More workers are returning to the office in person, but for job seekers, most initial interviews are still virtual. That’s not likely to change, says Maryland Smith’s Cynthia Velazquez O'Brien. And for many, the first-round interview might be conducted by artificial intelligence.
Virtual interviews had already been gaining popularity before COVID-19, but the pandemic pushed nearly every interview to Zoom and other similar platforms, says O’Brien. She is the senior director of employer relations in the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, where 100% of interviews and interactions between recruiters and students were conducted virtually last school year.
O’Brien says employers started coming back to campus in fall 2021 and more were on campus in the spring. They held events and participated in activities with students, but most still weren’t conducting in-person interviews while on campus, she says. For that, video-conferencing platforms were still the norm.
She also says more and more companies are using AI, or algorithm-based software, to conduct the initial video interviews with candidates. Most of the big professional services firms, for example, and many other large employers have switched to AI to conduct all first-round interviews. Instead of a human recruiter scheduling screener calls with potential candidates, this software makes it possible to use AI to quickly scan recorded video interviews of hundreds of applicants.
Candidates record themselves on a video platform – Interviewstream and HireVue are ones employers have used at Maryland Smith, says O’Brien – answering questions from an AI-powered interview bot. Not quite a warm-and-fuzzy personal interaction, but the good thing is, you often have the opportunity to edit or re-record your answer before submitting it, she says.
And for job seekers who make it past that screening interview, even the next interview with an actual recruiter is usually conducted virtually.
If you find yourself on the job hunt, but haven’t interviewed in a while, here are O’Brien’s tips for how to ace the virtual interview – whether it’s with an AI robot or an actual person:
Practice. Use Zoom or the “practice’ mode function of AI-powered software to record yourself answering questions, then watch the video and critique yourself. Or have your mentor, family members or friends give you feedback.
Tap available career resources. You should always have access to your college or university’s career services for workshops or coaching on doing your best in virtual interviews. LinkedIn also has some really good tools to research and practice for your virtual interview.
Be prepared. Treat any interview – even an AI interview – as seriously you would an in-person or phone interview. Do you research about the company, come with questions, and prepare specific examples that showcase your strengths. Study the job description carefully and use keywords highlighted in the description. AI software is often scanning for some of those words, so use them to help your chances of moving on to the next round.
Be professional. Just because everyone is used to virtual connectivity and Zoom by now, doesn’t mean you can be informal. Be aware of the background of your video. Make sure it’s neat – no unmade beds or piles of laundry – and doesn’t include anything inappropriate. Dress professionally, as you would for an in-person job interview. Smile and make eye contact – even AI is looking for that. And don’t fidget too much or move around the room.
Don’t forget the human connection. It’s still appropriate to follow up to thank an interviewer after a virtual interaction. And even if your interviewer was an AI robot, find a contact at the company to reach out to alert them of your interest in the position and to make a human-to-human connection.
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