Job interviews are stressful, and video interviews — a tool hiring managers have increasingly used during the Covid-19 pandemic — have only upped the ante. Candidates only have seconds to make a first impression with an interviewer while juggling flighty Wi-Fi and background noises, among other challenges.
Certain mistakes during virtual interviews, however, bother hiring managers more than others, and could cost you a job offer. HR software company Zenefits recently polled more than 1,000 hiring managers and business owners throughout the United States to discover the most common mistakes candidates make during job interviews, and how job seekers can learn from them.
Here are some of the biggest "don'ts" of virtual interviews, according to Zenefits:
1. Not explaining a pandemic work gap
Millions of job seekers have struggled with unemployment during the Covid-19 pandemic as they faced layoffs, furloughs or had to quit work to care for a housebound child or sick family member. While work gaps are expected during the hiring process, Zenefits Marketing Manager Nadene Evans tells CNBC Make It that many candidates don't clearly articulate why the gap exists during an interview. 44% of the managers Zenefits surveyed said "not explaining a work gap" was the biggest mistake prospective employees have made during virtual interviews.
"Often, managers have told me that when they ask an applicant about a work gap, they'll give a vague, short answer," Evans says. "It's important to explain why you weren't working and how you used that time to recalibrate your career or re-group your life…don't shrug it off!" A better tactic, Evans adds, is to be upfront and highlight how the gap has made you a stronger person ready to tackle a new role.
2. Showing up late
"When hiring managers are interviewing someone, they want you to be prompt, reliable and courteous," Evans explains. "If you arrive late to an interview, you're failing all three of those tests." 10% of managers reported "not showing up on time or technology trouble" as a recurring interview mistake among job applicants in Zenefits' survey. Evans adds that hiring managers tend to have less patience for tardiness with virtual vs. in-person interviews, because "you're not dealing with barriers like transportation and travel distance," she says. "It's way easier to sit down in front of a computer."
Computer problems, of course, can happen, so Evans suggests candidates practice logging on to the call a couple hours ahead of time to make sure your computer's software is updated, and sign in to the interview at least 5-10 minutes early to check that you're able to log on to the call. Popular interview platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams also let you test your camera and microphone before calls.
3. Excessive background noises or interruptions
If you have a loud pet or construction happening right outside your window, you might want to find a different spot for your interview, as you run the risk of quickly offending your potential boss. 38% of hiring managers in Zenefits' survey listed "excessive noises or interruptions" as a frequent issue.
"It looks like you didn't bother to find a quiet space, or take the interview seriously," Evans says. "A lot of distractions during an interview, too, tells a hiring manager that those distractions will be there while you work and could really interfere with your focus."
Virtual job interviews will continue to dominate the hiring process as cases of Covid-19 rise and companies delay their return-to-office dates — and though they can feel awkward, practice calls can save you and the interviewer headaches.
Evans recommends job hunters hop on a video call with a friend and run through a "mock interview." "Ask your friend questions like: 'Did I look interested in the job?' and 'How did my background look?' to get an accurate gauge of how the real interview will go," Evans says. "Preparation is key and can prevent a lot of these issues from occurring."
But, she adds, "Give yourself some grace, too, because you really don't know exactly what's going to happen until it happens."
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter