Zoom interviews are becoming more common these days and are a necessity right now during the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve worked remotely for ten years. I’ve seen the arrival of all the major video technology platforms and have made just about every mistake in the book—even the embarrassing ones. But over time, I’ve become a virtual meeting expert of sorts. I know that if you look directly into the camera, it appears as though you’re making eye contact with your conversation partner. I know that good lighting is everything. And that the right backdrop can actually help you land the job.
Here I’m sharing my favorite video interviewing tips. I hope they help you to be a little more confident in your next Zoom interview.
8 Tips to Help You Nail Your Video Interview
1) Get rid of distractions
Obviously you don’t want a child crawling on your lap or a dog barking during your interview, but smaller distractions like a text message or even a neighborhood child falling from his bike outside your window can throw you off.
In a face-to-face meeting, distractions are shared, and so both the interviewer and the candidate break from the conversation at the same time. But in a Zoom interview, the hiring manager won’t know that there’s a knock at your door or an email notification on your screen. You could miss an important detail, a question or an opportunity to display your knowledge. Turn off those notifications and set up in a quiet, distraction-free area.
2) Wear your background like an accessory
You dress up for an interview, right? And in all likelihood you’ve dressed appropriately for your video interview. Don’t spoil your appearance with a messy background.
You can take one of two approaches to backgrounds. One is to keep it simple. A blank wall, for instance. It’s boring, but it’s neutral. The other—better— option is to create a background that says something about who you are as a candidate. I find it’s especially important to at least appear to be in a home office if you’re applying for a remote position. This communicates that you’ve spent time and resources creating a space that allows you to work effectively.
3) Pay attention to lighting
Overhead fluorescent or incandescent lighting is not the most flattering. You don’t need a professional light kit but you do need to think about how you can use natural light from windows to project a clear and detailed image of your face. Try sitting in front of a window, allowing the light to hit you directly. At most times of the day, this will provide perfect, even lighting. However, if the sun is low, it may be too bright. In that case, move around until the light is diffused on your face. With computer cameras, backlighting never woks, so always avoid putting the light source behind you.
4) Wear headphones
Technology isn’t perfect. There’s a chance there could be a lag, which causes an echo if you’re not wearing headphones. Headphones also improve sound quality and help block out distracting noises.
5) Be right on time (set an alarm)
It doesn’t make sense to show up early to a Zoom interview. If you’re 15 minutes early, you could be sitting in front of a blank screen for 15 minutes. That’s a lot of time to get sucked into the vortex of the internet and lose your focus. Or worse, you could interrupt another interview.
Of course, you don’t want to be late, either. Leaving a hiring manager or recruiter waiting is a bad look. I like to set an alarm for both 10 minutes and 1 minute before the scheduled time. When the 10 minute alarm goes off, I try to be at my desk, reading my notes and checking my technology. When I hear the 1-minute alarm, I sign on.
If you’re not able to make it to your interview on time due to unexpected technology errors, make sure to apologize and explain why you’re late once you’re able to join the meeting.
6) Don’t interject
In a face-to-face interview, interjecting is minimally disruptive. We learned as toddlers how to perfectly time our interruptions, after all. But in a video interview, it’s best to let the hiring manager or recruiter finish their thought before jumping in. A tiny lag can throw off the rhythm and make your interjection—even when you intended it to be gentle and polite—sound like a rude interruption.
7) Wear pants
Pants give you confidence. Pants remind you of what’s at stake. This is silly, of course, but what’s real is the psychological impact of dressing for success—even in a Zoom interview.
I have a friend who puts on her shoes every morning before she walks to her guest room office and begins her work day. Her mind switches into work gear when she puts them on. Her feet can feel that they’re dressed. She’s one of the most energetic and professional people I know, so I trust getting dressed is worth it.
8) Test your tech
In my experience, people are forgiving when it comes to technology mishaps. I tell you that because video interviews can be intimidating for someone who’s unfamiliar with Zoom or the technology involved. A good practice is to do a test run with a friend. You may find that you still need to install Zoom on your computer. Or that your mic is not configured correctly. Stay calm if your tech is not working and follow these tried-and-true tips:
- Move closer to your router if your connection is spotty (and try not to give a tour of your messy house while doing so).
- Always assume your camera is on, even when you know you turned it off.
- Check to make sure your speakers and mic are turned on if you’re having audio problems.
- Use the chat feature to inform the interviewer that you can’t hear them.
I hope these 8 tips help you feel better prepared for your Zoom interview. Stay calm, embrace the subtle awkward moments that come with video conferencing, and don’t forget to send a thank you email after the interview. Good luck!