Since the onset of coronavirus, video conferencing software is now a go-to for webinars, online meetings, and virtual interviews. Recruiters are especially increasing their usage of Zoom to conduct virtual interviews, especially for remote positions or initial screening interviews.
What is Video Conferencing?
Video conferencing is a solution that allows users, residing in separate locations, to see and hear each other at the same time, using their computer or mobile camera.
Interviewing via Zoom is very different than meeting in person. But don’t worry; like anything else, video conferencing is a skill that can be mastered.
8 Tips for Succeeding During Your Zoom Interview
Below is a list of Zoom interview tips that will help you master this software and help your next interview go as smoothly as possible.
1. Dress Up Formally
Dress up formally just as you would for an in-person interview. You should appear groomed and well-dressed.
This includes pants! A client of mine stood up during his virtual interview to manage his feisty cat, showing everyone his sweatpants under his suit jacket.
Here are some tips on how to dress for success for a job interview:
- Study the culture of the company you’re interviewing with and see what kind of dress code they follow. Dress up a slightly more formally to err on the side of caution.
- Avoid shirts with stripes and complex patterns. Instead, wear solid colors.
- Have clean and trimmed fingernails.
- Wear minimal jewelry.
- Be aware of your posture or body language.
- Keep your hair professional and polished, just like your entire outfit.
2. Eliminate Distractions
The last thing you want during an interview is to lose your train of thought. You should be a hundred percent focused while giving your interview online on zoom. To create an environment free of distractions:
- Silence your phone, even if needed during the interview; you don’t want it to go off while you’re on the other line.
- Turn off your notifications and silence all pop-ups.
- Pick a quiet and peaceful space to have the call in, such as your bedroom or study. If that’s not an option, try to make sure that no one walks in when you’re being interviewed.
- Make sure your kids and pets are not around. Request anyone nearby to make sure they don’t disturb you.
- Don’t have any other tabs opened. The only screen that should be opened is the zoom interview call screen and your resume.
- Try to nod as the interviewer speaks and ask questions based on what they say. This will make them feel like you’re actively listening to what they’re saying.
- Zoom allows you to mute your audio. I recommend muting your mic if you’re not speaking to allow the interviewer to talk without causing any interruptions stemming from cars driving by, neighbors talking loudly, or perhaps your roommate doing his trademark wall-shaking sneeze.
- Most importantly, ensure you have a strong WiFi connection. You should invest in a good internet connection to ensure that the video is seamless and that there are no disconnections. Prior to your interview, test out your connection where you plan to sit and change the location if the signals are weak.
Remember: Do NOT sit at a public place such as a coffee shop just to get a good WiFi connection. The WiFi connection may be strong but it can be very noisy. Instead, you can go to a friend’s house if your house has a poor WiFi connection.
3. Look Into The Camera
One of the most important Zoom interview tips is to always keep your camera on even if you’re not talking.
Making eye-contact is extremely important while giving an in-person interview. However, virtual interviews make it a bit different. If you were to look them in the eye on your screen, it may not look like that on their end.
Make sure that as you’re speaking, you’re looking into the camera. This helps create an illusion that you’re looking at your conversation partner and making a strong eye-contact, rather than just looking randomly somewhere on the screen.
Tip: Place your camera at eye-level, slightly angled down. Maybe put some books underneath your laptop or tablet — do whatever it takes to make sure that you’re looking at the camera and not the screen. Make sure to practice this before the interview date.
4. Have a Professional Background
One of the most important zoom interview tips is to have a professional background to minimize distractions.
If you’re not using Zoom’s built-in backgrounds, keep the following in mind:
- The background you choose for your zoom call should have no clutter. You can, however, add a few decent and tasteful decoration pieces in the background.
- The room should be visually appealing but not distracting. Avoid having any strong focal points in the background such as a bright art piece. Instead, you can add books or a light-colored decoration piece.
- The room should be well-lit enough such that the interviewer is able to properly see your face. Don’t sit with your back to the window, especially during day time, as the light coming in may make it difficult for the recruiter to see you.
The nice thing about Zoom is that you can pick a virtual background for yourself. This is especially handy if your home is a bit of a mess and you didn’t have time to clean things up.
Keep in mind the following things while using a virtual background:
- Wear something that is darker than your background so you don’t look like a floating head.
- Adjust the background to have a slight but realistic blur.
- Choose a background that is not visually noisy. My favorite is the subtle gradient background on Zoom.
- Use a light-colored background in order to have a cutout that stays firmly around you.
- Above all, keep it professional.
5. Make a Cheat Sheet
Cheat sheets are a written or graphic aid (such as a sheet of notes) that can be referred to for help in understanding or remembering something complex. They can be extremely valuable in your Zoom interview call as they provide a concise set of notes used for quick reference during your interview call.
To keep your answers fresh in your mind, use Post-It notes with all the relevant notes, questions, or inspiration directly to your screen or to the wall behind it.
You can also keep a notepad on hand that has your own notes written. In case you forget something during the interview, you can quickly look down at your notes to refresh the information. Take a look at this interview cheat sheet to organize your thoughts and stay focused during the interview.
6. Ask The Interviewer Questions
Job interviews should feel like a conversation with both parties asking and answering questions. Just because you are the one being interviewed, doesn’t mean you cannot ask questions. After all, an interview is a two-way street and you should also see if the company is a good fit for your values and skills.
In fact, if you do ask relevant questions, the interviewer will get an idea that you did your pre-interview research and are seriously interested in the job.
Your opportunity to ask these questions typically comes at the end of the interview when the interviewer asks if there are any questions that you’d like to ask.
Some of the questions that you can ask your interviewer include:
- What skills or previous experience are most important for the person that is selected for this position?
- What does success look like in this position? How do you measure it?
- Who will I be working most closely with? How do they measure success?
- What other departments will have some ownership over my work? How do I ensure my collaboration with them is successful.
7. Be On Time
For in-person interviews, standard practice dictates that you should arrive 10-15 minutes before your interview. But what about a Zoom interview?
Enter your zoom interview meeting no more than two minutes before the start time. Make sure that you’re ready 10 minutes before the start of your interview and are feeling comfortable. Take a few minutes to go through your notes. Once you have two minutes left, end your prep and enter the meeting.
8. Practice With A Friend
Before appearing for the Zoom interview call, make sure to practice the interview with a friend at least once or twice. You can record this interview, watch it later, and optimize your interview performance accordingly.
While watching the recording, check the following:
- Is the video and audio quality good?
- Is the lighting okay?
- Was there anything in the background that was causing distraction?
- Are you fidgeting too much?
- Do you need to change what you are wearing?
Keep practicing until you’re 100% satisfied with your Zoom interview call.
You can also record your actual interview, as it will be just as valuable as the practice one. This will help you compare the two interviews and see where there are any issues that need to be fixed next time you’re giving an interview. Plus, this option is not available for in-person interviews. Hence, don’t forget to take advantage of it while giving a virtual interview.
Important: Before you press the record button, ask the interviewer if it’s okay to record the interview.
If you prefer to practice with a professional, you can also sign up for our interview coaching service, which consists of a 20-minute mock interview and a 40-minute coaching session. I’ll tailor the session based on the kinds of jobs you’d like to do.
Make sure to stay calm — you want to come across as someone positive and confident who knows what they’re saying and who would be fun to work with.
On that note, I’ll share my personal experience with you to show how life can be hard on you sometimes, regardless of how well prepared you are.
A few months ago, I was interviewing with a small Environmental Engineering firm for “fun.”
I was a bit nervous because I hadn’t done a video interview in a while. To prepare, I…
– laid out my black blazer the night before the interview.
– created flashcards with answers to tough interview questions.
– covered up the huge zit on my chin with makeup.
– tested the video conferencing tool with a friend and made sure everything was working well.
I did everything right, right?
Nothing could go wrong.
Or so I thought.
The interview started, and I felt smooth and confident. My interviewer, Dave, came on screen and said, “Hi, Fatemah! Is that how you say your name? Faa-te-maah?”
“That’s exactly right!” I said to him, giving him my most winning grin.
Except I smiled too hard.
The giant throbbing zit on my chin that I had carefully covered with makeup stretched and popped open. All kinds of grossness exploded out of my chin.
“OH, EXCUSE ME!” I quickly bent my head and wiped the slime off my chin with the corner of my shirt, hoping he hadn’t noticed.
I wanted to dig a hole in my garden, lie down in it, and cry.
The humiliation forced me to become paralyzed with nervousness. The flashcards that I had laid out on my computer’s keyboard with all my answers lay forgotten. None of my responses were coming out right. I was stuttering.
“We’ll be in touch,” he said, with a kind smile at the end of the interview.
But I never heard back from him. I had blundered through the interview and made an utter fool out of myself.
Because there are so many variables involved with a virtual interview, something is bound to go wrong.
- The Mobile Device Deviation You are using your mobile device for the interview. Everything is going smoothly until your screen goes blank and you can’t hear anything. Panicked, you keep hitting the restart button but now the mobile device isn’t responding at all.
When this happens, don’t panic and start cursing like my client Sam did. He had no idea that the interviewers could still hear him on the other end. (Yikes!)
Instead, take a deep breath, tell the interviewers that you seem to be having a problem with your phone (say it even if the screen goes blank as the audio might still be transmitted) and restart your phone. Take the minute or so it takes your phone to reboot to think of an apology and a brief explanation for the delay.
Ideally, use a laptop or desktop computer for virtual interviews. They are a lot more reliable.
- The Accidental Noise You are killing the interviewers’ question, but just as they ask another, an ice-cream truck passes by your window, filling the room with its loud jingle. Not only did they miss your awesome answer, but the interviewers also seem irritated by the interruption.
When this happens, don’t continue with your answer as though nothing is going on.
Instead, mute your microphone, wait for the noise to subside before apologizing briefly for the interruption and ask the interviewers to repeat the question.
Ideally, choose a quiet corner for your interview where you are least likely to be disturbed by any person or sound and use a headset with a microphone.
- The Bodily Function You seem to be doing well when suddenly, this morning’s breakfast churns in your stomach. It rumbles audibly and warns you that the massive fart you’re struggling to contain is about to rip.
When this happens, don’t try to cover up whatever is going on “smoothly.” (“Oh, haha that’s just my cell phone vibrating!”) Don’t let it cripple you into embarrassment.
Instead, politely say, excuse me, I need a quick second. Do you mind if I put you on hold? Mute your microphone, run to the bathroom, do what you have to do, and remind yourself that you’re a human being, and sometimes, your body does things that make you cringe in disgust. We’ve all been there.
Ideally, eat a light meal an hour before your interview, go to the restroom ahead of time, and keep a box of tissues near you just in case.
When something goes wrong, avoid the instinct to panic! Interviewers understand when things go wrong. Focus on reacting appropriately. It is important to remain confident and calm. Being straightforward with the interviewer is ideal.
Cheer me up, will you? Share your worst interview experience in the comments below so I don’t feel so bad about mine.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to send a thank you email after the interview. Here’s my thank-you note template that will definitely help you stand out from the crowd.
Best of luck! 🙂