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Quick Tips to Harness Empathy in Virtual Interviews

  1. Prepare for a structured interview

  2. Harness empathetic listening

  3. Get your Zoom basics in order

1. Remote interviews tend to be more structured, which leaves less room for your human self. You want to be able to convey the facts you need to, while also putting your best interpersonal skills forward. It’s hard to be engaging as a storyteller over Zoom, but not impossible!, so your stories need to be clear, concise, and to the point. Practice makes perfect, even to the point of outlining your answers on paper to be sure they cover what’s needed, then practicing to make sure they sound authentic and warm, not like a memorization robot.

Often your interviewer is going to take notes, which can feel like they aren’t listening if you’re in a video call. Don’t let this introduce unnatural distance and friction, keep speaking calmly and enthusiastically even if they look away. Most likely they can still hear you but are jotting something down, either via keyboard or handwritten.

2. Make the best of the non-verbal clues you have and take advantage of your empathy skills to connect with your interviewer. Tape something over your image, like a post-it, to better focus on reading their facial and non-verbal signals.

It’s harder when you’re not in the room with someone to tell if your answer is going off-track, so remember to be aware of signs of discomfort or gentle attempts at interruptions, like coughs and throat clearing, to tell you that you want to wrap it up.

3. Zoom etiquette has been repeated a thousand times, but I still see people failing at it. And this is huge for harnessing your ability to empathize with your interviewer, they need to have the opportunity to connect with you, even if that “you” is a 2d avatar. Getting distracted by weird Zoom issues takes away your humanity.

What to focus on? Your voice. Your outfit. Your background. Making sure the tech works.

Get a friend to do a practice run with you, bonus points if you film it. Make sure your sound is good, your face is centered on the screen, and that there’s nothing distracting in the background you can remove. You want to be able to shine.

If there’s a tech snafu, be prepared to roll with it. Wifi dies. Children enter unexpectedly. How you deal with interruptions is a reflection of your character and calm-headedness, so have your backup solutions ready; charged phone, extra headphones, etc… This is how you keep the focus on you, not on the technology.

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