The pandemic changed the way companies do business, both before and after you’re hired. Ninety percent of companies report they’ve switched to virtual interviews, and most will probably keep them as part of their process. Here’s how to make sure you pass your screen test.
Choose your space for your virtual interview carefully. Check that the background is neutral and neat. Look around to make sure there’s nothing showing in the room that might embarrass you (or your interviewer.) Set up ample lighting and a good camera angle to show your face clearly, without any unflattering angles or shadows, or glare from something in the background. It should go without saying, but cats, dogs, and toddlers should be safely shut out of your interview space, and not standing outside the door scratching or whining to get in.
This guy is the viral poster child for interviewus interruptus. Don’t be this guy.
Test your hardware, audio quality, and internet speed before the interview starts using the same app the interviewer will be using. Set up a Zoom or Skype call with a friend or family member well before the interview. Use this time to test the quality of your connection, the lighting, and the background. Give yourself plenty of time to make adjustments before your actual virtual meeting.
Dressing for a virtual interview is much like dressing for a TV interview. The screen and lighting will change how colors and patterns come across. Generally, you should avoid wearing solid black. If your room lighting isn’t perfect, black may make your body blend into the background, leaving you looking like a talking head. Pure white will wash your coloring out, so your best bet for a shirt or dress is a pastel color that flatters you. You can never go wrong with light blue.
Set up your chair so you’re framed well on the screen, not too big or too small in the frame. Avoid wearing jewelry that moves or jangles. Most of what your interviewer will see is your face, so those bouncing chandelier earrings will become a big distraction. So will a top cut low enough that it doesn’t show in the frame. This is a good time to consider sleeves and a more modest neckline.
According to personal branding expert Joseph Liu, the best way to mimic actual eye contact with your interviewer is to look directly at your web camera. He writes for Fast Company, “When you look at the actual video of the other person, another application on your screen, or anywhere off-screen, it can seem like your attention is focused away from the other person.”
He goes on to say, “But you may want to take a few quick looks at the other person’s video to get a sense of how they’re visually responding to what you’re saying. The best way to do this is to move their video window as close to your webcam as possible, typically the top-center of your screen. Then shrink your conversation partner’s window down so the distance between their face and your webcam is minimized.”
If you want to take notes during the interview, Liu recommends that you show the paper and pen to your interviewer and let them know you’ll be taking notes. That way, when you glance down at your paper, your interviewer won’t think you’re merely distracted.
Even over the web, body language signals are important. Check in from time to time with your interviewer’s expressions and non-verbal signals. Be sensitive to signals that your answers are too long or that the interviewer would like to break in with a follow up question. This interview is also an opportunity to demonstrate that you can conduct business well in virtual meetings. Your ability to read people over a screen may give you an advantage over other candidates.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be sure to impress your interviewer with your professionalism and poise. One more thing: no matter how casual WFH feels, wear pants. Just… wear pants.