Virtual Interview Tips to Land the Job

By Erica Botka, UMCU’s Talent Development Manager

While virtual career fairs and virtual interviews have become necessary during the pandemic, many employers and candidates alike have found this new format to be not only safe but beneficial. Because of its accessibility and ease, we will likely see virtual career fairs continue in some capacity after the pandemic.

As UMCU’s Talent Development Manager, I’ve interviewed hundreds of applicants and want to share my expert advice for what hiring managers are looking for in a candidate.

Here are my tips to help you stand out (and the mistakes to avoid!) during a virtual interview or at a virtual career fair:

Get to Know the Company

  • Get to know the organizations attending the event and decide which you are most interested in pursuing. Research the current roles open, history of the organization, their purpose, values, and culture. Consider preparing a list of questions for each organization based on your research. This shows you took the initiative to learn more about their organization and that you are well-prepared.

Practice Your Elevator Pitch

  • Just like an in-person event, you’ll want to prepare and rehearse a brief statement about yourself, your skills, and what you bring to the organization. Being virtual can throw off some candidates so jump on a Zoom with a friend and run through your pitch a few times!

Update Your Resume

  • Your professional resume should reflect your work history and educational achievements. It’s important that your resume is up-to-date, highlights your accomplishments, and lists your roles and responsibilities succinctly. If a cover letter is required, always include relevant skills and projects that demonstrate that you can meet all the required and desired qualifications of the position. Plus, having your resume on hand at a virtual career fair will help you quickly reference specific accomplishments.

Prepare Your Space

  • You’ll want to make sure you have a quiet and professional space to attend the virtual career fair or interview. Make sure you have good lighting and your background is neat and not distracting. It is also a great idea to do a quick test of your technology ahead of time to ensure a strong and clear connection.

Dress to Impress

  • While some candidates may think a virtual career fair is a reason to dress casual, you’re sure to stand out from the other candidates if you dress in business attire. Being mindful of your dress and background can go a very long way in a virtual setting!

Professional Communication

  • Some online career fairs rely on chat functions for some of the interactions. Be sure to avoid using emoticons, shorthand, and acronyms (LOL, THX) in chat. This is one area in particular where I’ve seen even experienced candidates’ misstep. By having your questions typed up ahead of time you can demonstrate strong communication skills, correct spelling, and proper grammar.

Follow-Through by Following Up!

  • At the end of the chat or virtual interview, ask the company representatives for their contact information. You can follow up with an email, LinkedIn message, or even a handwritten note.  Following up after an in-person interview is a must and reaching out after a career fair will help set you apart and keep you top of mind!

With these tips, you can begin conquering the virtual job hunt in no time!

In addition to helping you land the job of your dreams, UMCU’s Financial Wellness Program is designed to teach you how to keep your finances organized so you stay on top of your money through every stage of life.

Together, we can help you break down the essentials of money management and create a plan so you can build a solid financial foundation that pays dividends long after you graduate. Visit UMCU.org today!

MARCH ARTICLE:

  1. Create a budget – It takes time to make one, but it’s a great way to visualize where your money is going throughout the month. I did this after I started living off-campus and wanted to make sure I always had a month’s worth of rent available, in case of emergencies. By listing out expenses and sources of income it helped me establish what my financial priorities were.
  2. Read your rental lease – I’ve paid so many unexpected costs and fees because I didn’t read the rental lease thoroughly. I once had to pay for a pest control service, because the landlord argued that the issue wasn’t specified in the lease and therefore not his responsibility. So, it’s also important to make sure all potential problems that could arise during the lease are explained and accounted for in writing.
  3. Try not to spend more than 30% of your credit limit* – I didn’t know this until I started working at UMCU and I notice this fact also surprises members! Typically, people who use 30% or higher of their available credit have less than favorable credit scores.
  4. Ask questions – I thought that because I was an adult and independent for the first time, I was supposed to know all the answers to financial questions or concerns: what benefit packages to look for in prospective jobs, how APR works, how to start investing, what a good loan rate is, how to read my credit report, etc. This made me nervous to ask for help, but there are so many resources to better inform you about your financial future.
  5. Set up text notifications for your account – Once I had fraudulent activity in my checking account and didn’t realize my debit card was blocked until I went to use it. Now I receive a text message every morning with my current balances and notifications for any transactions over a certain amount, so I am up-to-date.
  6. Create subaccounts – This goes with budgeting, but I created subaccounts for my financial priorities: rent, car insurance, a planned trip, etc. It was an easy way to organize my funds and ensure I never spent money that was designated for something important.
  7. Look for student discounts – I bundled many of my subscriptions and received a discount on websites, just by verifying I was a student. I also carried my MCard with me and was not afraid to ask at local shops. The worst thing they could say was, no!
  8. Don’t spend money on books – I spent so much money on books that I will probably never read again. The University of Michigan’s library is extensive and as a student, you can request pages of a book to be scanned and sent to you, and loan materials from other libraries if U of M doesn’t have it. Local libraries and online databases also have free resources.
  9. Research before opening up a store credit card – I learned this from watching a lot of my friends get credit cards at clothing/department stores. Each credit card application is a hard pull on your credit, the interest rates are extremely high, the cards often require minimum balances, and you can only use the card at that specific store.
  10. Your financial journey is your own – It took a couple of years for me to figure out that everyone has a different financial situation. My financial priorities differed from my friends because we all had varying levels of familial support, financial responsibility, and income. For example, if we planned to go somewhere for spring break, I would have to make sacrifices throughout the school year that looked different from others (working extra shifts or skipping a night out). The most important thing I wish I knew is that financial security is more important than attending every event or trying to keep up with the trends.

No matter where you are in your financial journey, you can always strive for financial well-being. To help you on your path to understanding finances, UMCU offers workshops that start with the basics of budgeting, to tips that help you establish credit, pointers on how to correctly use a checking and savings account and common mistakes to avoid along the way. Our Financial Wellness Program is designed to teach you how to keep your finances organized so you stay on top of your money.

Together, we can help you break down the essentials of money management and create a plan so you can build a solid financial foundation that pays dividends long after you graduate. Visit UMCU.org today!

*30% of your credit score is derived from your credit utilization ratio. Essentially, it’s a comparison between your credit balance vs. your credit limit. For example, if your credit limit on your credit card is $1,000, and your balance as reported to the credit reporting bureaus is $600, your utilization ratio is 60%. The scoring formula will deduct points in situations where the ratio is greater than 30%. The rationale is that history has shown that people who use 30% or higher of their credit lines are more likely to be in danger of overextending themselves. In other words, there is too much use of credit going on and not enough use of cash and debit (which is not borrowed funds).

 

FEBRUARY ARTICLE:

From Linebacker to VP: Q&A with Marcus English

What will I do after I graduate from college? Will I pursue a career in my area of study? Or take my passion for my sport to the next level?

These questions are on the minds of student-athletes before they embark on the inevitable next step after college: starting their career.

Marcus English knows this all too well.

As an undergraduate studying business administration, while playing football for Eastern Michigan University (EMU), English had to find the balance of being both a student and an athlete.

Playing football throughout his academic career, first at Trotwood-Madison High School in Trotwood, Ohio, where he was an honor roll student, then at EMU, where he was earning his bachelor’s degree, English’s goal was to pursue a professional football career in the NFL. When he realized that he wouldn’t play at the next level, English knew he had to shift focus and represent his personal brand in the job market.

After graduating from EMU in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, English worked at Citibank as a Mortgage Loan Coordinator and Processor. Two years later, he started at the University of Michigan Credit Union (UMCU).

Applying the skills he learned as a student-athlete, English quickly rose through the ranks of UMCU to the position of Vice President of EBranch.

As VP of EBranch at UMCU, English is responsible for leading the UMCU Contact Center, Payments, and EServices teams. The primary goal of his role is to foster a great member experience in all of UMCU’s digital service channels over the phone, in written messages, remote loan applications, new accounts, video calls, electronic transfers, card services, and more.

See Marcus English’s full Q+A below.

Q1: You were a student-athlete, playing football while studying Business Administration. How did you find a balance between practice, matches, training, studying, and attending class?

This is likely at the top of the list of challenges for most student-athletes, and I was no different. In order to be successful at both school and my sport, I had to prioritize my time and be diligent with sticking to my plan. Even though study halls were voluntary, I took advantage of that structure to keep me on track.  Surprisingly another thing that helped me balance school and football was spending as much time at the athletic facility as possible. If meetings and practice started at 3 every day, I would grab food and head to the facilities immediately after class, no matter how much time was in between. This allowed me to get settled early, start my school work, and easily transition into watching film or seeing the trainers before practice. I found that I was distracted much less with this approach as opposed to heading back to my dorm or eating in the common areas.

Q2: As a former student-athlete, what skills do you believe are transferrable to a career off the field?

    1. Teamwork
    2. Resilience
    3. Critical thinking

Q3: What was one thing you wish you knew while you were a student-athlete that would have better prepared you for a career after college?

The need to create a professional identity and brand while also striving for your goals as an athlete. We know that most student-athletes don’t get the opportunity to play at the next level. With that said, my learning and development as a student first should have been more of a priority in order to be ready for the job market or to start my own business.

Being prepared to represent my professional brand was a challenge mentally, especially when high school and college was spent striving to make it to the NFL. For others, it may be that you had your heart set on making it pro, being invited to the Olympic team, playing overseas, etc. Whatever your athletic goals are, commit to it 100% but also don’t trap yourself in a box and also prepare yourself academically and professionally.  

Q4: Do you utilize what you learned as a student-athlete in your everyday life? What specifically?

The most valuable lesson learned as a student-athlete that I utilize today would pertain to resilience. In a lot of cases, an athlete’s resilience will drive how successful they will be. The lessons that I learned pushing through a difficult play, class, or entire season, taught me how to be resilient and how to learn from both successes and failures.

Q5: What piece of advice would you give to a student-athlete as they prepare to enter the job market after graduation?

Don’t settle and be patient. Employers don’t settle for a candidate that doesn’t meet the needs of their organization. There is no reason you should settle long term for a situation that you are not passionate about. Understand that you may start entry level but you should still be able to draw the line of sight to a purpose that makes sense for you as an individual. We all need to make a living and if you need to take a job that isn’t ideal for you, my advice would be to not become complacent in that job for too long and continue to look for opportunities that you are passionate about.

Q6: What was your career journey after you graduated from college? Did you find your background as a student-athlete helped you find success in your career?

After graduating from EMU, I found my way into banking where I worked at Citi bank processing mortgage applications for two years. Immediately after my time at Citi, I started working for the University of Michigan Credit Union where I have had the pleasure of spending the last 6 years in various roles.  My experience as an athlete made the transition of working on a team in a professional environment easy. As an athlete, we were individuals working together for a shared goal and the same applies to working on a team in a work environment.

 

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