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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 34, 19-25 November 2022


Polish Your Personality for Virtual Interviews

Sangeeta Gadhok Magan

Over the last few years, probably every sector, working style, work culture, and workplaces have witnessed a sea change. Where work from home is happening seamlessly; even the interview processes have shifted online. According to industry and hiring experts, virtual interviews are here to stay; they are the new norm. However, for you to ace it, you need to set a lot of things in place at your home as well. In the earlier article, I have shared few important tips on how to prepare well and sail through the interview process, rather than say the saddest words of anyone's life- 'I wish I had!' Because if you prepare well, there is nothing to fear. So, let us briefly recall and summarize some important points that have been discussed in that article. We have broadly talked about all aspects that matter, be it your grooming, the background, the light in the room, your non-verbal language, and of course the technology; all are crucial. You have to make the best possible first impression. In simple words you cannot fail to make an impression because of poor interviewing skills. Candidates who showcase a strong virtual presence, display confidence, and are able to communicate clearly and build a natural rapport with the panellists, prove to be much more successful. Now that you have understood the vital aspects of the virtual interviews, in the part, I am going to discuss about Group Discussion and Personal Interview tips. Always remember, that your preparation is the only key word to your success at the interview and this means incorporating the vital knowledge, the right attitude, correct body language and the precise approach. Let the 4 C's - Content, Communication skills, Confidence and Composure be your weapons to ace the GD and the PI. For better or worse, virtual interviews and remote hiring are here to stay. While there are many unsurpassed advantages to this, there are many challenges as well. The process may be relatively new, however, you need to do your bit to ace the nuances of a virtual interview and nail it. So let us move ahead to understand a virtual Group Discussion [GD] and Personal Interview [PI]. The Group Discussion, commonly referred to as GD, is a crucial and mass elimination round in an interview process. And because this is virtual, challenges are more. Regardless of whether you are wishing to get into a top-notch college or applying for a job, the group discussion round is a crucial one, because this round will decide whether you proceed to the personal interview round or not; this is a round that you will have to face in order to get one step closer to realizing your aspiration of further education or a dream job. Although, at times you may freeze at the mere thought of how you will present your thoughts and views in a group discussion, in reality, the group discussion round is not as fearful as it seems if you work hard to master the tried and tested ways that can help you sail through a GD. You first need to understand why the GD round is being conducted and why is it so essential. The GD round helps a panel analyse and understand every candidate with respect to their requirement. Your level of confidence, team skills, communication, leadership skills, the respect you carry for people, your knowledge level and the list goes on.

1.       Audience Analysis Matters: The most crucial aspect of your preparation is- 'understand your audience', understand an interviewer's perspective, understand what they want to see in a candidate, understand the purpose of the GD round.

2.       Content Matters: A well-read and well-informed candidate is what the panel lists look for. Hence you need a thorough background in current affairs relating to politics, social scenarios, and social issues. Thus, all those who have been avid readers of newspapers and magazines, undoubtedly, stand a better chance in making an impression. Panel lists value a candidate who can present an in-depth analysis and support their points with research, facts and figures in the GD Round. A group discussion gives you just 20 minutes to prove your worth in a group of 8-10 candidates. This is not a trivial task. This is even more difficult in a virtual GD. How you enter into a discussion, how you begin, how you present your thoughts and view points matters. The GDs can be broadly classified into three categories: Factual topics or general topics that assess your general awareness, Abstract topics that assess your creative thought process, and Case-based topics that assess your problem solving and decision making ability. Try to solve multiple case studies to enhance your problem-solving skills and creative or out of the box thinking. So, go ahead, read as much as you can, build your own repertoire of knowledge so that you do not lack content. You need to begin by keeping track of what is happening across the globe. Your knowledge, your level of content remotely shows a well-rounded personality

3.       Communication Skills Matter Next crucial aspect is your communication skills. You will need to have a decent command over English. You should have a good vocabulary as well so that you don't find yourself fumbling with words. Practice speaking in groups, have mock GDs with friends and video record these to review your performance later. This will not only help you increase your knowledge but will also improve your fluency and of course, your confidence.

4.       Non-Verbal Skills:  Matter Recruiters observe you, listen to what you say and also listen to what you don't say. Your gestures, posture, facial expressions, and paralanguage speak more than your words at times. Since the GD is virtual, your face is even more being observed, control your expressions.

5.       Listening Skills Matter: In a GD, it is very important to speak but equally important is to be a good listener. Showcase your respect for other speakers by listening well and not interrupting all the time. However, time is limited in a GD, hence don't let everybody else eat into your time. Take or grab the opportunity to enter into the discussion but with valid points.

6.       Initiating and Summarizing the GD:  Take the opportunity to initiate the discussion if you know the topic well. Similarly, if you are a good listener, then take the opportunity to summarize the discussion. Do enter into the discussion whenever you feel you have a valid point to present. Try not using phrases like, 'I agree', 'I don't agree', 'Adding to', because you are there to present your views and not to agree, disagree or add to what others are saying.

Now moving on to the Personal Interview Round You have reached the PI round, that means you have sailed through the GD round. Now it is only you and the recruiters. The preparation for the PI doesn't begin after you clear a GD, but much before. Now is the time to prove your worth, show them that you will be an asset to the organization. What you can bring to the table that the other candidates may not, is important. Your enthusiasm, your energy, your positivity, your knowledge and of course yourself and your smile, everything matters. First of all, the audience analysis in a detailed manner as follows:

7.       Homework Matters Know the Sector: Read about the sector you are applying to, know the major players in the sector, understand their strengths, understand how business is happening. Know the Organization: Read about the organization, read about the business verticals the organization is into, learn about its products and services, in fact everything you can. Know the Profile: Understand the profile, understand how you match with the expectations of the profile. You can prove your worth when you are able to relate well and tell the recruiters how you are the most appropriate candidate.

8.       Anticipate Questions and Prepare Answers: Believe me, you can drive the interview by introducing yourself and adding aspects that you would want to be questioned on. Practice giving precise and crisp answers rather than beating around the bush. Anticipate what the panel lists can ask you based on your first answer. Important Tip is, make the most of the "Tell us something about yourself" question. This can help you to put questions into the recruiters' minds and mouth. For example, if you say you love reading books, automatically the next question is, name a few books or your favourite author. You should be prepared. Anticipate questions based on your Resume as well. Every single piece of information or claim that you have on your Resume is a question for you. Just because it is a virtual PI and you are on a laptop or desktop doesn't mean that you can search answers on web during the interview. It is visible through your body language, your facial expression, and movement of your eyes that you are trying to search or use unethical means. Keep your Resume in front of you, so that you don't forget key points you wanted to talk about. Read the frequently asked questions and make flow charts to remember what to say and how to say; flow charts create a visual for you to remember easily.

Some important frequently asked questions in virtual interviews are:

·         Tell us something about yourself

·         Talk about your strengths and weaknesses

·         Why do wish to work with us?

·         Why should you be hired?

·         Do you prefer working from office or home?

·         How do you organize your day-to-day tasks while being at home?

·         How do you stay motivated when working alone?

·         Tell us about a challenge you took on by yourself. ...

·         Are you able to avoid distractions when you're working from home?


9.       Use the STAR Approach to Answer: Whenever you are asked a behavioural question, use the STAR approach to answer. This helps to structure the answer in a proper manner rather than a haphazard manner. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. For example a question like 'Talk about a challenge you faced, what did you do?' Your answer should first talk about the Situation, then the Task at hand, move on to the Actions you undertook and Result achieved. Once you start putting all your answers especially those to behavioural questions, in a structured style, you come across as a very well organized candidate.

10.   Practice and Rehearse!: Practice and rehearse are two different words, do seem synonymous may be. Practice happens first to put as much as effort as you can to master a skill; Rehearsal can be done to see how you perform. Practice with friends for both GD and PI; Rehearse and video record mock GD and PI to review and introspect how it went. Learn from your mistakes. An important point, do not memorise your answers, practice speaking them over and over again. Add a few different words each time so that you come out looking natural in your answers and not like you learnt all answers by heart. Also do remember that you are judged most in the first five minutes of your interview so try creating an impact with your enthusiasm, positivity, and energy, because during the rest of the interview, the interviewer would look for aspects that can help them confirm and reach a decision about your candidature. Enter with positivity, energy, passion, and enthusiasm, exit on a similar note as well. And don't leave the room or the meeting without reiterating your appropriateness for the profile. In simple words, convince them that you are the right hire! Create that 'wow' factor. Don't forget the 4 C's, your content, communication skills, confidence and composure that can be your weapons to ace the GD and PI. And as I always say to all, 'Carry your sunshine with you!'. You are sure to win hearts and your hard work will pay off! Remember there is no magic wand, only your persistent hard work can be the key to your success. Good Luck!

(The author is a Professor at IMS, Ghaziabad. She is also a trainer, mentor, and writer. She can be reached at sangeeta03m@gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal.