Congratulations, you’ve just been invited to interview for your dream job! You’ve done your research on the role, the company, the interviewer, prepared for the questions you expect, and you’re feeling confident. There’s just one hitch; it’s a Zoom interview. You’ve never had a virtual interview before. But, don’t worry, you are not alone.
I’ve interviewed plenty of folks virtually. An excellent first impression counts. I can tell when an interviewee has made an effort to optimise their virtual interview setup.
Conversely, I can instantly tell when someone is flustered, unprepared and technology problems prevent the interview from getting off to a smooth start. A lack of preparation and familiarity with the tools and technology can lead to embarrassing moments. No matter how well prepared you are for the interview, you could scupper that critical first impression if the meeting doesn’t get off to a smooth start. As a candidate, it can feel like the equivalent of spilling coffee down your shirt as you walk into the meeting room. Don’t let that be you.
Instead, follow these 10 technical tips so you can focus on the crucial part – answering the interview questions.
1. Get familiar with teleconferencing apps – Firstly, Install the application on your desktop, do this as soon as you receive the invite. You should be able to download the application for free, and sometimes you are required to create an account. I advise installing the application on your phone or backup device in case of a last-minute glitch. Download and install some of the most used teleconferencing apps here: Zoom, Teams, Webex, Skype, Slack, BlueJeans
2. Eye Contact – Ideally, your camera should be centred and at eye level, creating the illusion of eye contact. Eye contact is crucial for building trust and appearing confident. Most laptops, tablets and phones have their camera located at the top of the screen and in a central location for this reason. However, some laptops (like my DELL) have the webcam located at the bottom of the screen. If your camera isn’t at eye level, I advise elevating it so the camera is in line with your eyes. Put your laptop on some books and adjust until you get the camera at eye level.
3. I cannot see you too well, and what’s that behind you? – Open your webcam and check what is in the field of view of the camera. You can dress professionally, only to be let down by having an unprofessional backdrop. If you are bothered by the space you will be using, consider the virtual background options in Zoom, such as blurring your background or choosing a professional office image. Using virtual backgrounds across a range of video calls, from conversations with colleagues to virtual interviews, webinars and more, are pretty common these days. You can download your free Zoom background here. Ensure you are in an adequately lit area. It’s essential that the interviewer can see you clearly, and this also leads to better interaction. The primary source of light should be behind the camera, illuminating your face. If you want to go all the way, you can invest in a ring light; some webcams come with them installed. At a minimum, try and face towards a window and take advantage of natural light.
4. Sit or Stand? – Deciding whether to sit or stand is a matter of personal preference. I prefer to stand as I like to move around as I talk, and I find it works well for me. However, if you don’t have a well-optimised standing desk arrangement, this could be tricky. Remember, you still need to maintain eye contact, and the last thing you want is your laptop dropping to the floor from a great height! So do what feels natural, but ensure your equipment is stable.
5. Camera quality – If your device is a little older, test the integrated webcam. If the quality isn’t HD, then consider investing in an external webcam. There are tonnes on the market for all price levels. I use a Razer Kiyo because it has an integrated ring light and microphone. I find the quality great, and it works well in low light. If you don’t want to make a significant investment, your phone will likely have a tremendous integrated HD camera and, when positioned correctly, works well for interviews.
6. “Hello, can you hear me?” – Almost every Zoom meeting starts with this phrase; in fact, it’s likely the most uttered phrase of this era, usually followed by “You’re on mute”. For a smooth start to your interview, you want the answer to that question to be “Yes, I can hear you”. My advice is to use earbuds, they usually give you and the interviewer the best audio experience. However, it’s essential to check the audio settings beforehand to ensure they are the primary audio device and, finally, ensure you know where the mute button is!
7. Distractions – This is a simple one. If you’re using a desktop or laptop, then ensure your phone is on mute, or ideally, turned off. Next, close any application on your computer that may pop up a noisy notification (Outlook is a common culprit). Finally, if you are interviewing from home, tell everyone when the interview is taking place, where you will be in the house, and start and finish times. The last thing you want is someone barging into your interview unexpectedly.
8. Test your internet connection – When I started working from home, I found my office was in a WiFi dead spot; this required investment in CAT5e cable installation through the house to my office. To see any WiFi dead spots in your home, you can test the signal strength using a WiFi analyser app on your phone to find the ideal location. I use WiFi Analyzer on my Android phone to test signal strength, but there are many other options on the app stores. You can also test your internet speed test using speedtest.net or fast.com. And lastly, if it’s possible, run an ethernet cable directly from your router to your laptop to ensure the most robust connection.
9. Test, Test, Test! Now that you have your app installed, your camera in the right spot, good lighting with a professional (real or virtual) background, and your audio is crisp and clear – there is one last step. Test everything! Ask a buddy if you can arrange a conference call to test your setup and get their feedback. Then, make adjustments live on the call and find the ideal spot.
10. Join Early! When it’s finally time to join your virtual interview, join early. Usually, when you enter the conference call early, the interviewer receives a notification to say you are waiting. I’m always encouraged when I see someone join a few minutes early; it immediately gives me a positive impression before we’ve ever met!
To summarise, just like any interview, preparation is vital. You only get one chance to make a first impression. I’m sure lots of the points in here seem like common sense, but you’ll be surprised how few people I interview with a perfect virtual interview setup. By following these top 10 tech tips for a perfect Zoom interview, you should feel at ease going into your first virtual interview and focus your mind on the actual interview!