By Dr Lindsey Zuloaga, Chief Data Scientist at HireVue – the global leader in video interviewing, assessments, chatbot and recruiting automation technology

The world of work has seen fundamental changes with COVID restrictions in place, new working  structures, unemployment and expected influx of jobseekers, fueling fierce competition for roles.

In particular, women have been affected disproportionately in the workforce, with earnings declining by 12.9 per cent, nearly double the reduction for men, and being 1.8 times more likely than men to have lost their jobs.  As women look to re-enter the workforce, it’s more critical than ever that they master the skills of the interview to stand out amidst fierce competition.

Know the company, its culture, and your relevant experience like the back of your hand 

To make an impact during interviews, you should start by knowing the company, what is needed for the role, and how your previous experience makes you the ideal candidate. Research the company, understand its values and who its competitors are, and you will be more comfortable aligning your experience with the requirements of the job. This prep will shine through in your interview.

Practice answering interview questions in the way that works best for you.  The STAR framework is a well used format that can help you organise your thoughts and articulate your answers. Think about situations where you have made a difference in the past and arrange it by Situation, Task, Activity, and Result (STAR) of your work.

The STAR framework is particularly useful for open-ended questions about your experiences (e.g. “How do you work on a team”?). Research found that women more effectively use the emotional and social competencies needed for effective leadership and management than men, so make sure to showcase these skills to your prospective employer.

Prepare for your online Interview 

It’s normal to be nervous about the interview process, so being prepared will help you manage this stress as well as help you perform better in your interview. In STEM focused fields, interviews will likely require you to carry out a technical assessment, such as HireVue’s CodeVue, which assess the extent of your technical knowledge and see how you are able to practically apply it to real-life situations. Preparation is key – you know how to do this work – show them!

Many STEM fields experience high application volume, particularly at the graduate level, so it is also likely that you will need to participate in a virtual interview during your job search. While the experience does not differ drastically from an in person interview,  be conscious of your tech set up. Find a quiet spot where it is possible to devote the time needed to complete the interview without interruptions. If possible, it is also best to stabilise your recording device, whether smartphone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer so that you’re not distracted by trying to hold it steady.

Lean into soft skills to stand apart from the competition

Having the experience and education required for any job you’re applying to is essential, however it’s just as important to be able to highlight how your soft skills will benefit the company. 

More than ever, soft skills are being prioritised by employers, with 65 percentrevealing that soft skills are the most in demand and difficult skills to find in candidates. This is an area where women in STEM can particularly capitalise, with extensive data from across 90 different countries and 55,000 professions demonstrating that women are better at utilising their soft skills for effective leadership in the workplace.

By showcasing how you’re able to utilise these skills, you’ll be positioning yourself as an asset to the company, demonstrating value with skills such as teamwork, communication, creativity, and problem solving. In addition to this, soft skills are complementary to technical skills, and by describing those two together, you can help define what makes you the ideal candidate for the role.

As the workforce continues to grow and adapt to these changing times, so must candidates. It is not only imperative for candidates to refine and focus their skills, but to confidently communicate these in an interview setting. By being knowledgeable, prepared and concise, you can ensure that employers see what you bring to the table and why they should hire you.

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