What Could Go Wrong? Survey Reveals Common Headaches During Virtual Job Interviews (and a Few Tips)

Hiring certainly has unique challenges in 2021. We surveyed 1,000 hiring managers and small business owners to uncover the most common mistakes being made during job interviews this year. 

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Hiring during 2021

We all know that conducting successful job interviews can be tough in the best of times, let alone virtually, or in the midst of a pandemic. While there is a lot of information and advice out there, it is easy to forget the basics when it comes to interviews. Additionally, it was revealed that the unemployment rate in the United States is at 5.4% in July, which equates to 19 million Americans who are out of a job. 

In response to this, we wanted to help any job seekers that might be looking for advice. We spoke with our CMO Kevin Marasco, as well as surveying over 1,000 hiring managers to find out the biggest mistakes job seekers are making, especially over the past year. 

Common mistakes job seekers are making in 2021

  • Criticizing previous employers – whatever the reason for leaving previous employment, being critical of previous bosses, coworkers or the company does not give off a good impression. That doesn’t mean job seekers should lie, but changing language to say things such as ‘the company culture wasn’t right for me’, or ‘I believe I would fit in better elsewhere’ is a polite way to address the topic.
  • Using buzzwords without meaning – interviewers are time-strapped, and using jargon that various candidates before and after have also used isn’t going to make an impactful impression. Words such as ‘motivated’, ‘innovative’ and ‘trustworthy’ as stand-alone generic terms sound “buzzy” and are considered overused. If there’s not specific examples with the term, best to avoid them and stick to specifics.

‘Motivated’, ‘Innovative’ and ‘Trustworthy’ are commonly overused! – Kevin Marasco, People Operations Author

  • Consuming food or drink – it might seem natural to have a  Starbucks along to an in-person or virtual interview, but this can appear unprofessional. An interviewee doesn’t want to be remembered as the one who spilt coffee down themselves. Additionally, snacking on your lunch or chewing gum does not give a professional first impression.
  • Not sharing enough hard skills – employers want to hear about soft skills and learn about the personality of the potential employee; however, they also want to know what an interviewee is capable of, and examples of these skills being utilized.
  • Not having a suitable background (digitally) – this is especially relevant if the interview is a remote one. Having a messy background with dirty dishes and laundry is not only going to give the impression that the interviewee may be disorganized or simply doesn’t pay attention to details, but it can also distract the interviewer.
  • Not explaining gaps in employment – although a candidate may not think a six month employment gap whilst volunteering or taking a COVID-era break isn’t relevant to the role they are applying for, it’s important to ensure that the employer is aware of the reasoning for your break. That’s not to say that someone can’t just have a break, but don’t leave potential employers guessing.

As well as Kevin’s expertise, we surveyed over 1,000 hiring managers to delve further into the problems which occurred during interviews. Our respondents told us:

  • 44% reported work gaps between the start of the pandemic and current date, that the interviewee could not explain
  • 38% reported excessive noises and interruptions during online interviews
  • 18% reported work history discrepancies between Linkedin profiles and digital resumes
  • 10% reported their candidate did not show up on time to their Zoom interview or had trouble with the technology

In addition, they also reported their 4 main peeves with interviews were:

  1. Poor preparation / not knowing anything about the position
  2. Trying too hard to “fit” the role
  3. Not being qualified despite a great resume (“not walking the walk” as one respondent put it)
  4. Not asking any questions about the role, team or company culture
We also asked hiring managers if number of outreach attempts they have had to make to find qualified candidates increased in the past 60 days:
  • 61.7% of respondents said they have seen an increase
  • 27.4% said about the same
  • 10.9% said no increase
And when we asked what was the MOST frustrating thing you’ve seen about the interview process this year:
  • 34.4%  said no-shows
  • 22.7% said candidates being unable to connect to virtual tools such as Zoom or WebEx
  • 17.6% said poor communication skills
  • 11%  said having to interview unqualified candidates due to lack of response
  • 7%  said no follow up after the interview
  • 7.3% – other

What can legally be asked during an interview?

On the other side of the interview process, the interviewer also needs to follow correct rules, etiquette, and even laws.

Marasco explained that it is illegal for interviewers to ask questions regarding age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or marital status. The list is not exhaustive, but are some of the common topics that interviewees may not realize they don’t have to answer. Avoid them to make sure you do not enter into an illegal conversation.

It is also illegal to ask about previous salary history in some states such as California and Alabama. Kevin suggests that interviewees research the laws and regulations in place in their state prior to an interview, so they are aware of what topics are acceptable.

We hope that this advice and these tips will help potential job seekers during their application and interview process, and help hiring managers stay current and conduct a great interview with the right candidates.

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