The stay-at-home orders affecting more than 95% of Americans has caused a tidal wave in unemployment, with the Department of Labor already receiving more than 26 million jobless claims. With a continued focus on social distancing, most of the upcoming job interviews will be conducted online.

That’s according to Yolanda Rayford, a career coach with Easterseals, who says video interviews have traditionally been limited to initial applicant screening. To support the growth of video job interviews, the USO Warrior and Family Center on Belvoir is conducting a workshop, tomorrow, for spouses on best practices for presenting yourself on a screen.

Maura Gondek, USO’s program supervisor of transition, said the workshop is hosted by USO Pathfinders, an initiative for transitioning Service members and spouses. Gondek said a conversation with Rayford helped her realize the immediate need of these new skills.

“Companies are still hiring, but not face-to-face,” said Gondek. “We reached out to Easterseals Veterans Staffing Network. They have a whole curriculum about workforce workshops, and agreed to facilitate a workshop for USO Metro and Project Next Step tomorrow.”

Rayford said there are positives and challenges to speaking with a potential employer via video screen. She advised it may be more exhausting than an in-person interview, since with Zoom you are ‘always on,’ with the danger of disruptions from the house.

“We want to absolutely have the best version of you there. But, a lot of us cannot get hair and makeup done. It’s a challenge. How do you put your best foot forward if you’ve got a unibrow?” asked Rayford.

The Three Rs

In order to do that, with hair and nail salons closed, you have to figure out the best version of yourself during Covid-19. “You have to own it and be proud of it,” Rayford said. She said to start, focus on three Rs: rehearse, refine and repeat. Find your outfit (even if you have to buy it online), and a quiet spot in the house.

“Even if you have to lock your bathroom to get that space, you need to find that spot,” she said. “Make sure you are where you are supposed to be, ready to join the call, and be prepared to contact them if there are issues.”

Find a well-lit area, or move some table lamps to the left and right of your seating area. You want to have a vanilla background; a bare wall or room screen, and take time to compose yourself and relax.

Rayford said much of the in-person body language is lost when it’s just your face on screen, so be sure to convey confidence, enthusiasm and respect:

• Keep responses brief; start off with 30-second intros and be ready to answer questions

• Stay focused and remember to respond to panelists by name

• Stay focused

• Look at the camera, not their on-screen image, for true eye contact.

• Tape your notes and talking points around the camera, so you don’t have to look down

• Elevate the laptop with something so the camera is at eye level.

Rayford said it’s natural to respond with ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’, but if a panelist says, “call me Paul” then do so.

Zoom’s grid layout lets you see every face, and you can use that to determine who is engaged and who is checked out. “You’ve got to connect with everyone because they are going to talk about you when you’re gone,” Rayford said.