In the weeks since the pandemic caused us all to shelter-in-place, I think we’ve all learned a LOT about how much technology can help us stay connected. The ability to tele-work has helped many companies stay in business, and even job interviews are now being conducted via video platforms like Zoom and Skype. If you happen to land a remote job interview, it can be intimidating at first, especially If you don’t have a lot of experience with videoconferencing. Plus, a video interview can feel quite different than an in-person interview, and there a few additional factors to think about.
Never fear—that’s why we’re here. If a potential employer asks you to interview online, here are some steps you need to ahead of time to make sure you put your best foot forward.
Install the Video App Beforehand
The employer will typically let you know which video platform they want to use for your interview. For our purposes, we’ll say it’s either Zoom or Skype since these are the most common, but there are others, as well. Whichever app they suggest, make sure you have it installed on your computer and test it out before the day of your interview. Zoom and Skype are both free to install, and you’ll need to set up a free account if you don’t have one yet. With Zoom, the employer will usually send a link via email that opens the app and logs you into the chat room automatically—but you’ll avoid potential disaster by making sure the app works before you click the link at interview time.
Create the Right Setting
When you go into an in-person interview, the setting is predetermined for you (i.e., the employer’s office or a conference room). With video conferencing—and this is important—you set your own backdrop. You don’t just need to think about what to wear (more on that in a minute)—you need to think about where you’ll sit, what is behind you and how you’ll look on camera. These factors will now all contribute to first impressions—not just how you dress!
Pick a place in your home or apartment that is pleasant and well-lit, with a backdrop that is relatively neutral and uncluttered. Be careful sitting next to open windows as the sunlight may cast an unintended shadow across your face—and if the window is behind you, you’ll be silhouetted. Position lighting so your gorgeous smile is easy to see!
Remove Visual and Audible Distractions
When setting your backdrop, you don’t necessarily have to have a plain, white wall—bookshelves and decorations are fine—just make sure there isn’t excessive clutter or gadgets in view that might draw the interviewer’s eyes away from you. Another factor that can be distracting is sound. When it’s interview time, make sure the room is quiet, free from the noise from kids, roommates, etc. Also, if you’re in a small room with bare walls, your voice might sound like you’re in a tunnel, and that can be distracting. At the very least, hang some blankets around the room (not in the camera view) to dampen the sound of your voice.
Prepare for the Interview Itself
Once you have set the stage, so to speak, your next task is to treat the interview almost exactly as if you were doing it in person. Prepare the same as you would for any other interview—research the company, anticipate what questions you might be asked, rehearse your answers, make a list of questions you’d like to ask—all the normal prep work you’d do otherwise. Your goal here is basically to make the same type of impression on the employer as if you were in the room with the interviewer. The more you prepare in this way, the closer you’ll be to that goal, even when interviewing remotely.
Do a Test Run (or Two)
The next way to prepare, especially if this is your first video interview, is to do a trial run. Ask a friend (or coach) to join you on Zoom or Skype to do a practice run-through of the interview. Start by opening the app and hopping on the call to make sure your audio and video work properly. (Too many video interviews have been bungled simply because the applicant didn’t bother to check the technology!)
Once you’re on the call, before you start the role-playing Q&A, take a good look at yourself and your backdrop to make sure you’re well-lit and there are no unwanted distractions behind you. During the Q&A, watch yourself on screen. Try to relax and act as normally as possible, as if the computer in front of you is the other person in the room. During the Q&A, record the session if possible so you can listen back for any unwanted echoes in the room, and also to check your responses. Avoid the temptation to get intimidated or self-conscious. If you see something that annoys you about how you look/act, you’ll typically make the adjustment naturally. (That’s the great thing about watching ourselves onscreen—it shows us things we don’t know are happening in the moment and gives us a chance to fix them.)
Dress for Success
And finally…dress for the interview exactly as you would if you were going into the office. There’s a running joke about dressing only from the waist up for remote interviews—don’t do it. First, you’ll have a lot more self-confidence if you dress the part; and second, if you have to get up for any reason, the illusion will be shattered.
If you need help with your job search or prepping for remote interviews, I’m here to assist—and as I mentioned before, if you became unemployed due to the pandemic, you may be eligible for free coaching from me. Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story, and I’ll get back to you to set up a free consultation.