Job interviews can be challenging enough, but factor in time differences, shaky connections and unreliable technologies and it’s an even more daunting experience.
After spending more than half the summer overseas during a period when I was actively interviewing for a new gig, I’ve come up with a few tips for those who find themselves in the middle of a job search while outside the country.
- Make it clear you’re out of town
In my experience, most companies tend to reach out over the phone to schedule potential interviews so the last thing you’d want is to miss out on a job opportunity because you weren’t in a position to either take the call or check the voicemail after. That’s especially the case if you’ve chosen not to purchase a roaming plan while abroad.
I make a habit any time I’m out of town for more than a day to change my voicemail greeting to mention the dates I am away, the fact that I have little or no access to voicemail, and that email is the best way to reach me while I’m away. I’ll not only mention my email address in the voicemail greeting, but also spell it out just to make it easier on the caller.
- Bring your devices and always have a backup
I have a tendency to over pack whenever I go on a trip but the one thing I won’t compromise on is bringing my laptop. At any given time I’m usually working on some project or another and I just find I can do more on my laptop than on a smartphone or a tablet.
My laptop is also invaluable in the event I end up scheduling an online interview. It’s still my preferred tool for using Skype, but is versatile to allow me to install other programs as needed. I have had an online interview in the past with a company that chose to use a very specific program (one that maybe most might not have as part of their set of apps). My laptop is about five years old now but I haven’t run into any issues with downloading and installing new programs. I can’t say the same for some of my iDevices although generally when running the latest operating system you should be fine.
(Skype, I have found, seems to not recognize your login credentials unless you’ve updated to the latest version. Essentially, that’s made the Skype I had previously been running on my outdated iPad 2 to be worthless).
Either way, if you’re expecting you might have be taking part in an interview over the internet, make sure you’ve got multiple options available.
- Never rely on public WiFi
This one is arguably the biggest make or break when it comes to online interviews.
Your interview will only be as smooth as your connection is. My guess is, especially given the odd hours, you’re most likely going to hold your interview wherever you’re staying be it a hostel, hotel or a friend or family member’s place. Outside of the latter, I would suggest you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your own internet connection setup rather than rely on a public network.
Over the course of this summer I’ve done interviews everywhere from luxury resorts to hostels, from big cities to rural villages in the middle of nowhere, and the one thing they all have in common is unreliable WiFi. Some, admittedly, are better than others and probably could have sufficed. Others, however, would have been disastrous had I tried to rely solely on them.
One option to consider if you want to make sure you’ve got your own solid connection is to rent (or buy) your own mobile WiFi hub. These are often referred to as Pocket WiFi or Wifi Egg devices. I like these better than getting a separate sim card when you travel for a few reasons.
First, Pocket Wifi units allow you to easily connect multiple devices and you can usually purchase a plan that offers unlimited data and no speed caps. The travel sim cards that I’ve used in the past usually have data and speed cap limits, although perhaps there are better plans out there than the ones I’ve seen.
Second, travel sim cards require you to take out your existing sim card meaning you’re pretty much giving up on receiving calls during that time unless you plan to walk around with multiple phones. It’s also only a viable option for you if you happen to have an unlocked phone or device. The whole process of changing sim cards and making sure you don’t lose your original sim card is a bit of a nuisance as well.
Finally, the Pocket Wifi option works out even better if your service provider back home offers WiFi Calling. WiFi Calling essentially lets you use your phone as if you were at home if you’re connected to WiFi anywhere. That means you can place and receive calls, and send or receive text messages, without having to purchase a roaming package or pay exorbitant fees. I was pleasantly surprised to discover while I was in Japan trying to work out the details of a phone interview that my service provider, Rogers Wireless, actually does support WiFi Calling.
- Figure out your times, and get set up early
This one is a no-brainer, but is worth mentioning here still. This summer I’ve had interviews ranging from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. local time depending on where I happened to be in the world.
It’s important to arrange a time where you can be confident in knowing where you will be when the clock strikes. As an example, if you’re planning a late night out with and you’re relying on public transportation to get you back to wherever you’re staying, that might not be the best night to set your online interview.
You will also want to login ahead of time if for no other reason than to make sure there are no issues with your technology and that your WiFi connection is stable. I’d suggest at least 15-20 minutes before your scheduled start time which will give you enough time to come up with a quick contingency plan just in case something does go awry.