By Amanda Farrer, Engagement Manager (Alpha Nu, University of Missouri)
In this virtual COVID-19 world, video interviews are becoming more widely used, even necessary. Whether it is through Zoom, Skype or another video conferencing platform, employers get the opportunity to meet candidates “face to face” from a safe distance.
In the same way you should prepare for various interview questions, there are a few things you can do to make certain you are prepared to make a great first impression through a screen!
First, start with lighting! You want to make sure you are in a well-lit area for your video interview.
It is ideal if you can sit in an area with lots of windows and natural light. Sometimes, however, windows can negatively impact lighting as well. If there is a window directly behind you, close the blinds or curtains to avoid being backlit (and looking like you are in the Witness Protection Program).
If you are taking the interview from a space without windows, make sure you have ample lighting available. If the room is not well lit, the light from the computer screen will illuminate your face in a blue hue.
As you prepare for your interview, think about the background or what appears behind you. Minimizing the clutter behind you will help the interviewer focus on you and not the space you are in. Depending on the type of interview, you could also find a virtual background to use! For example, if you are applying to a higher education program, consider showing your spirit by using that school’s logo, colors or mascot.
To use a virtual background in Zoom, you will first need to make sure the virtual background option is enabled in your account settings. To learn more about changing your virtual background, check out the Zoom Help Center here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/210707503-Virtual-Background.
Audio is the most important component of a virtual interview. Let me say that again – Audio is the most important component of a virtual interview! If the interviewer cannot hear you clearly (or if you cannot hear the interviewer), the conversation will feel unnatural or stilted, therefore hindering your ability to build good rapport.
If you have access to headphones with a microphone attached, you should use them for the interview. Using headphones has two key advantages: First, the microphone will follow you if you move as you talk, whereas the microphone in your laptop will not, causing your voice to fade in and out as you move in relation to where the mic is in your device. Second, headphones allow you to block out any distractions that may be around you. In-person interviews typically provide you a quiet, distraction-free location. In the virtual interview environment, you may be surrounded by distractions, and you will have to work harder to not lose your focus.
Always test your audio equipment prior to a virtual interview! Many of the video conferencing platforms allow you to test your microphone without entering a meeting. If you get into the meeting and your equipment is not working properly, use the chat box to let the interviewer know and work quickly to fix the issue (if it is an issue on your end).
In most video conferencing platforms, you can change how your name is displayed to the other parties in the meeting. Sometimes if you are joining from a mobile phone or tablet, it will automatically display something like “iPhone” or “iPad.” For virtual interviews, I recommend displaying your full name or the name you prefer an interviewer uses. This is especially helpful when the interview includes multiple people that you are meeting for the first time – it helps them easily identify you, and seeing your name spelled out can help them remember you versus other candidates.
When using Zoom, if you enter a meeting and realize your name is not displayed to your liking, you can change it with the following steps:
- Click on the “Participants” button at the bottom of the window.
- A new window will pop up. Click the “Rename” button at the bottom of this new window.
- In the “Enter a new screen name” field, type in the name as you would like it to appear. (You can check the box “Remember my name for future meetings” if you would like it to save this information.)
Dress for the job
Even if the interview is virtual, you should still dress for success (and not just on the top half)! You should wear what you would normally wear if the interview were happening in person.
Yes, the interviewer will probably only see your outfit from the waist up. However, if you were to have issues during the meeting (internet connectivity, audio, lighting) and need to get up, you don’t want the interviewer to see a casual bottom half. Getting fully dressed will also help you feel more prepared, focused and ready for the interview.
The biggest thing with attire is to make sure you are comfortable in what you are wearing. You will interview your best when you feel confident and comfortable!
You can do it!
Interviews often bring nervous feelings and stress. While virtual interviews have some additional components to keep in mind, at the end of the day the interviewer will be impressed with the knowledge, skills and experience you bring to the table. How you communicate what you can offer the employer will always be the most important thing. Be yourself and your expertise will shine through – even from behind a computer screen!