Jessica Hodgson is the Director of Human Resources at Later – a Vancouver-born & bred visual marketing platform with over 2 million global users and 61 of the top 100 global brands among its customer base.

An unprecedented global pandemic has flipped everything we know on its head with employers across the city, province and country having transitioned their teams to be fully remote for the foreseeable future. Job seekers now face a new hurdle: how to navigate the virtual environment in order to successfully apply, interview, and land their dream jobs. If you’re one of these people, here are a few things you should consider integrating into your approach.

Set up a dedicated workspace at home, get dressed, and turn on video during interviews

By now, we’ve all likely come across resources that stress how beneficial it is to have a dedicated workspace at home – and in case you haven’t, your bed is out of the question. When all of the different roles we play exist under one roof, it’s important to create clear boundaries and set cues that let our body know it’s time to press pause on one role, and start another.

Especially when interviewing from home, having your immediate surroundings evoke a sense of professionalism can influence your tone of voice and general demeanour. If possible, opt for a table or desk setting – this will help with your physical posture and allow you to focus on the interview. Even if the interviewer can’t see it, place one foot underneath you, flat on the floor, and the other slightly in front of it, as if you were about to stand up and shake someone’s hand. This position puts your mind into an alert mode and will help you recall and compose better answers. Although other more comfortable spaces will compete for your attention, fighting with the crevices of your couch mid-interview is less than ideal. This applies to phone interviews too – the physical position you’re in can affect your verbal communication and impact how the employer perceives you.

If you’re interviewing via video call, make sure to find a space that’s free of any visual distractions or disruptions. Ideally, this means a well-lit space with appropriate furnishing, and a backdrop that your housemates are least likely to accidentally walk into. The goal is to not have your interview become a viral sensation.

Connect on a personal level and don’t be shaken by technological difficulties

Remember that, like you, the hiring manager you’re speaking to is also navigating the unfamiliarity and potential awkwardness of these virtual, social situations on top of adjusting to the current state of the world. Take the extra time and energy to connect with them on a personal level – engage with them conversationally, while maintaining your professionalism. Ask them how they’re taking care of themselves during this time, and reciprocate by sharing your ideas and what’s worked for you. Get their input on fun, virtual team-building activities they’ve seen or tried out in an effort to keep the company culture alive and offer any interesting ideas
you’ve seen or come across. Remember that they too are human and are doing their best to cope with these unforeseen circumstances.

Also, be patient and understanding of the challenges that come with communicating in a virtual, digital environment. These days, no one is exempt from working with glitchy technology.

Demonstrating that you’re flexible, understanding, and able to adapt to unexpected circumstances can go a long way in building a rapport with the employer, which can work in your favour as a potential candidate.

Inquire about work-from-home policies and workplace culture amid COVID-19

Although you should be sensitive to the different ways in which companies are adapting to these uncertain times, I do recommend that job seekers be candid in their interviews and ask how the company is supporting their teams amid COVID-19 and an unpredictable economy. Ask how the company has transitioned to remote work, and what actions have been taken to make that shift as smooth as possible. This is your opportunity to determine how the employer has set up its
business to ensure the health and well-being of its team, through its operations and culture.

At Later, as we came to understand the potential repercussions of COVID-19, we chose to loosen our work-from-home policies, empowering our team to have full control over the important decisions around their own health. In doing so, roughly half of our staff opted to work remotely. In mid-March, the company went fully remote with our ongoing priority being the safety of our employees. The team was given the time to collect any items from the office that they needed to set up their home workspaces, and each employee was given a $300 allowance to make it more ergonomic or suitable to their needs. Through all of this, we’ve seen the value of being flexible and quickly adapting our policies to address the changing circumstances, all to protect the health and well-being of our people.

Ultimately, the way a company treats its people during unforeseen events, and outside of when times are good, speaks volumes to who they are as an employer and if they truly live and breathe their company values.

Jessica Hodgson is the Director of Human Resources at Later – a Vancouver-born & bred visual marketing platform with over 2 million global users and 61 of the top 100 global brands among its customer base.

Photo: Josh Lasko, Lasko Visuals