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Making a strong impression and connecting with your interviewers through a computer has its challenges. But in a post-pandemic world, video interviews are an almost guaranteed part of many of today’s job searches.
Below, you’ll find four key Zoom interview tips, including what to wear, behaviors to practice and how to best style your setting.
1. Test your tech
This might be the most important Zoom interview tip to heed. If your tech fails, your interview could get canceled or postponed, putting you behind other candidates.
Alternatively, say your tech doesn’t fail, but misbehaves. If you have to push through glitches scrambling your face or distorting your audio, those distractions could prevent interviewers from moving you onto the next round of interviews, says Sophia Carter, a Raleigh, North Carolina-basead career and leadership coach at Kewanee Coaching.
“It’s going to be really hard for you to make a positive impression that way,” Carter says.
At least a couple hours before the interview, do the following:
Check your internet connection. Make sure your internet is up and running, recommends the Columbia University Center for Career Education. Also, verify your connection speed, which measures how quickly your internet connection will send and receive data. (A slower connection speed, for example, might result in blurrier video or longer load times.)
You can check your connection speed by simply Google searching “internet speed test.” Video softwares like Zoom work best on wireless networks with a speed of at least 20 mbps (megabits per second), according to San Francisco State University’s academic technology resources.
If your internet connection isn’t stable, or you don’t have access to reliable internet, see if you could borrow a friend’s equipment or take the interview from a private room in a library.
Make sure your computer doesn’t have any pending software updates. Do this a couple hours before your interview time, as these updates can take a while and prevent you from using your device.
Test your video software. Conduct a quick call with a friend or family member on whatever video conferencing software you’ll use for the interview. Make sure they can hear you, and vice versa. While you’re there, make sure the software doesn’t have any pending updates, either.
Check your headphones. If you’ll be wearing bluetooth earbuds or headphones, make sure they’re fully charged and connected to the computer before the interview.
Remove distractions. Log onto your computer at least 15 minutes before the interview. If you get text message or email notifications on your computer, disable them before the interview, suggests BetterUp, a behavioral career coaching company. Close all non-essential programs, silence your phone and make sure your computer is plugged in.
2. Create a clean, professional environment
Zoom interviews add a new dynamic to the hiring process: Your potential employer can see inside your home, and some interviewers may make assumptions about you based on your space. Take these steps to ensure yours passes the test.
Set the scene. Pick a quiet, clean room, ideally with a window. While there’s nothing wrong with showing a little personality, avoid setting up in front of potentially distracting decor, like a poster or a busy bookshelf. (Needless to say, everything that’s visible in your home should be work-appropriate.)
Don’t cram too much decor into the frame, recommends Harvard Business Review. When in doubt, take the call in front of a blank wall.
If you can’t find the right setup, use a virtual background, which you can typically find in the video software’s preferences. There may be advantages to doing so: Interviewers’ unconscious biases are less likely to be engaged when candidates use clean backgrounds, according to a Harvard Business Review analysis of more than 500 recorded video interviews that took place in 2020. The study also found that most people preferred backgrounds of virtual office spaces over outdoor backgrounds, such as beaches or mountains.
Check the lighting. Turn on your computer’s camera and make sure your video is clear and evenly lit. Avoid setting up in front of a brightly lit background, recommends Logitech, a computer accessories company. And while sitting in front of a window sounds like a good idea, it often casts a glare.
Remove any unwanted guests. Dogs are great, but dogs begging for treats during your video interview aren’t as cute. Put any pets in another room.
If you have kids, aim to arrange child care for them, recommends Michael Perry, founder and CEO of household task management app Maple, in a Fast Company article.
And if your interview is happening around the time your mail is delivered, consider hanging a sign on your front door that asks mail carriers not to knock or ring the doorbells, per Robert Half, a human resources consulting firm.
3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Prepare your answers to some standard interview questions and rehearse your responses — over and over and over. Pull up your computer’s camera and get comfortable running through your answers, ideally until they don’t sound too rehearsed.
While you’re on camera, pay attention to your posture and how quickly you’re speaking. As for body language, Inc. Magazine recommends keeping any hand gestures to a minimum and leaning toward the computer a bit to convey interest. Here's what else to consider:
Don’t use notes as a crutch. Most career coaches encourage candidates to keep notes handy with stats and figures related to their past successes. But there’s a fine line between referring to notes for specific details and looking repeatedly off-camera to clearly read something.
Doing too much of the latter may hurt your chances of advancing in the interview process. In the HBR study cited earlier, staffers found that 80% of the candidates who didn’t receive job offers seemed distracted, appeared to be reading from a script or failed to meaningfully engage with the recruiter.
Practice some small talk. Prepare for the possibility of some awkward silence, as you may be sitting on a video call with one interviewer before the others join. Before the call, think through some small talk.
Look up what cities your interviewers are based in, or how long they’ve been with the company, and plan a couple questions or conversation starters around each subject.
If you’re interviewing around the holidays or summertime, you might ask if they’ll be traveling to see family or planning any vacations. Point being: Don’t be a deer in the headlights.
4. Dress the part
The pandemic has undeniably made workwear more casual, especially for remote workers. But when it comes to dress code, you should still (mostly) treat virtual interviews like in-person interviews, regardless of whether you’ll be reporting to a workplace.
Of course, what you should wear depends on your industry. If you’re interviewing at, say, a law firm or investment firm, opt for a suit or traditional business wear.
Otherwise, no matter how casual the workplace, show up in at least a collared shirt, Carter says. An ironed button-down or blouse with a blazer is always a safe bet, too.
When in doubt, dress at least as well — or one step better — as you’d be expected to dress if you reported in-person. It’s better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed and come off as sloppy.
“No one is really going to ding you for being overdressed, unless you show up in a ballgown or in black tie,” Carter says.
And while you might be tempted to rock pajama pants or something even more casual for bottoms, beware: If something forces you to stand up, it’ll be tough to recover from that.