Job-search while sheltering in place

Job-search while sheltering in place

I have been searching for new opportunities and interviewing with different companies for the last 2 months. I never thought I would be doing a process like this while sheltering at place. There are definitely some negative aspects as well as some advantages. This can be a learning experience as we adapt to the new-normality.

I was invited as a speaker for the Women Speaker Series organized by 42 Silicon Valley for their students. 42 Silicon Valley is a tuition-free software engineering school. I thought this was the perfect scenario so share my recent experience interviewing with different companies in Silicon Valley.

My presentation covered different topics: stages of the interview process, preparation needed for your interviews, and the differences now that we are working from home. For this post, I want to share some of the content related to the new virtual “on sites”.

On site loops consist on a series of 4 to 6 interviews, typically during the same day. This stage usually took place in the company offices. While working at home, this process is not possible anymore. These interviews are now done virtually, becoming more similar to a phone screening. Here I present the main advantages and disadvantages of interviewing from home:

While doing a virtual interview, you can sometimes face technical issues. This happened to me. I had connectivity issues even when I live in the city and I never have issues with my Internet connection. My recommendation in case something like this happens is to be resolutive. Have your phone at hand and learn how you could connect to a meeting using your phone instead. In addition to that, have the recruiter’s contact information ready to let them know about any issues.

Another challenge is to find a quiet space at home with no interruptions, even more if you have kids or pets. Even if you are not interrupted, you could be hearing noises from your kids or your pets. The ideal situation is to have a dedicated space at home with a desk and a comfortable chair. This was also a challenge for me, because I didn’t have a space like that. These challenges are going to affect your focus. There are more distractions.

Regarding the technical aspect, the problem solving questions were typically done on a white board. During a virtual interview, these are resolved using a shared code pad. These tools allow you to build and run your code, which adds the pressure and responsibility of having your code running and working with test cases by the end of the interview. When using a white board, the only goal was to describe and explain a solution for the problem, with no need of having a perfect code that builds.

A different negative aspect is missing the human interaction. You don’t have that closeness to the other person during a video call. Body language is really important during communication. For example, eye-contact shows honesty, confidence, it is a sign that you are listening to the other person, and it helps to build trust. All of this body language is not present in a virtual video conference. To overcome this, you can still try to look at the camera, smiling, nodding with your head, to show that you are listening. Try not to look down the whole time, or to the side, as if you were distracted by something else.

The last disadvantage is that you can’t see the office environment. Going to the office could be exciting and interesting because you can see how desks are distributed, how people works, how they interact between each other and with you. Teams also like decorating their area with things related to them. You won’t get this vibe from a remote interview.

What about the positive aspects?

Firstly, you are doing the interviews in a familiar environment. You are in your safe-space and that gives you confidence. The situation feels more relaxed. Home compared to an office, is a more friendly space. A trick can be to decorate your room with motivational sentences or inspirational images.

At home your pressure is lower, it’s easier to control your nerves. You have limited body language which is bad for some things, but is an advantage for some others. If under stress, your hands are sweaty, you start playing with your hands, or playing with a pen, all these movements won’t be noticed. If you find it difficult to look at the eyes when you are talking to someone you don’t know, then a virtual interview is an advantage too.

The next point is the level of exhaustion. This process, virtual or not, is really tiring. In a virtual loop, you have the advantage that when the day is over, you are already at home. You can take a shower, have some rest, eat something, immediately. There is also no need to do any commute. And similarly when you start the day. It’s easier not to be late.

The last advantage is the option of distributing the interviews in different days. Some companies will allow you to split the process in 2 different days. If you have other responsibilities, this is an advantage. I personally prefer doing it the same day, but this depends on your personal preference.

This has been my personal journey during the different interview processes. A unique situation given this uncertain times.

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