Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Working on interview skills in a Covid-19 world and not sure how to approach the video interviews? Friends not on the same page as you when it comes to wearing masks…now what?

DEAR NATALIE: My question is about career advancement in the era of Covid-19. Job interviews are being conducted online and with that comes a new set of challenges for prospective employees. I've recently been encountering pre-screen interviews that require applicants to record on-the-spot responses to questions in an allotted period of time in order to successfully advance to an interview with an actual company rep. Do you have any advice on the best approach to a two-minute "elevator pitch" response to the "tell us about yourself" question in 120 seconds that might make the best impression on a hiring manager? — READY FOR EMPLOYMENT

DEAR READY FOR EMPLOYMENT: I would tackle this in two ways. First I would focus on your presentation of self. People want to work with people that they like. In these unusual times, you aren’t able to give them the best sense of your personality over a video, so make sure you practice in front of a mirror--or better yet--record yourself on your phone to see how you look and act on camera. Are you fidgeting? Tripping over your words? Are your shoulders hunched? Did you smile at all? Depending on the nature of the company will decide how conservative or friendly you may want to be on film, but I would take a look at all the little things that you do. You want to work towards looking comfortable, engaged, confident and authentic. Shoulders back, smile, dress in bold solid colors. Blue is always a good choice. Simple hair and makeup. After you feel as though your body language reads confident and friendly, focus on what you want to say. Two minutes is actually longer than you think. Write down three important points that you want to make about yourself and your background. Work on it. Record it. Practice it. Pretend you are interviewing yourself. What three questions would you want answered if you were the boss? Go from there. The more you work on your pitch, the easier it will be. Practice it on your friends or family or anyone else that is willing to listen. If you get the job, congratulations! But, if you don’t, ask the interviewer for feedback so that when you try again for another company, you have some concrete critiques to utilize and propel you forward. 

DEAR NATALIE: How do you ask your friends to wear masks when you go out together? I haven’t agreed to see anyone during this whole COVID-19 situation because I’m too uncomfortable to bring up the conversation around masks. I feel embarrassed that I am taking this so seriously and my other friends don’t seem to be. I want to be with them, but I’m also concerned for the safety of my family and myself. How can I approach this without feeling so awkward? — MASK ON

DEAR MASK ON: I have been reading a lot of differing opinions on the “best” way to talk to  people about wearing masks. I have come to this conclusion: Do not shame people or attack them. It doesn’t work. Our emotional bodies react defensively to that approach and from what I have been reading, it can actually make them double-down. Instead, focus on yourself. Approach them with “I” statements. For example, “I would love to see you. Would you like to meet out in a park for a walk? I will be wearing a mask and I would really appreciate it if you would wear one, too. It’s safer for all of us and would give me serious peace of mind.” If they are your friends, I don’t really see what they could say to reject that. If they say, “I don’t have a mask,” offer to bring them one. If they say, “it’s my right to not wear one,” try something like, “I acknowledge what you are saying, but I hope you will respect me and our friendship. It’s really important to me that we both wear them when we are together. If you don’t want to, let’s just Zoom, instead.” This way, you can still engage, but you are setting clear boundaries and expectations of what your needs are in person. I understand why you might feel embarrassed to ask. I know it is an awkward conversation because many people are not taking this pandemic seriously. But it is your right to put the health and safety of your family and your community ahead of those who won’t wear masks. Stay strong, be firm and remember if they really are your friends, they will treat you with respect and understanding, too. 

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to asknatalieadvice@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci