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Seven Lessons Learned from Hybrid Work-Life That Will Help You Ace Your Next Interview

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Alice Maggiore
Alice Maggiore

Seven Lessons Learned from Hybrid Work-Life That Will Help You Ace Your Next Interview

You’re listening to the Strategic Minute, brought to you by WRVO Public Media. I’m Alice Maggiore, Director of Public Relations at Strategic Communications, LLC in Syracuse.

When I think back to the pandemic, one good thing that emerged is how it prompted nearly every industry to embrace virtual connections and find ways to elevate opportunities these connections create. Teams, WebEx, Zoom, etc. became classrooms where we learned techniques to help us improve communications skills. And, whether we realized it or not, we unlocked tools to help us interact with the news media.

Collectively, we’re more aware of our body language. In virtual meetings, we can’t avoid the cringey feeling some of us know from watching ourselves on camera. We’ve learned to keep facial expressions in check and be thoughtful about where on our computer screens we’re looking to simulate eye contact. Virtual meetings have also taught us to be more succinct with our word choices, eliminating at least a few “ahs” and “ums” from many vocabularies.

As a bonus feature that you may or may not have considered, being present for virtual meetings has also activated skills that prove useful when reporters call, text, email, or – in this digital age – DM us.

As a former television news producer, admittedly, I watch the news with a more critical eye. The following tips were curated from interviews I watched in the early days of the pandemic – and they still hold up years later.

First, eliminate possible distractions at home Before They Become Disasters. When you first speak to your media contact, ask if the virtual interview will be LIVE or pre-recorded. That way, you can let members of your household know to stay out of the picture (and silent) for the appropriate amount of time. This includes furry friends and non-speaking members of our families too. While the interview itself will probably only be about a five to ten-minute time commitment, in a LIVE scenario, the need for this time to be uninterrupted is paramount to your sanity. It also greatly minimizes your chance of going viral for the wrong reasons.

Then, there’s the Sticky Note Strategy. In this digital world, even radio shows and podcasts are working visual elements into interviews more often, making it more likely that your interview becomes a full-length video that’s accessible to anyone at any time. So, if you feel like you’re struggling to remember something when you write your Talking Points – like statistics, clunky information or a hard-to-pronounce name – jot down a reminder(s) on sticky note(s), and place the note(s) on the side of your computer screen around eye level, or next to the camera lens. You can also take a digital approach and split the screen to have your notes open in a word document on one side, and the reporter in view on the other.

Next up, dress for success. Even in the privacy of your home, you’ll still be very public when your interview airs. The nice thing is, technically, you only need to look nice from the waist up. But, if you’re anything like me, you might feel more put together if you get dressed all the way. It’s up to you - whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

Once you’re confident you look the part, practice speaking to make sure you can get into a groove, which tip #4 calls for. This might sound silly, but especially if you’re working alone at home, you might not have had a chance to warm up your vocal cords with small talk. Run through your Talking Points, and if you can, watch yourself talk – in a mirror or better yet, record yourself on your smartphone. This will help you find the right pace for your conversation. And, by watching yourself, you’ll be able to correct potentially problematic facial expressions.

Let’s talk about lights... When it comes to lighting, don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, few of us are trained photographers. Just remember two things:

· Natural light is preferable to overhead light, and

· 2) While you’re looking for natural light, don’t sit directly in front of a window. If the sun shines behind you, your face will look too dark and the background will look too bright – and this combination just looks “off.”

Try to position yourself so that your face is at eye-level with the camera lens, leaving just a little room above your head. This way, you’ll be eye-to-eye with the interviewer and the viewer will be eye-to-eye with you when they watch on TV or online. Books make a great leveler, too.

When it’s GO time, and “Record” is blinking at you, always assume that you’re LIVE, even when you aren’t talking. Like we talked about earlier, more podcast and radio hosts are incorporating visual components into their content now. For as long as the interview is going on, treat it like you’re LIVE. It helps to nod as your interviewer is talking, and smile more than you think you should.

With free video conferencing tools so readily available, we encourage everyone to seize opportunities to practice these tips. It will help make you more comfortable and boost your confidence for any interview, and it will benefit your organization too.

Thanks for listening to the Strategic Minute, brought to you by WRVO Public Media. If you want to learn more about what we do at Strategic Communications, visit stratcomllc.com