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How to Nail a Zoom Job Interview

Lynn Morrison  |  May 1, 2020

In-person job interviews are indefinitely on hold. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you ace a video interview on Zoom or any other platform.

Although the unemployment rate is making all the headlines, there are still companies around the country that are hiring. If you’re lucky enough to land one of these interviews, don’t expect it to be business as usual. Once you’ve gotten past the phone screening, the rest of your interactions are likely to take place via video conferencing. 

Video interviews offer some upsides, like being able to stay within the comfort of your home and your slippers. (Just make sure you put on pants. We’re looking at you, Will Reeve.) However, unfamiliar conferencing platforms, poor lighting and dodgy WiFI connections can cause you to stumble. From interview prep to the post-interview follow-up, this guide to all things video interviews will help you make the process a dazzling digital (and real-world) success.

Pre-Zoom interview prep

Do not wait until the morning of your interview to begin your prep. You’ll need time to find the perfect location in your house and ensure your lighting and sound quality is up to par.

Set up your space: Ideally, start your search for a spot during the same time of day as your interview is scheduled, since lighting can vary greatly depending on the time of day. Look for a room that offers natural light but doesn’t leave you squinting in the sunshine. If you can’t find a well-lit space, you may need to create one. Play with overhead lighting and desk lamps, figuring out where to position the camera so you aren’t hidden in a shadow. Don’t forget about the background! Some conferencing apps allow you to blur your background or upload another image, but it’s best to find a neat space as your backdrop if you can, to “invite” the interviewer in to get to know you a bit. 

Practice in the video platform: Once you’ve picked a location, your next task is to master the conferencing platform. Thanks to remote working, nearly everyone you know is now an expert on one platform or another. If you have questions, ask a friend for tips and schedule a trial call. Check that your microphone and camera are working, and that your interview outfit looks good on screen.

Ask about interview format: Do a little advance reconnaissance. Check whether your interview will be a 1:1 or a group call. Will you need to screen share any materials? 

Have a backup plan: Your test drive may have gone smoothly, but be prepared in case you encounter trouble during the main event. In a recent LinkedIn blog post, Bruce Anderson recommended providing a backup phone number — and asking them to share one with you — “in case there’s a glitch or the technology gets wonky.” Ask them to share the same with you. 

Day-of interview tips

Minimize all distractions shortly before your interview is scheduled to begin. We don’t just mean the physical ones like a barking dog or loud children. Make sure you mute any notifications which may pop-up on your device. “If you are using a mobile phone DO NOT be tempted to check your chats or other platforms while on the interview, as the interviewer can see your hand cover the phone,” says Amy Elder, who is responsible for Talent Acquisition at Marin Health. 

Once the interview starts, you’ll want to build up a rapport as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to tune out the little box which shows your own image and focus on communicating clearly. “Be sure to look into the camera from time to time, if not as much as possible, on whatever device you are using as it gives the other person direct eye to eye contact,” Elder says. “Do this in particular when they are talking as it will feel like direct eye contact to them and show that you are really interested and listening.”

When Mel Stanley, a personal brand development expert, had a video interview for a training position, she learned the value of taking it slow to avoid that awkward stop/start, “Sorry, you go first” moment. “The screen is a physical barrier and sometimes the quality of the connection can vary — so all the more reason to speak slowly and wait for a response.” 

After the interview

Don’t stress if your call was interrupted or suffered unforeseeable technical challenges. As the BBC Dad showed the world, these things happen! When the Zoom interview wraps up, make sure to thank the interviewer for their time and end the call. 

Follow up soon after with a thank you email. Unfortunately, even if you adore snail mail, now is not the time for handwritten thank-you notes. Not only are many people being extra cautious with their mail these days,  if your interviewers are working from home, they might not even receive a posted letter until they return to the office, which could be months from now. Email is the way to go, and if you have any remaining questions about the company or the process, put them into your message. If needed, you can always arrange a follow-up call.

Video interviews will be around for many years to come, and even after coronavirus is over, they’ll still be popular. In other words, the sooner you get comfortable with the format, the better off you will be. And if you need some practice, you’ve got a great excuse to organize a video happy hour with a friend.

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