Accepting a Job Offer During COVID-19

How virtual interviews helped a nurse practitioner decide to move from Arizona to Washington State and the tips he learned along the way.

Clinicians across the country are taking jobs in cities they've never visited, at hospitals they've never been in, from people they've never met face-to-face. It's part of our new COVID-19 reality, where travel restrictions and social distancing have made virtual hiring the only way to make a career move.

Here is one provider's story, along with some tips on how to ace your online interview.

Cyrus Ombaire has been working as a Gastroenterology Nurse Practitioner at a small Arizona clinic for the last two years. He wanted to join a larger organization where he could elevate his career, work in a mission-based environment and be closer to his brother, who lives in Canada.

The Providence health system in Washington seemed like a good fit, and he applied for a GI NP position at St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. He'd never been to Walla Walla, but it looked pretty online, and he was attracted to its moderate temperatures, small-town community, mountain biking trails and good school system. After a series of phone screens and virtual interviews, he was offered the job.

"It wasn't an easy decision. I've never been to Walla Walla, and I would have liked to visit before I accepted my offer. But that's not the world we are living in right now, and I did not want to put my future on hold."

Cyrus' household includes his elderly mother and elementary-age niece. He grew up in a small village in Kenya, Africa, where there were no health care facilities. Watching his sister die of stomach cancer and receive inadequate medical care led him to pursue a medical career in gastroenterology.

When he moved from Kenya to Nebraska in 2006 for nursing school, it was a massive change. More than a decade later, a move to Walla Walla is another step into the unknown, but Cyrus says he is optimistic.

The job search process was surprisingly easy, he says. He applied for the position, and within a day, a recruiter from Provider Solutions & Development contacted him for an initial phone screen. Hours later, a GI physician from St. Mary called to talk to him about the position. By the time he was hired, Cyrus had one-on-one conversations with three physicians and a team interview via video conference.

"PS&D was great in giving me all the basics, everything I wanted to know about the job, and details on the benefits, relocation and compensation," he says. "I was able to get to know the St. Mary team through phone and video interviews. I could tell they put the patient first. That was really important to me. Everyone was so warm, and I got to a place where I knew that I would feel comfortable walking into this environment."

"First, do a trial run with a friend to make sure your technology works. Second, write down all your questions, and don't feel embarrassed if it's a long list."

"You are taking a big leap to move somewhere with no site visit," he says. "So don't feel bad about having a lot of questions. Make a detailed list, have it right in front of you for every interview, and make sure you get all your questions answered."

Heather Swayze, one of the PS&D recruiters who worked with Cyrus, agreed and added that, in this virtual environment, connecting with the people interviewing you takes on a whole new importance.

"You are going to want to engage in maybe a bit more small talk or banter," she says. "Find something in common that you can talk or laugh about. That will go a long way toward connecting with the team when you can't meet them in person."

Here are some tips from PS&D Recruiters on how to approach a virtual interview with confidence:

  • Set the stage for success by putting your computer or laptop in a tidy room with an uncluttered background. You want to be the visual focal point on the screen. Make sure all other devices are turned off, and your family members or pets won't interrupt the conversation.
  • Several days before the interview and on the day of, test your technology. How's your internet connectivity? Does your camera and microphone work? Especially in today's climate, employers are looking for tech-savvy candidates.
  • Practice your interview questions, instead of memorizing, so you'll sound genuine, clear and succinct. Also, avoid long-winded answers.
  • During the interview, you won't want to be clicking around on your computer. The team interviewing will be able to see and hear you doing this. Be prepared to answer questions on your own. Print out your CV and common interview question answers so they're easy to reference.
  • Presentation matters. Choose an outfit you'd wear to an in-person interview. Professional clothing will let the team know you're serious about the job, and will help you feel competent and put-together.
  • Remember that body language is still important in a virtual interview. Keep the camera at eye level, sit up straight, smile and maintain eye contact by keeping your focus on the camera when you're talking. Be a bit more expressive than usual and let your personality come through -- culture fit is important.
  • Finally, send emails to thank everyone individually after your interview is over. If you personally connected about something, mention that, as well as anything you may have forgotten to say. Be polite, warm and conversational.

Remember that above all, preparation is the key to virtual interviews. Following these steps will help your best self and your skillset shine through the screen!