It will come as no surprise to any parent working from home during the pandemic that kids are interrupting video meetings frequently. In fact, they’re making guest appearances in Zoom meetings around 25 times a week, according to a recent survey.
For the most part, colleagues and bosses are understanding when it comes to interruptions. After all, the pandemic has created difficult working conditions for a lot of people and parents can’t help their children being out of school.
However, things become even more challenging if you’re being interviewed for a new job on Zoom while working from home with small children. So how can you prepare for a video interview when you’re not home alone — and what should you do if you are interrupted while trying to impress a potential employer?
“Firstly, remember that an interview is about uncovering the skills and experience that support the role, and highlighting your personality. It’s not there to trip you up or make you feel stressed,” says Clara Wilcox, a career and return-to-work coach who runs The Balance Collective.
When doing a video interview, find a place that is quiet, that is well lit and that you can feel comfortable in.
“If your children are old enough, let them know that you are having an important meeting, and consider putting a note on the door of the room you will be in, to remind them,” Wilcox adds.
“Print off a copy of your CV or application form so you have it to hand, and make a note of any questions you may have. Finally, remember, the interviewers may be in the exact position that you are.”
Understanding the timeframe of the interview will help you plan around your children as best you can, advises Emma-Louise O'Brien, a career coach from Renovo.
“If possible, approach the recruiter and ask for a particular interview time,” she says. “Many HR teams are working remotely and possibly home-schooling themselves, so they may be able to offer more flexibility to carry out interviews into the evening if needed. This can help you plan childcare from your partner or support bubble, or working around home-schooling depending on your child’s age of course.”
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And if the inevitable happens and your child does interrupt your interview, try not to go into panic mode.
“Having been interrupted by my kids several times during lockdown, the quickest way to deal with it is to acknowledge them, give them a hug and reassure them that once you are finished you will be back out to them,” Wilcox says.
“Often, ignoring them, means that they actually get louder and more persistent. It can help by letting interviewers know in advance that you have your children at home, so should a door knock or a small one wander in, it doesn’t come as a shock.”
Likewise, O'Brien recommends pre-empting interruptions as best you can. If possible, explain to your children what you are doing and why it is important. It might help to set them an age-appropriate task to do, or if your internet connection will allow, organise a video call for them with friends or family while you do your interview.
“HR teams will be more open to parents’ circumstances right now and will be ready for these situations, so make sure you remain calm and composed and remember, this is a great demonstration of how you respond under pressure,” she says.
And remember, if an employer reacts badly to an interruption, it may indicate a less-than-supportive attitude towards work-life balance or flexible working.
“This opportunity can also be a useful test of company and team culture,” Wilcox says. “How they respond to your children — who, don’t forget, are in their own home — says a lot about how they support the wellbeing of their staff.”
It’s important for employers to be understanding of the difficult situation many parents have found themselves in at the moment.
“They should have empathy, share if they are doing the same and agree in advance what will happen should children make a visit,” Wilcox says. “Right now, we are in times where work is happening in the homes of the young, and a little understanding can go a long way.”