Earlier this year we posted a blog entitled Interview Tips: Be Prepared. Be Confident. Be Enthusiastic. If you haven’t checked out this important article, please do. The focus is on “the art of the interview”—a substantive look at the give and take between the candidate and employer.
This subsequent blog focuses solely on several easy-to-follow tips when engaging in a ZOOM (or other) video interview, primarily from the standpoint of candidates putting their best foot forward when interviewing remotely. We’ll be discussing the process from a basic technical point of view, designed to help candidates look and sound their very best.
Over the past two years, many professionals have become familiar with ZOOM calls—internal company meetings, family get-togethers, as well as book clubs, movie clubs, and the like. For the most part, these gatherings tend to be laid back and forgiving when it comes to technical and quality SNAFUs. Most of us have even witnessed ZOOM or video chat meltdowns on network television: bad images and lighting, horrible sound, poor Internet connections, as well as craziness in the background. We can’t create or suggest perfection but we can offer advice that will help to eliminate the “bad stuff.” It’s about representing your professional demeanor in the best light possible. Pun intended.
Be Prepared. Be Confident. Be Enthusiastic.
As mentioned above, that’s the subhead of our recent blog “Interview Tips”—and that rock-solid advice also underscores the essence of this blog, designed to strengthen and bolster your all-important presentation when interviewing remotely. We’ve organized the guidance in a linear fashion from beginning to end.
Please note: There are numerous video calling and conferencing software products on the market: ZOOM, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, FaceTime, and many more. The advice and suggestions below apply to any and all platforms.
Software & Computer
Many of you may already have one or more of the programs loaded on your computers as well as your phone. In most instances the choice for the call is up to the employer inviting you for the interview(s).
Rule #1: At least one day before your interview download the software or make sure your existing software is up to date. Prior to your interview it’s essential that you familiarize yourself with the program. Make practice calls with friends or family. Get to know the basics. Each program offers simple online tutorials. Check them out. It’s amazing the handy tidbits you’ll pick up.
Rule #2: Make sure that your audio settings are assigned to your headphones and microphone on a desktop; on a laptop make sure audio is directed to your built-in microphone.
Rule #3: Make sure you have a strong Internet connection. If there’s a problem or you know that your connection is questionable, find a different location with robust performance. It’s imperative that your interview presentation remains clear and clean. A bad connection isn’t necessarily your fault but in many instances you will end up owning it.
Rule #4: Turn off all notifications on your machine and close all other programs. The experience should be a direct and solitary link between yourself and the interviewer(s).
Rule #5: Double check that your laptop is fully charged. Better yet, simply plug it in.
If you’re joining the interview on your Smart Phone, do not hold the phone in your hand. Purchase an inexpensive small tripod (usually a GorillaPod) that will securely position your phone.
How you position yourself in an office or at home is of utmost importance. Carefully consider what rests behind you. First and foremost, you need to be the center of attention. You don’t want anything in the background to divert attention from you and the importance of your conversation.
Rule #1: Do not sit in front of windows. In many instances a huge backlight will put you in silhouette. Your image needs to be crisp and bright. Think of it this way: your competing against the Sun for light. The Sun’s gonna win. Stay away from windows in your background.
Rule #2: Declutter your background—if there are shelves and/or tables, make sure the clutter is gone and what’s left is well-organized and clean. Less is more. (Take down that Foo Fighters poster!)
Rule #3: Most of these video programs have built-in backgrounds or green screens to create your own look. Don’t use these because the usually look terrible and the technology will oftentimes create strange artifacts on you and your background. Think organically about what’s in the room and how to make it look presentable.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
YouTube is chock-full of video examples offering strange and funny occurrences that appear and/or traipse through the background of a video connection. On network newscasts, we’ve seen family members enter the room eating a sandwich or dancing to iTunes. It’s cute and funny but you probably don’t want that happening during a potential career-changing interview.
Rule #1: Make an announcement to anyone who might be a culprit that you’ll be interviewing online and you need complete privacy and silence. Make it clear how important this is to your life and career.
Rule #2: Ensure that pets are secure and not part of your interview experience.
The Image & Sound
We contend that the two most important aspects of your interview (of course besides your intellectual prep) are image and sound quality. This is not difficult to achieve.
Rule #1: If possible, face yourself toward a great light source like a window, which offers a soft and balanced light. And remember, no windows behind you! If you don’t have access to a window for light, use a floor lamp or table lamp that’s positioned in front of you on a 45° angle.
Rule #2: Positioning the screen is also very important. Any screen should be eye level, including laptops and phones. If your screen is lower than your face, the upward angle is unflattering and never suggested. You can place your laptop on a stack of books to ensure that it’s at eye level.
Rule #3: When interviewing, don’t look at your screen—look at the camera, which as you know is just above the screen. This will ensure that you’re looking at and addressing the interviewer(s) directly. You’ll be 100% engaged. If you look at your screen, the engagement is lost. If this were an in-person interview, it would be tantamount to not making eye contact. Engage. And don’t forget to smile!
Rule #4: When it comes to sound, if possible, we suggest using AirPods, ear buds, or headphones with a wrap-around mic. The sound quality on the microphone is superior to your computer’s internal mic; the same is true on your Smart Phone.
Rule #5: Commandment number one when it comes to great sound: position yourself in a very quiet space. And remember to silence your phone and any other devices.
Some folks have invested in light rings and professional microphones. These are great. If you don’t have them, check them out—an inexpensive way to up your game.
Finally, a note on dress: even though this is a remote interview and not in-person, dress professionally. It matters. (And don’t forget your pants!)
A Parting Word…
There’s no doubt that interviews can sometimes be nerve-racking. This anxiousness can be mitigated and diminished by eliminating most of the technical aspects that can go wrong. And, at the same time, you’ll be creating an environment for you to flourish—one that allows the interviewer(s) to focus exclusively on your talents, experience, and strong attributes.