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Five tips York College students can use to ace online interviews

March 16, 2021
An animated graphic showing a user getting interviewed through Zoom

Whether they’re graduating seniors looking to launch a career or sophomores hunting for internship opportunities, most York College of Pennsylvania students won’t be stepping into an office for their interviews. Instead, they’ll be logging into Zoom or using similar video call platforms.

“There’s a whole new way that students have to think about when it comes to selling themselves on an interview,” says Jolynn Holtzman, Associate Director of Career Development. “You can’t give a firm handshake, but you can still smile. There are so many little adjustments we all have to think about when we communicate now.”

With some helpful tips from alumni panelists, Holtzman and her staff have been stocking away some of their favorite advice for how to ace online interviews. Here are her top five:

1. Practice your online interview

Whether students are logging into a call with a friend or asking someone from Career Development to help, it’s a good idea to practice an online interview, Holtzman says. This will help students work out kinks with technology, be aware of things that might be showing up in the background, and get comfortable making “eye contact” by looking at the camera lens, not themselves on the screen.

2. It’s not all about business

It’s easy to forget that employers also are trying to get a feel for how someone will fit in with the team, Holtzman says. “Students tend to get right to business and forget the small talk,” she says. “Even if you don’t get to open up the conversation until the end of the interview, try to ask what that person likes about the company or how they got into their position.” Holtzman also suggests keeping the small talk positive. Even though most everyone has had a rough year because of the pandemic, it stands out to talk about the good things.

3. Body language still matters

So, what do you do if you can’t seal the deal with a firm handshake? There are a lot of small things students can do to express positive body language during an online interview. For example, remember to smile. Students can also use nonverbal cues to indicate they understand or are listening, such as nodding their heads.

4. Keep distractions at bay

It’s easy for that *bing* on the cellphone to pull your eyes away from the interview, Holtzman says. “Keep your cellphone in the other room,” she advises. “It can wait.” Likewise, students should eliminate distractors for the person conducting the interview. Put the messy clothes hamper in the closet and make sure photos in the background won’t draw away their attention.

5. Find a private space

Students who are at home might be bombarded by siblings also doing virtual learning or the dog barking at the mail carrier. Roommates also might not provide the privacy a student needs to focus on the online interview. That’s why Holtzman and the Career Development team offer three private rooms on campus that students can reserve, each equipped with a computer, teleconference phone system, and most importantly: quiet.