The COVID-19 pandemic has created an entirely new (and robust) world of online platforms. All across the globe classrooms, meetings, conferences, and social get-togethers have become virtual. Companies such as Zoom (Zoom Video Communications, San Jose, California), WebEx (Cisco WebEx, Milpitas, California), and BlueJeans (BlueJeans Network, Mountain View, California) have allowed us to maintain social distancing while maintaining the ability to round as teams, attending meetings, and even conduct interviews. However, for many trainees, interviewing for residency and fellowships is challenging on the best of days but needing to conduct an interview online has its unique set of problems. This past year, as a chief cardiology fellow, I was able to interview a number of candidates. Some did a fantastic job while others struggled. Here are a few tips to help this interview season be even more successful.
- Practice makes perfect: One of the great features of Zoom (and others) is the ability to record video calls, making it an incredible tool for interview preparation. You can optimize a lot of in your interview by seeing how the lighting is affecting the way you appear on screen, are you fidgeting too much, and how is the video/audio quality. I would recommend having a few mock sessions with friends, family, and even a mentor to get feedback. It is key trainees get enough practice before the real deal.
- Get rid of distractions: In face-to-face meetings, distractions are shared by the interviewer and candidate – we are often able to laugh at them together. However, if your dog or child runs into the room when you interview it’s a lot harder to laugh. Even small things such as text messages, emails, or noises from the outside of your own home can be a distraction that may be hard to recover from.
- Maintaining eye contact: This may be one of the trickiest parts of an online interview. If you look at the person you are talking to then the camera doesn’t capture your eye contact. If you look into the camera, then you don’t get to see the body language or facial reactions of the interviewers. I recommend the second option – look into the camera when speaking. You can look down at the screen to get cues about how the interview is going when the interviewer is speaking.
- Double-check the date and time zone: Since we are not traveling for an in-person interview, it is important to make sure you have the correct date and time. If you are interviewing with a program in another time zone you do not want to be late because you did not take the time difference into account. This will be especially important for those interviewing on the different coasts, or if interviewing in a state such as Arizona that does not have daylight savings.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Training programs have had to adjust during the COVID pandemic so don’t be shy to ask what steps institutions have taken and what is their plan for going back to “normal.” You may have specific goals you want to accomplish during your training – share this on the interview to see if the program will be able to help you fulfill your goals. Remember to ask the most important questions on the interview day that will better inform you about the program, you can always follow up with an email if more questions come to mind.
Interviewing is a challenging skill to perfect however, with preparation and keeping a few of the above-mentioned tips in mind, you can set yourself up for success. You’ll feel more confident and relaxed during your virtual interview by taking these tips into account, and hopefully match at your top program.
Image website addresses:
- Panel with female interviewer: https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2018/12/05/most-common-interview-questions/#508966cc8e3c
- Online interview image: https://www.wayup.com/guide/community/ey-245237-sponsored-video-virtual-interview-guide-expert/
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Barinder Hansra, known as “Ricky” to his friends and family, is a physician-scientist-teacher living his best life at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, MA. His focus is on cardiac critical care and cardio-obstetrics, and is headed to Stanford University for another fellowship. Follow on Twitter: @rickyhansra