Five Ways to Make a Great Impression in Your Virtual Interview

If you are a job seeker in 2020, you know that video conference interviews are quickly becoming standard practice. However, it can be difficult to present our best selves amid the technical challenges that come with unfamiliar apps and software, spotty Internet connectivity, and untested equipment. Interviewing is stressful enough, so take the edge off with these 5 simple ways to prepare for video conference interviews.

1. Personal Space
Nobody wants to see that basket of dirty laundry or unmade bed in the background during an interview. Designate a quiet space in your home, with a clean and neutral background, from which to conduct interview calls. This can be the corner of a room with a small table and chair. Some applications (like Zoom) also have virtual backgrounds to choose from. Make sure you have some basic office supplies and room to take notes, and do not allow anyone else in the area or room during your interview. Yes, this includes pets. Unless you’re auditioning for the part of a James Bond super-villain, it’s not appropriate to have a cat on your lap during the interview.

2. Tech Check
Download all applicable apps, software, or browser extensions to the platform of your choice prior to the interview. Set up any necessary accounts and test your audio and video settings. Make calls to friends and family if necessary. The goal is to see what you look, and sound like on camera and make adjustments so you can feel comfortable and confident. Pay attention to your lighting and camera angle. The area should be well-lit, though not from behind or below. Make sure your device is resting at a 90-degree angle, not tilted, and that the camera is at eye level, never lower. The only person who should spend an hour looking up your nose is a medical professional.

3. Hollywood, Baby
It may be tempting to look at the video streams of your interviewers while speaking to them, since our brains tell us this is the closest approximation to in-person conversational behavior. Our brains are wrong. All your interviewers will see on screen is you averting your yes. You’re on camera now, and it’s time to take a page from Hollywood and “break the fourth wall”. When television and film actors use this technique, they acknowledge and address the audience directly while looking squarely into the camera. This is how Ferris Bueller connected with a generation, and how you can connect with your interviewers. Use the recording option in conferencing apps and rehearse for your on-camera debut.

4. Look Sharp
There’s no shortage of jokes about wearing business clothes on top and pajama pants on bottom, but interview attire should be professional from head to toe (home haircuts notwithstanding). Getting dressed for business also puts you in the appropriate frame of mind for your interview and builds confidence. When unsure about attire, business formal is always a safe choice. Avoid colors that blend into your background as well as stripes and busy prints, which may be distracting on camera.

5. Q&A
Treat this as you would any other interview by preparing to answer common questions succinctly and completely. Practice talking about examples of challenging scenarios, team and personal accomplishments, and other professional experiences that demonstrate your value. Ask questions about the organization and role as you normally would but take it a step further given the current circumstances by asking how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted their business and workforce. What is the current business state? How have future business plans been affected? How has the company culture changed or adapted to weather the evolving landscape and what do they need from this person to drive morale and positive momentum? Your genuine interest in the wellbeing of the organization and its employees shows compassion and emotional intelligence, both of which are always in high demand.

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