January is traditionally one of the top months of the year for hiring. Companies are launching their projects and plans for the new year, and many candidates launch new job searches to achieve their career improvement resolutions.
This year is a little bit different. We’re kicking off 2021 still in the thick of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that most encounters between job seekers and employers are going to be virtual.
One of the best ways to stand out in a job interview and make a lasting positive impression is to build rapport with your employer. Under normal circumstances, a good part of this connection would be achieved with confident body language, a firm handshake, eye contact, and a warm smile.
In a virtual interview, clearly the handshake is out the window. And while the rest of your body language and eye contact still matter in a video chat, they can be less impactful than when you are meeting with someone face to face.
How can you establish rapport in a virtual interview?
When communicating virtually, it is still necessary to find ways to make a connection with your interviewer. In order to get the job offer – or at least make it to the next round of screening – you need to separate yourself from the other potential candidates.
Be personable, even when you’re not in person. Small talk still matters. In an on-site job interview you can visit the workplace, see people doing their jobs, observe the décor and photos on your potential employers’ desk. All of this gives you fodder for casual conversations.
In a phone or video interview, without the physical interactions, it can be tempting to get down to business straight away and limit the dialogue to the classic job interview questions and answers. That might be functional and efficient, but it is difficult to build rapport in this context.
Research the employer in advance, and try to find an area of common interest you have with the interviewer, the team, or the company. Prepare conversation starters and anecdotes that can launch some small talk. Have questions ready in advance that can get the employer talking about their work, their habits, and how they’ve been handling the COVID changes.
Stay upbeat and energetic throughout. Remember that the interviewer is looking to hire someone who is enthusiastic about the job and engaging to talk with. While it might seem strange to be conducting this meeting from home, there are benefits to this. You are in a safe, familiar, and comfortable space. You didn’t have the commute to an unknown workspace or stress over potentially arriving late.
Use these to your advantage. Think positive, have a lively conversation that showcases some of your personality, and try to learn about your employer. Making a personal connection through engaging dialogue will go a long way to creating that powerful first impression – the one that gets you to the next level of the hiring process. And then remember to follow up.
See also: Advice from hiring managers for successful virtual interviews.