The market in the time of COVID (mostly Zoom/Skype interviews)

 I wrote most of the posts prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. I think a lot of of it holds up, and which parts that don't (e.g. winter clothes at the AEA) are obvious. I am writing this post as an update prior to the 2021-22 market, which looks like it will be partially affected by COVID.

The biggest difference candidates need to get ready for is probably the proliferation of virtual interviews instead of first round AEA interviews. These were becoming more and more common even prior to the pandemic, and there seems to be talk of them continuing in the future. So job market candidates should certainly prepare for them. My thoughts about how to do so are below.

1. Practice specifically for virtual interviews. During my pre-pandemic market, I had 3 or 4 virtual interviews. All of my practice interviews were face-to-face, and that made me a lot less prepared for virtual interviews than I thought I was. My worst interviews were the first couple virtual interviews, and I don't believe that was a coincidence. Those of you on the market this year have been dealing with a lot of virtual meetings so you are probably better prepared than I was, but I encourage you to practice virtual interviews specifically. If your school conducts practice interviews, see if you can do one over Zoom. If not, do practice interviews over Zoom with colleagues.

2. Conduct it as professionally as possible. Wear a suit. Have a professional looking background. Make sure you are using a good quality camera and microphone.

3. The most difficult part of of virtual meetings is having a natural flow of conversation with interruptions. So you want to make sure you are easily interruptible. Make sure you aren't talking too fast. Listen carefully for people trying to talk. Watch for things like raised hands, either on camera or using the Zoom feature. You may also want to exert a little bit of control if things start getting chaotic. For instance, if multiple interviewers are talking at once, pick one of them and say "Yes, so-and-so?"

4. The level of interest displayed by your interviewers will vary a lot more than when you are in a room together (although even then it varies a fair bit). Some people will be obviously not paying attention or doing other things on their computer. There is not a lot you can do about that except for be ready for it and not let it bother you. In general, interviewers act the same way across interviews. So if someone is obviously not paying much attention to you, they probably don't pay much attention to many interviewees, and it's not a sign they are bored by you specifically.

5. One way to take advantage of the remote interview is to have notes on your screen you can look at. Either for your job market paper pitch or about the interviewers. If you do this, be careful and do it sparingly. First, it's probably best not to minimize the Zoom/Skype screen or put it in the background. Have it up, either on half your screen or on one screen of a multiscreen set up. Second, reading off of your screen or obviously scrolling is a bad look. The best thing to do is to have a skeleton of your pitch and a couple notes about questions you might want to ask your interviewers that you can glance at quickly. 


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