to work. What would you do? I want you to ignore the lightness of your wallet and the anxiety you feel about being around the house all day.

You don’t need to get as granular as defining your job title, but you do need to narrow it down to a few things you want to do. For example, if I wasn’t working at Peak Performers I would enjoy:

  • B2B or technology sales
  • Digital marketing
  • Starting a board game company

But I’m going to make this harder. You now need to answer this question in three words or less. Write them at the top of your resume where it’s so big you can’t ignore or forget what you wrote. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

Here’s what I wrote:

What I want: Business Development / Recruiting

What can I do?

Now, write down a list that ignores your list of what you want to do. This list is for the things you can do whether you want to do them or not. Here’s where I want to you get really specific and list all of the things you can do. Here are some of mine:

  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay per click marketing
  • Direct to consumer and retail sales
  • Sourcing government opportunities
  • Writing requests for proposals and/or business proposals
  • Technical recruiting
  • Writing fun content like this!

By the way, this is the most important part to recruiters and companies. Many will train you, but they want you to come in being able to meet the minimum job expectations.

Guess what: now I want you to condense this list down to just three words. Maybe you can do a lot! That’s great, but what are your key skill sets? What would jump out to me as a recruiter? Write these skills down on your resume.

What I can do: Sales / Marketing / Recruiting

What place (where) do I want to do it?

The easy answer to this is “within a X distance drive.” Let’s include this and then go beyond the physical location. You should also consider things like a welcoming environment, a company with a social mission, a younger/older workplace, a progressive/conservative workplace, etc. These are going to be different for each individual. Here’s mine:

  • A company where I can directly help other people
  • A company where I can make the world a better place
  • A company within a 30-minute drive
  • A company that has windows visible from my desk from which I can look out
  • A company that is open with communication and feedback

In. Three. Words. Just three. Write them at the top of that resume!

What place I want: Austin / Positive / Sunshine

What do I expect?

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of the job details. Realize that expectations may have to be compromised, but it helps to write them down. Start with the most obvious expectation and the reason most of us go to work each day. Again, here’s my list:

  • I expect to make $XXXX
  • I expect XXXX kind of health insurance
  • I expect XXXX other benefits
  • I expect to have some level of autonomy in my day-to-day work
  • I expect to be valued for my creative contributions
  • I expect to work in a team-oriented environment
  • I expect to maintain a work-life balance

We expect a lot out of our work. As well we should. We spend a lot of time there! But get this down into three words.

What I expect: Autonomy / Compensation / Balance

Congratulations!

I’m sure up to this point you have followed my instructions very, very carefully. I have every confidence that your resume now has 12 words written on top. Right?

Here’s mine:

Business Development /Recruiting
Sales / Marketing / Recruiting
Austin / Positive / Sunshine
Autonomy / Compensation / Balance

This word list gives you a distilled look at what I’m looking for in a job, as well as a list of what I should present on my resume for best results. Now the real work begins.

Edit Your Resume

A common misconception is that resumes should be only one-two pages. A resume should be as long as it needs to be provided that:

  1. It accurately and concisely represents all of you
  2. Is long enough to thoroughly address everything that a job description asks for

We’re going to make a generic resume from which you can start. You will constantly be editing this resume for every single job for which you apply.

  • Highlight: I want you to highlight everything on your resume that points strongly to one of the words that is written above. It can (and usually should) be the word itself.
  • Circle: Anything that may be relevant for a job. Education is a good example; you may well need or should include it on your resume, but often the role you’re applying for does not explicitly require it. Often, these circled items will be listed on your resume but de-emphasized.
  • Cross Out: There’s probably a lot of stuff left on your resume. Cross it out. These are like hoarding shoe boxes or 1980s Christmas decorations or Beanie Babies. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and throw it out.

Respect Your Time

There’s an even more important reason you wrote down those 12 words. You need to make sure that all of your job searches focus on all or most of these words. You should not waste your time with “maybes.” In recruiting, when we look at your resume and think, “hmmm maybe,” that means no. That means we’ll put it off to the side and then forget about it because we’ll eventually find the resumes to which we say, “Yes, yes, YES!”

Getting to Who

You remember Who? Who remembers you and misses you dearly. It’s not that recruiters and HR managers don’t care about Who…it’s just that resumes are not the appropriate place for it. “What” is clear and objective. It’s also what catches our attention in a stack of resumes.

The interview is where you get a chance to show off your “Who.” I could tell you that I love to bike ride, I’ve traveled all over the world, I design board games, and I love to swing dance. You’ll get to know me as a funny, social guy who loves puns. Get to the interview by first answering “What.” If you answer correctly, the interviewers will love the “Who.”

Best Job Hunting Websites in Austin

One Recruiter’s Opinion: Best Job Hunting Websites for Austin Texas

By Myles Wallace, Technical Recruiter for Peak Performers

There are a lot of job hunting websites out there.  We often get asked which are the best ones to use? Short answer: all of them.  It is so easy to get your resume multiple places that you might as well.  The bigger task then becomes managing all those resumes and the correspondence you may receive from recruiters.  

That said, here’s one recruiter’s take on the top job search websites for job seekers to get noticed in Austin, TX.  

#1 Monster – A long time industry standard, Monster continues to be on every recruiter’s bookmark bar.  This is often the first place I look given the robust search tools available and often a place that many professional job seekers will automatically put their resumes.  Monster allows you to upload your resume as a pdf, Word document, or from a Dropbox or Google Drive file. Monster will also help you create a job searching profile right on their website.  Monster is often compared with Indeed or Careerbuilder and is just one of those job hunting websites you will probably end up using.

#2 Work in Texas – WorkInTexas.com may not be the most user-friendly interface but you will often be required to create a profile if you’re filing for unemployment benefits in Texas.  Don’t think this tool can’t be valuable, though. Your career advisors will use it to help match you up with potential jobs, and recruiters like me peruse it regularly for candidates that have recently joined the job market and may not be visible on other platforms yet.  Also, since many job seekers do not fill out complete profiles, WorkInTexas.com provides a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

#3 LinkedIn – Increasingly, LinkedIn is being used by recruiters to search for living, breathing resumes.  In the recruiting community, some rely on it so strongly that they’re advocating the discontinuation of the resume (I don’t think we’re there yet.)  Nevertheless, if you know someone — or know someone who knows someone — LinkedIn can be a valuable tool. You can draw extra attention to your resume when you connect with a contact and/or send them a personal message through the LinkedIn platform. A LinkedIn profile can direct the viewer to specific credentials and expertise, and often the most regular users of the site are those who are currently employed but entertaining other options.

#4 Glassdoor – Glassdoor wins points for most insights into companies — but, you can find jobs on it too!  Employees past and present are encouraged to post anonymously about their employment experience: including wages, other benefits, work environment, and their personal experience.  As with all online review platforms (*cough* Yelp *cough*), the voices of those who had a bad experience can often drown out the silent majority who had a good or fine experience, but Glassdoor does seek to mitigate this by collecting as many reviews as possible.  Still, take what you read with a grain of salt and use Glassdoor to get an idea of what you’re walking into with a company.

#5 Indeed – Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Indeed in terms of their pricing structure and the way their resumes often appear to recruiters.  That said, there are a lot of other platforms recruiters use that tie into it. Many Applicant Tracking Systems can already search Indeed and many other commonly used recruiting tools like Ziprecruiter or Mightyrecruiter access it’s immense database effortlessly.  Indeed boasts 200 million unique visitors every month and is used in over 60 countries. In this recruiter’s book: Monster wins quality, Indeed wins quantity.

#6 Google – Known for disrupting marketplaces and aggregating hoards of data, Google recently rolled out an updated job search platform that seeks to solve the problem of the same job being posted multiple places.  Does it work? Sometimes…kinda sorta. What you may not realize is that you’re already using it in your normal searches in that it aggregates data from multiple other job search sites to help cut out a few steps for the job seeker.

This is just one recruiter’s opinion, but hopefully it helps those who are looking for a job. The good news is that there are many valuable tools out there to help you find a job!

Finding the job you LOVE

A note from our founder and CEO:

For many of us, growing up is a time of exploring ideas and our relationship to life – to others around us and the universe in which we live.  It’s a big and complex universe with an enormous number of choices to be made.  Many of us spend the first 25+ plus years of life just figuring out which choices will aid our survival the most (and which ones are most harmful).

Most schools emphasize getting to college as soon as High School is done and that often means entering the full time workforce at the age of 22, 23 or later.  And it can be a big parental (and personal) disappointment when you discover that you actually dislike the kind of work for which you have been trained – at enormous cost.  And if you graduate with debt the shock and disappointment can be personally devastating.

How can you know what you love to do, until you do it?

So finding the job, the work you love, is a bit tricky.  It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem.  How can you know what you love to do, until you do it?  You may find that even the greatest job at the best company in the world can send you into your pillow crying if your boss is mean.  Or you may find the menial tasks of your chosen profession drive you to a boredom not experienced since Middle school.

The days of going to work for one employer in one city, in one trade or profession are gone.  The odds are very good that you will not work any one place for 30 years.  

Job sampling, and temporary work, in today’s “gig” economy is the most beneficial way for you to find out:

  • Where you want to work
  • What kind of work you really enjoy
  • How your skills can be best deployed to help an employer
  • How and where you get the most personal job satisfaction.  

Work is no longer just about the paycheck

For the first decade of working, I had no idea what kinds of jobs I loved, so I sampled multiple jobs, employers, and job types.  From highly technical and precise map making, to highly imprecise and social sales jobs. 

Prior to creating Peak Performers, I had jobs in…

  • A car wash, making dirty cars clean (until the next time it rained)
  • Mapping possible hydroelectric dam locations
  • Selling Persian, Turkish and other exotic rugs and expensive carpets
  • Selling electronic stereo equipment and home electronics
  • Mapping the back side of the moon
  • Analyzing the right level of staffing for large plywood manufacturing plants
  • Grinding steel plates in a machine shop (that lasted one day)
  • Selling insurance and annuity products to elderly people
  • Helping people with disabilities develop work skills
  • Helping minority and women owned small businesses get government contracts
  • Helping low income and minority workers get re-trained and placed into new careers
  • Helping older workers get trained to change occupations and helping minority youth access the workforce 

I finally settled on helping people with disabilities develop work skills as my ideal type of work.  That was after having 15 jobs!  Some lasting years and some only months.  

To give another example: our family dentist began his post-university career as an electrical engineer.  He is a highly social person who likes talking to patients.  Electrical engineering was not a good fit, to say the least.

No one really knows what they LOVE to do until they have done some various things.

No one really knows what they LOVE to do until they have done some various things.  Employers are no longer expecting you to give them your whole life and they are no longer guaranteeing you a lifetime job.  That’s a good thing for people seeking a well-balanced, happy and prosperous life because you don’t want to commit for the next 30 years either.

So, looking at the reality of today’s job market, all jobs are, in effect, temporary.  And you as a candidate can make the best of this opportunity to look around and sample different jobs, in different sectors for different employers until you find the job you LOVE.  

The whole box of chocolates might look inviting, but there will be one in the box that’s better than all the others.  It’s up to you to find it.

-Charlie Graham, founder and CEO of Peak Performers

Sneak Peak: Featuring Darwin Hamilton

Welcome to the inaugural post of Sneak Peak, an on-going series highlighting the career path of one of our former associates – how they got started, what they’re doing now and what advice they have for current job seekers in Austin.

 

Our Peak recruiters ran into Darwin Hamilton recently at a local community meeting. In a city becoming synonymous with gentrification and displacement, Mr. Hamilton is a 5th generation Austinite. He is also an active volunteer, community leader and board member for several local civic organizations. Darwin was gracious enough to share a glimpse of his journey in his own words.

 

How did you first hear about Peak Performers?

In March of 1998, I was referred to Peak Performers by a case worker with Project RIO of the Texas Workforce Commission. He mentioned that with my skills and resume, Peak Performers might be able to offer temporary job placement with the State of Texas.  

What was your first assignment?

My first assignment was with the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program at the Office of the Attorney General as a Data Entry Operator assisting their accounting department with filing records and mail merging address labels for benefit letters to claimants.  My contract was originally for 90 days, but it kept being renewed. I used my time on that assignment to teach myself 10-Key by touch, update my knowledge of Microsoft software applications, and gain viable office skills and on the job work experience to meet minimum qualifications for Admin Tech classification positions the state had available with the Attorney General’s Office.

What are you doing now?

Today I’m a Senior Accountant III and interim lead of Accounting & Finance – Internal Operations Division of the State Office of Risk Management.  I began working for this agency in May of 1999 as an Accounting Clerk.  It is where I made my career and this May will be 18 years that I’ve spent working for the same agency.

What advice would you give to current job seekers?

The advice I would give current job seekers is to never give up hope, and to be confident in your capabilities and potential. Use every assignment opportunity to do your very best and build a rapport and social capital with some of the people you work with because those very people may one day advocate for your permanent employment with a state agency.

Thank you, Mr. Hamilton, for sharing part of your journey with us. We’re grateful for your presence and service in the community, and we wish you all the best in your continued career with the State of Texas.

Peak Performers is Austin’s preferred staffing and recruiting firm for contract jobs with State of Texas government agencies. As a non-profit, we also give job placement priority to candidates with a disability. To learn more about our company, please visit our website.

Cover photo is used by permission from Texas Advocates for Justice and Grassroots Leadership.
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