We are officially living through some pretty scary times. Fears over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, have already resulted in significant changes to the way we go about our daily lives. For many of us, the adjustment to "the new normal" has been surprisingly tricky. Handshaking is out, hand washing is (very) in, and for those who are able, many employers are recommending—or, in some cases, requiring—working from home.
Public health concerns are also quickly changing the way we meet, network, and interview. Employers like Google and LinkedIn have, for the time being, moved all in-person interviews to virtual interviews, with others sure to follow suit.
Today, I'll offer some advice on the best way to request a virtual interview (and what to do if your request is denied). And tomorrow, we'll discuss how to prepare for a video interview.
Requesting a virtual job interview
While every situation is different, I think most employers would agree that during a public health crisis, safety and self-care always win. Protecting yourself and those around you should outweigh any concerns you may have about making a bad first impression by requesting an interview accommodation.
And while I do recommend you do whatever makes you feel safe, there is definitely a right way to ask a hiring manager to make an exception to their standard process.
No need to sit around and wait for an interviewer to connect with you regarding your concerns. You can highlight your proactive nature by reaching out with a well-thought-out "Plan B." In your email, you'll want to be sure to include the following points and details:
- Mention the practical implications of the epidemic and how they may impact plans for moving around and getting to the interview (public transportation may be suspended, air travel may be limited, etc.).
- Outline exactly how you're set up for a virtual interview.
- Inquire about any concerns they may have on their end regarding moving to a virtual interview.
- Reassure the hiring manager that this is in no way an attempt to rush their final decision.
Here's an example of how you may go about requesting a virtual interview:
Dear [HIRING MANAGER],
First, I want to reiterate how happy I am to be moving forward in the interview process for [POSITION]. I am confident that I'm the right fit for the role and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to tell you, in detail, exactly why.
I am reaching out today to proactively request an adjustment to my interview schedule in light of recent developments as they relate to COVID-19. Due to concerns over in-person meetings as well as public transportation availability, I would like to request that my in-person interview be moved to a virtual interview.
I am already well-acquainted with Google Hangouts and Skype, so I would be happy to use one of those—or any other platform of your choice—for the virtual meeting.
I understand that there may be some concerns or potential barriers on your end regarding moving to a virtual meeting, but I’m hoping we can work together to determine a plan that works for all sides. I also wanted to mention that I am in no way attempting to rush the hiring process. I understand if you need to take some time to reconsider how we may move forward.
Thank you again,
Be prepared to make a tough decision
While I anticipate that most employers would be willing to make this accommodation, you should still be prepared for a “no.”
Maybe you're in a final-round interview and have yet to meet in person. Perhaps your upcoming interview has a practical component that requires you to interact with staff in a way that is not conducive to a virtual meeting. Or, your prospective employer may just have some technological limitations and be unwilling to oblige. If you find yourself in any of these situations, you’ll have a decision to make.
If you choose to forego the interview, take the time to either get on a call (make notes prior to your conversation) or draft a thoughtful and frank email. You'll need to explain why you're passing on the interview and potentially withdrawing your candidacy.
However, if you choose to keep your in-person interview on the calendar, make sure you're taking all necessary precautions as recommended by public health officials and the CDC.
And don't be shy about taking those precautions!
Wash your hands when you arrive to your interview; explain to an eager hiring manager that you'd prefer not to shake hands; and take the stairs (if you are able) if you’d prefer to avoid the elevator. If your interview requires you to take public transportation, see if the hiring manager is willing to schedule a time that doesn't require you to be on a train, bus, or ferry during common rush hours.
Whatever you ultimately decide, I urge you to do what makes you feel comfortable, responsible, and safe.
Are you a hiring manager making decisions about how to move forward with an interview process? Are you a job candidate trying to decide what to do? Share your story with us on Facebook.
As the Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Idealist and a lifelong nonprofit professional, Alexis offers job seekers, game changers, and do gooders actionable tips, career resources, and social-impact advice.