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The worst mistake you can make on a Zoom job interview: ‘It’s the first thing that occurs and it never goes well’

As the class of 2021 plans to graduate next month, many college seniors are worried about landing a job amid the pandemic and an uncertain labor market.

That’s in spite of the fact that this group of graduates deserves credit for finishing their studies in circumstances their soon-to-be colleagues never had to deal with when they were in college.

These seniors spent the past year braving isolation, social distancing, and investing in an expensive education that in many cases ended up being a hodgepodge of virtual and in-person classes.

“For those who are graduating this year, I feel really bad for them,” Jason Kaminsky, president and CEO of Bizjobz, a national recruiting firm based in New York, told Yahoo Finance. One big way they’re at a disadvantage is the fact that, once hired, many of them will be working virtually.


“It’s very difficult for young professionals to learn when they’re in an environment that’s not conducive to learning, which is their home, which is maybe their parents’ place, kids are fighting, the dog barking, you might have a sibling with you. And you’re just not learning the basics that will really propel you for your future,” said Kaminsky.

So where does that leave this year’s graduating seniors?

For one, the labor market is showing signs of recovery – the unemployment rate in March dropped to 6% from the pandemic record high of 14.7% in April 2020 – and many companies are offering paid internships.

According to a March report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies plan to add 7.2% more college graduates from the class of 2021 to their payrolls than they did from the class of 2020.

Graduating seniors may be well-versed in video-conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts by now, but a job interview done virtually still takes some getting used to. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid, according to hiring experts.

Your dorm room is your new business suit’

Although virtual job interviews on Zoom, in a dorm room, might lack the formality of a conference room setting in a traditional office, hiring experts warn graduating seniors against the temptation of taking a more casual approach to the process.

Handsome young Asian businessman sitting down using the laptop for video call while working from home
Getty Images (TwilightShow via Getty Images)

“Your dorm room is your new business suit,” says Kaminsky.

The key for graduating seniors is to make their dorm rooms look like a professional environment. Photos, artwork, or messes that may be distracting or inappropriate need to at the very least be removed from camera view.

Casual behavior in the dorm such as eating food or drinking during the remote interview should also be avoided, advises Betsy Jacob, a human resources business partner at Sage Solutions, an outsourced human resource and business management company.

“When you’re talking to a hiring manager, maybe clean up your space or don’t be drinking your water bottle. Things as simple as that, people forget. It definitely does make a difference. These aren’t things people would normally do if they were in person,” said Jacob, who typically speaks with students at college career fairs on campus.

Jacob advised seniors to have presentable backgrounds even if they’re conducting the interview from their childhood bedroom, because many employers will infer that this background will be the same one used for interactions with clients.

“You should interview in the space that you think that you’ll be working in,” she said. “The employer is ...judging you based on your environment.”

JACKSONVILLE, FL-November 12, 2020: Eric Lipka sits at the dining room table during a remote learning Psychology class in their Jacksonville, Florida apartment. Georgetown University sophomore Eric Lipka, 19, started college on campus but the outbreak of COVID-19 forced Lipka into a remote learning situation from their apartment in Jacksonville, FL. Lipka is currently waiting for the school to announce its plans for the spring semester which will determine if they return to in-person class or take a gap semester. (Photo by Bob Self for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Dress as you would for a normal interview. “It puts you in a different frame of mind when you are actually interviewing, like you’re not just doing it on the fly,” Jacob said.

Figure out the technology ahead of time

Log on a few minutes early to make sure your technology works. “The worst mistake you can make is you’re late. It’s the first thing that occurs and it never goes well,” said Kaminsky.

Experts also advise that seniors do their homework and research the job position they’re seeking and company where they’re seeking employment.

“Do your homework as best as possible. Try to ask other people, ‘How do you think [the name of the hiring manager] is pronounced?’” says Kaminsky. “If the person’s name is David and you called him John, that’s not a good thing.”

Job applicants should also eliminate all distractions on their computer during the Zoom interview, say hiring managers.

“Close all the windows. [If] someone has a Mac and they have their iMessaging app open, the messages pop up, or some sort of reminder pops up or whatever notification pop up in the computer, and it just takes a second of distraction, but it can throw you off,” says Jacob.

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