For many years, first-level interviews between recruiters and candidates were often held over the phone that then moved on to face-to-face meetings.
Studies say it only takes a quick glance, maybe three seconds or less, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. And in those seconds, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanor, your mannerisms, and how you are dressed.
As the hiring process progresses and with every new encounter, you are evaluated and yet another person's impression of you is formed. These first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, and they often set the tone for the relationship that follows.
Before the new normal forced all of us to move every transaction online, you only had to: prepare yourself, dress appropriately, know the company and its culture, practice a firm handshake, and be confident to earn a good impression during the actual interview.
With online interviews, first impressions are made within 17 seconds. And about 93% of our snap judgments come from non-verbal cues. In other words, we get a feel for someone not so much by what they say, but from how they stand (or sit, in this case), the expression on their face, how they’re dressed, and more.
On top of how you used to compose yourself when meeting the recruiter or HR manager in person, you have to add a few details when doing digital interview: prepare your devices, make sure your mic and camera work, eliminate background noise, clear the area behind and next to you, familiarize the software you’re using for the call, strengthen your “digital handshake” and practice your professional nod.
Apparently, even if the interview is done online, the fact still remains that we make judgments about other people in a nanosecond (or longer in case the signal’s unstable) and once that impression is formed, it’s very, very hard to change it.
In an article by Talent World, author of The Essential Digital Interview Handbook Paul J. Bailo said that “digital chemistry sparks between you and the interviewer within seconds of starting the chat. To create good digital chemistry, Bailo recommends a slight shoulder bend and eyes forward. You should open the chat with a “confident, professional, firm nod” and a warm smile. This simple gesture shows you’re happy to meet and ready to get down to business.”
“Not something new”
Technically, online interviews are not new. Even before the pandemic, many multinational companies that have staff working from different locations, have been practicing virtual evaluation and meetings.
In a report by Workest, a media and community platform, 59% of hiring managers reported conducting traditional, in-person interviews, while 28% reported a mix of in-person and remote interview settings before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In contrast, fewer than 14% of hiring managers conducted exclusively remote interviews prior to COVID-19, though 58% expected to do so even after the precautions related to the virus have been lifted,” reads the report.
Tuan, a recruiter in Ho Chi Minh City who has worked with a couple of companies based in Australia and the US, is used to meeting potential staff members online. “I was working in an international startup then, everything was done remotely. Actually, I haven’t met a single colleague in person while in that job. In my line of work, I’ve done interviews for applicants based in Hanoi and from other provinces, some were even based outside Vietnam.”
With his experience of almost 10 years, interviewing job applicants and/or applying for a job online is not something new to him.
As a result of the current outbreaks here and there, hiring managers are encouraged to follow the safer way of getting people onboard.
“While 73% of hiring managers indicated virtual interviews as a workable replacement for interviewing in general, more than one in three HR managers weren’t willing to adopt a virtual experience for their candidates during the interview process,” according to Workest.
“LinkedIn is a must”
When it comes to preparations being done before a job interview, the interviewers also do background checking and of course, social media, for the lack of a better term, stalking. Which means the importance of having a “professional” social media platform makes more sense now more than ever.
In lieu of an actual getting-to-know-you sit down talk, hiring managers turn to the applicant’s social media accounts.
LinkedIn, for example, lets you “manage your professional identity, build and engage with your professional network and access knowledge, insights, and opportunities” along with its other 750 million users and counting.
Experts say LinkedIn will help you find a job faster because most hiring managers and recruiters are already using it. In fact, although it went down from 92% in 2017, 72% of recruiters find the business and employment-oriented online service to be the most effective when vetting candidates during the hiring process, according to Jobvite’s 2020 Recruiter Nation Survey report.
In Vietnam, COVID-19 resulted in the highest unemployment rate of the working age population in Q4 of 2020 in comparison with the same period in the past 10 years. The unemployment rate in 2020 was 2.48%, a 0.31 percentage point higher than that in 2019, according to the data from the General Statistics Office.
But does your LinkedIn profile really matter for a recruiter?
“Yes, having an organized and well-managed LinkedIn profile makes a big impression for me, a positive one,” Tuan claimed. “Being on LinkedIn is a must if you want to be seen by as many recruiters as possible.”
When asked how important the LinkedIn profiles are to him, “Greatly important. Let’s just say, I have not so far rejected applicants because they don’t have LinkedIn profiles, but I often favored those who have,” he revealed.
Nhu, an HR recruiter at an IT company in HCMC, agrees with the importance of having a LinkedIn presence. “Normally, when I get the applicants’ details, I look them up on LinkedIn just to have a clearer perspective of who the person is,” she said, “but it’s not to judge or something, it just gives me a better understanding of his experience, what he or she posts, what kind of discussions he or she joins among others.”
Both Tuan and Nhu think that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the hiring process of this generation and social media platforms such as LinkedIn truly aids their HR requirements.
“Actually, I have more experience in remote interviews and I find it just as insightful as face-to-face interviews just as long as you talk and discuss the important things and keep the line open, especially that our bosses are based from the other end of the world. That’s why the online presence of an individual is important to me when hiring people, I need to know who they are as a person, not just as an employee,” explained Tuan.
For Nhu, “I really can’t tell which one is easier and simpler to do but it all falls down to the quality of applicants I meet. Sometimes in-person is better but there are also times that remote interviews suffice. After all, what I’m really after is to hire the best person for the job, and actually does the job. And yes, LinkedIn helps, as well as Facebook and also Instagram. Zalo also is a useful platform when checking for the background of an applicant.”
Truth is, having a LinkedIn profile is critical when you’re trying to stand out in the professional world.
Employers want to know where you’ve been, what you’ve learned, and how it has shaped you as a professional. This will help them understand your value even before you land an interview.
In a Harvard Business Review article on getting a job guide, it said, “Make sure hiring managers see your LinkedIn profile by using keywords to land more search results. Just like you use Google to find specific information, hiring managers use LinkedIn to search for candidates. To start, copy the descriptions of 10 similar jobs that interest you and paste them into a word cloud. The most common words are the ones you should incorporate into the various sections on your profile.”
Even if you’re targeting remote positions, you’ll also want to include your desired job location to catch the attention of recruiters who are searching for candidates using location-based keywords.
Additionally, according to the HBR article, you should upload a professional — but friendly — picture and consider personalizing your banner photo. Profiles with a photo receive 21 times more profile views and nine times more connection requests than those without any proof of what you look like.
You can also grab an employer’s attention by engaging with your network. Think of LinkedIn as a way to show off your expertise. Attract more people to your page by liking and commenting on posts related to trends in your industry, publishing text-only posts, sharing original articles, and regularly searching for connections. Increasing your activity on LinkedIn is a fast way to elevate your Social Selling Index (the platform’s metric for success in terms of your personal brand), which helps increase your visibility to employers.
Whether you’re hiring or finding a job, the COVID-19 pandemic makes it even harder for both ends. If you are looking to land a new role or fill in a vacant post, your success depends largely on hiring trends and the economy, both of which, unfortunately, are working against you right now.
So make use of LinkedIn, tap your old networks, join groups and do whatever it takes to land that dream job, or temporary source of income. For starters, master the art of digital handshake.