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Interview Etiquette: Don’t Be Late and Don’t Be Boring

Tl;dr

Interviewer advice: Have an open mind, ask out-of-the-box questions, and create an even playing field for every candidate.

Interviewee advice: Take notes, keep the energy up, and don’t beat around the bush – just answer the question.

You love em, you hate em: Interviews. The time to impress and be impressed. An opportunity to share successes while hoping your personality shines through. Interviews can be intimidating and stressful. This blog is here to help the individuals on both sides navigate the process, particularly during this new Zoom-interview season! We spoke with Lauren Conger, CompanyCam’s Head of People, to gather her interviewing insights and tips to impress your interviewer.


I’d like to address something important. Everyone has an unconscious bias. Whether we like it or not, this bias has the potential to influence all hiring stages. To respect applicants and preserve the integrity of the hiring processes, combating bias is of the utmost importance. Here at CompanyCam, we use a platform called Greenhouse. Greenhouse allows for further inclusion in applicant tracking. It also offers features, such as the removal of names on resumes, to enhance the process. At CompanyCam, we want to build a diverse work community and rid ourselves of any unconscious bias. Greenhouse has been a useful resource, encouraging us towards the right direction.


Interviewer 101

As a surprise to no one, interviews have changed since March 2020. However, it is surprising that the interview process is now easier thanks to the coronavirus. Zoom allows you to hop on meetings quickly, with little disruption to your work. Typically final interviews involve flying applicants out to the headquarters, booking a hotel, and providing meals. COVID-19 interfered with that process and has, in many ways, cheapened it. It is cost-efficient and cost-effective. And by now, everyone should be proficient with Zoom.

You can weed out people. If, at this point, they can’t figure Zoom out, they’re probably not going to work well at a technology company. — LC

Unfortunately, Zoom doesn’t lend itself to casual conversations. When in-person, you can pick up subtle cues, as well as their general vibe.” Interviews are not just about what the candidate says. It’s how they carry and present themselves, in addition to their energy and enthusiasm. A lot goes into seeing if someone’s a culture fit, too. For example, if your team is joking around, does the candidate join in? Or does it make them uncomfortable? It’s difficult to gauge an authentic connection quickly with a stranger over Zoom.

Their handshake tells me a lot. I don’t get that via Zoom. — LC

There are standard interview questions applicants should expect in an interview. However, asking out-of-the-box questions often leads to deeper, more telling conversations between interviewer and interviewee. A famous question here at CompanyCam is: Tell us about a time you’ve failed and what you learned from it.” This question addresses all angles—how does the candidate face failure? Do they blame others? Do they take up the opportunity to learn and grow from disappointment? Are they vulnerable regarding their flaws? 

As an interviewer, another recommended question is, How do you like to learn?” CompanyCam, in particular, believes in the constant growth of its employees. Understanding the candidate’s ideal environment for growth is important. Do they learn from Reddit, from YouTube videos, by reading books? Are they a visual learner? Do they like to learn in groups?

To pair with the question above, ask: What are you learning right now?” This allows the applicant to share further insight into their interests. Learning something new takes time and initiative. It shows interest in developing themselves further as a well-rounded member of society. Are they learning a new instrument? Participating in a new sport? Reading up on local/​foreign politics? 

Ask candidates to describe a work environment they would thrive in. If your company culture is a driving force within your business, this question is a must! Listen to the individual’s answer. Is their ideal work environment compatible with your company culture? Identify the applicant’s culture preference, before assuming they’ll fit right in.

And finally, a real thought-provoker! What is the most negative thing a former boss would say about you?” We get it — an interview is a time for candidates to show their best self. But! Employers want to see them as humans. Ideally, the applicant will be honest and open and, if truthful, back up their answer with ways they’ve been working on those skills.

Remember to be open-minded during every interview. Ask similar questions to all candidates — providing an even playing field.


Interviewee 101

COVID-19 interviews allow more flexibility, but one thing remains the same: Don’t be late! Don’t be late! Sign in two minutes early. Ten minutes is a little ambitious. According to LC, Five minutes is probably even a little too early!” Two minutes is perfect; it allows for enough time to ensure you can get into the meeting without sitting awkwardly on the call. 

A controversial piece of Zoom-interviewing advice: Don’t have a plain zoom background! Your background should be clean but should also provide the interviewers with context into who you are. It gives the interviewers something to talk about. For example, Oh, I love that book on your shelf. That’s also my favorite book.” Or, That painting behind you is gorgeous. Who did it?” Or, Oh my gosh, I love your dog. I also have a dog.” Interviewers want to know more about you!

I’m looking for things to tell me about you as a person. So, having a plain background is just kind of like, Oh, so you’re in prison?” — LC

Another piece of advice: Keep the energy up! It’s harder to feed off others’ energy over Zoom and easy to become distracted. Keep your energy high and remember social cues, such as smiling, nodding, and laughing.

Does your outfit really matter in an interview? CompanyCam is a casual company. Most of our interviewers show up in a sweatshirt! We don’t expect our applicants to interview in a suit…in fact, please don’t” says LC. However, look professional. LC clarified, Once you start working at CoCam, you can be casual, but hey! You don’t have the job yet!” Here’s the ultimate goal: No one should notice your outfit during the interview. Don’t be flashy, don’t be sloppy.

The goal of your outfit is to not have them think about your outfit. — LC

Take notes! As a candidate, you’ll look interested and engaged. Do a little research before your interview and come prepared, especially with questions for the end. If you don’t have questions, that’s a big red flag for employers.

Newsflash! DON’T ask about time-off and your pre-planned vacations in the first interview. Biggg no-no! It’s awfully presumptuous. On the other hand, asking about company benefits is appropriate. What are the benefits your company is offering?

During the interview, you should be taking notes. Even if you’re just scribbling, make it look like you’re taking notes! — LC

General advice: Answer the question being asked. No need to speak for five minutes when it simply requires a 30-second answer. For example, Tell me about a time you de-escalated a tense situation.” Answering, Oh I’ve done that a lot at my previous job where I worked in customer services. I dealt with that all the time.” Um…that answer doesn’t tell the interviewer anything. Prepare examples! AND it isn’t offensive to ask for a second to think of an answer. Particularly in Zoom interviews, it’s also okay to have a few prepared bullet-point notes, so long as you aren’t robotic. Having notes shows you’ve prepared.


To the interviewer and interviewee, don’t forget: It’s NOT personal. Businesses are looking for a very specific set of skills for a very specific role. As a candidate, you may be incredibly qualified but might not fit the exact need — that doesn’t mean you are a bad candidate! And as the interviewer, this can be difficult. Selecting the best fit for your company may require telling a wonderful, highly qualified person that this isn’t the role for them. Interviewing is like any other skill — with practice, you improve. Keep an open mind, be yourself, and seek out input from those around you.

Good luck with your interviews, folks!

Speaking of interviews, CompanyCam is hiring. Check it out & apply, apply, apply!

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