Whether you’ve lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic or have decided to change careers as a result of the crisis, it’s likely that a video interview over a platform such as Skype or Zoom will factor into the application process for any new job. Here, Breda Dooley, Recruitment Manager at Matrix Recruitment, shares her expert advice on how to nail a virtual job interview...
Interviews are tough at the best of times.
You spend days beforehand studying your cv, preparing answers to questions they may or may not ask you, you put together your most professional outfit and try to come up with a non-cringey answer to 'what would you say your biggest weakness is?'. You've done the prep, you're feeling confident but soon as you sit down in front of three or four people all staring at you, your mouth goes dry, your face blushes and you forget every single word you were going to say.
Now, despite some lockdown restrictions easing, virtual interviews are becoming the 'new normal'. While some may feel relieved that they don’t have to sit face-to-face with an interviewer, the complexities of communicating over a video platform may prove anxiety-inducing to others.
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Your interviewer may have a harder time seeing you sweat, but they'll still ask questions that test your preparation, interest, and poise. So how can we make sure we’re putting our best foot forward as we navigate this ‘new normal’? We asked Breda Dooley, Recruitment Manager at Matrix Recruitment, to give us her top tips on preparing for a virtual job interview.
Prioritise the Camera, Not the Screen
"Framing is everything - nobody wants to talk to a forehead or a chin. Make sure the camera on your screen is at eye level and positioned correctly," says Dooley. "For laptops, try stacking books up on the desk/table so that you can get it to the exact level for your height. Make sure the stack is sturdy, so it does not fall over halfway through the call.
You should also make sure you are in the centre of the camera frame; this will help make the meeting feel more like a face-to-face chat.
Finally, make sure you are fully focused within the camera lens, but not too close that your head is half cut off. Aim to have the tops of your shoulders, full face, and head in the frame – this should cut out a lot of background space behind you and ensure the full focus is on you."
show your real background
"Funky, funny or quirky backgrounds are not a good idea for a professional job interview, they are too distracting," says Dooley. "The majority of these virtual backgrounds are very gimmicky and tend to swamp the person, resulting in a missing hand or a floating head on camera. The best background is one that is real, just make sure it is clean and tidy and will not distract those on the other end of the call. Remember, the more minimalist your background, the more the interviewer can focus on you and your conversation."
dress for the job you want
"It may seem silly to put so much effort in to dress up when you are going nowhere, but be under no illusion, first impressions still count on a virtual meeting – so make sure you look put together. Dress the part – and not just from the waist up," advises Dooley. "Make sure your hair is neat and tidy, and if you want to go the extra mile, apply some makeup. The cameras on our computers and laptops tend to wash us out so even if you don’t like makeup, I suggest adding some blush to the cheeks to add some colour. Cameras also tend to highlight oil on our face, so apply some power to minimise the potential of a shiny forehead – that goes for men and women. Once you look the part, you will feel more confident in your abilities, and that’s not all, the process of getting ready will also help get the mind focused and in the zone for that interview."
master your lighting
"From an aesthetic point of view, you should try and find a room with good natural lighting. Sitting in front of a window, with the laptop to the back of the windows works best, it will brighten your skin and even out skin tone. If you don’t have good natural lighting, get a lamp and place it behind the laptop to direct the light at your face straight on – aim for a white light rather than a warm yellow and try to minimise shadows as much as possible," recommends Dooley. "For that added touch, Zoom has a beauty filter which will soften shadows and harsh light – you can find it by clicking video settings at the bottom of the toolbar and then searching for ‘touch up my appearance’ on the menu list."
do a practice run
Sign up for an account on the service your interviewer is using and download the necessary software. Install a backup copy of the software on a second device (for example, install on both your phone and laptop) just in case one device fails.
"Ahead of your interview, I suggest asking a friend or family member to do a mock virtual meeting with you to make sure you feel comfortable with the technology and that you get used to directing your conversation at a camera lens rather than someone’s eyes," says Dooley. "This will help reduce the nerves on the day and make you more focused. Ask the person on the other end of the call to flag anything they feel you need to improve on – are you looking down too much, are you smiling enough and engaging with the interviewer fully, are you looking at yourself when talking or at the camera lens? The more you practice, the better you will get, so do it as many times as you need to!"
"You should also make sure the room has good Wi-Fi connection, as you don’t want to end up freezing half-way through. It’s also best if the room isn’t too spacious and echoey – otherwise, the sound will distract from what you are saying," adds Dooley.
"Find a spot in your home that is away from noise and distraction," says Dooley. "If that means packing the kids or dogs off for a playdate or walk, then go for it. You want to be able to focus 100% on the interviewer and their questions."
As with every interview, prepare, prepare, prepare
"A little more time should go into preparing for a virtual meeting to ensure you are feeling comfortable and confident about both the technology and the interview itself - don’t make the mistake of giving one element more attention," warns Dooley. "Interview prep should be done to the same standard as that of a face-to-face meeting. That means going over typical interview questions and preparing your answers, read up on the company, the background, who the CEO or Managing Director is, what are the company’s ethos and aims, what is their social media/online presence like, have they been in the news recently? You may be asked these questions so don’t get caught out.
You should also know the job role inside out and be able to use your past career experience to showcase why you are the perfect candidate for that role."
the 5 things you should do before your interview:
1. Check that your password for the video app is working and log in well in advance of the official starting time.
2. Do a mock Zoom interview to ensure lighting is correct, video and sound are working, virtual screens are off and the camera lens is at eye level.
3. Make sure your laptop is fully charged or connected to a power cable before the interview to minimise interruption.
4. Ensure everyone in the house is aware of the interview and what time it is at so as to prevent disruption or unsolicited walk-bys behind you.
5. Put your phone on silent – it is easy to forget about the other tech in the room when you are focused on something else.
Main image by Rachel Moenning