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.

Top Reasons Public Sector Uses Temporary Workers

As the outside recruiter and business development representative for Peak Performers, I spend a lot of time at recruiting events and vendor fairs. At these events, I am often asked by people why public sector entities (state agencies, federal government, city and municipalities, transit authorities, and education organizations) use staffing agencies. There’s actually a lot of answers to this question. Here are some reasons the public sector has increasingly grown to rely on a temporary and contingent workforce to run their operations.

They Can’t Find People with the Right Skill Sets

First and foremost, professional staffing agencies exist to fill a need and that need is very often for roles that the client themselves cannot find the right people for. A large state agency has many things to do besides recruit. Staffing agencies spend most of their time doing primarily that. They are also exposed to a wider pool of qualified candidates because they regularly advertise jobs, attend recruiting events, and build up a robust referral network. The sheer activity of recruiting naturally pulls in more candidates than they can use, and many of those candidates may be fits for other jobs the recruiting firm has.

It’s also important to note that public sector entities generally have a more complicated application process which discourages many job seekers. Job seekers who do make it through their process also typically wait longer to hear back from the employer. In this lag time, they are more likely to find another job and move on. Staffing agencies offer a lower barrier to entry and move faster to recruit and onboard candidates than the public sector can.

They Don’t Have the Budget for a Full Time Employee

Agencies often have a strictly allocated budget that dictates not only how much they can spend but how they can spend it. This budget has separate amounts allocated for full time employees versus temporary employees. Budget for temporary personnel may even come out of a miscellaneous budget area where there are extra funds. Budget for temporary personnel may be project-based as well and have not only a fixed amount of dollars but a fixed amount of time.

While on the surface it may seem cheaper to hire a full-time employee from the start, many clients find this is not the case. So why would you pay a company to recruit and hire for you at a markup when you could have done it yourself?

First off, the cost of employees are usually the single largest cost for every organization–and what you pay them is only the beginning of that cost. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the cost of any employee’s benefits package 31% of their total cost to the employer. That means that if you pay an employee $34.50 per hour, the true cost of that employee is $50 per hour. Given this cost, it actually makes decent economic sense to pay a staffing company a markup fee.

This also doesn’t factor in the unseen costs that go into hiring: the cost of staff time to recruit and interview candidates, the cost of training employees, and the cost of making a bad hire. The Center for American Studies estimates the average turnover cost to be around 50% of the annual salary. In other words, if you pay an employee $34.50 an hour (about $71,760 annually) you pay on average $35,880 for a bad hire. Ouch.

“Try Before You Buy”

Recruiting is expensive. The cost of making a bad hire is also expensive. When an employee is let go shortly after starting, organizations eat the time and cost of recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and training said employee. (That’s not accounting for intangible costs if the employee hurt the organization, damaged morale, or hampered productivity.) Then the recruiters have to start over with no guarantee the next person will be better.

For this reason, many organizations have embraced “try before you buy” hiring, also known as temp-to-perm hiring. In this approach, the client brings on the new employee on a temporary basis and hires them as a full time employee after a trial period. Meanwhile, all the aforementioned costs are incurred by the recruiting firm. Risks are minimized as well.

Many organizations will try out an employee using this method if they are unsure if their own intention is to hire them on full time. They have a “let’s wait and see” approach to determine if the project is important enough to justify the cost and if they really need that position filled for the long term.

All Work is Temporary

The Department of Labor recently estimated that 20% of all workers work on a temporary basis. Even without factoring in the “gig economy” that is now so pervasive, more workers are choosing to work on a temporary basis and more employers are seeking them out that way.

Even for full time workers, the increasing market trend is pointing towards the average worker staying in their job for 2-3 years. Thus, we might argue: all work is, in effect, temporary.

Similarly, organizations are structuring their personnel in order to most efficiently accommodate cycles in work. We often say “staff for the peaks, not the valleys.” What we mean by this is that there are usually cycles of work that are going to be lighter during certain parts of the year. We find what works best is that the customer maintains internal staff for the “valleys” of the year and then bring on temporary staff for the “peak” work times when they are busier than usual.

Sneak Peak: Featuring Tammy Miller

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

One of our Staffing Consultants recently reconnected with Tammy Miller over lunch. She is a gifted coordinator and administrative professional with a knack for getting things done. Tammy has the energy to consistently take on new projects, and despite having had no prior office experience, she has built a successful career with the State of Texas. She was generous enough to share a glimpse of her career journey in her own words.

 

How did you first hear about Peak Performers?

After 16 years of work in the retail industry, I wanted to change my career path, but I wasn’t sure how to transition my skill set.  A roommate suggested I connect with Peak Performers and try working as a temporary contract worker to see how I would enjoy office work.

What was your first assignment?

My first assignment was an Administrative Assistant II with the Texas Department of Human Services.  The people were great, and I found out that I enjoyed the office environment.  I made sure to exhibit good working habits and used every opportunity to learn all I could about the agency.  That temporary placement was a strong foundation for my career in state government.

What are you doing now?

While the agency has experienced a few transformations, I have remained within Health and Human Services for the past 17 years. I am currently the Advisory Committee and Outreach Specialist for the Early Childhood Intervention program.

What advice would you give to current job seekers?

Each assignment is one step toward reaching your dream. Be committed to the work, be willing to accept new opportunities, be accountable, and be flexible to the changes that will appear on your path.  Appreciate the opportunities, both big and small, and use them to develop and build skills to enhance your resume. Give your best to every assignment and never stop investing in yourself.

Thank you, Tammy, for sharing part of your story with us. 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 work 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.

 

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