Remember a time when you hadn't even heard of Zoom? These days, it's practically impossible to get through a single day's work without some form of video conferencing. There is no doubt that the pandemic has wildly transformed our working lives and Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, Skype and all the rest of them have become a lifeline for many businesses, allowing us to simply soldier on.
When the lockdown eased and we began to adopt a more hybrid way of working, we realised that Zoom was more than a necessary evil. It is actually incredibly useful as it encourages businesses to embrace a working from home model for their employees and, consequently, supports people to make balanced choices with their working lives. One of the silver linings to lockdown was that we now know for a fact that working from home works surprisingly well.
It is in our best interests to become pros at navigating the idiosyncrasies of working and communicating online. In this series of blogs, we explore how to make online communication work for you in different contexts.
There is no place more significant, and perhaps with higher stakes at play, than the job interview. In today’s world, this can involve going through an entire interview process, and getting started in a new role, without having ever met anyone in person.
So, how do we do it? How does one put their best foot forward in a virtual interview - where people can’t even see your feet? How can you communicate your personality and professionalism in a way that will translate across to your interviewer through the screen? Keep reading for five interview tips which you can start putting into practice straight away.
Tip 1: Why pyjama bottoms won’t cut it
You might think the good news is that you don’t need to worry about your bottom half! Not quite.
These days, you wouldn’t know if every person you speak to on Zoom is starkers below the waistline. You can’t tell if someone is wearing joggers, shorts or a tutu for that matter! So, does it matter what your legs are wearing?
Well, for a meeting, it’s all about how your clothes make you feel. You want to make sure what you wear helps you to feel confident, dynamic and energised. Dress for the mood you need to be in to nail the interview. Bear in mind that your pyjama bottoms might be super comfy but could prevent you from getting into a professional frame of mind, which might affect your posture and body language. By all means, be comfortable but you don’t want to feel odd - as that will impact your performance. Besides, you don't want to caught out if you have to stand up to turn the light on or close the window halfway through! Prepare for all eventualities!
As for the top half: make an effort! The way you present yourself in this interview will indicate how you would represent the company in a meeting should they hire you.
Choose clothing that accurately reflects the style and industry of the company. Don’t be afraid to wear colour - but make sure you don’t blend in or clash with the wall behind you. If you are applying to work within a regular office environment, keep it clean and simple. You don’t want to fill the screen with too many distractions. And leave the stripes on the shelf – they don’t show up well on camera.
Tip 2: We do not interview from the top of a hill
If you are using a laptop, make sure it is at eye level rather than looking down at it. Use a stack of books or some leftover shoeboxes if you have to. You don’t want to give the impression that you are doing your interview from the top of a hill!
Make sure that your interviewer’s picture on your screen is directly beneath your camera. This will prevent your eyes flicking from side to side throughout the interview as if you’re watching a tennis match.
It can be tricky to look professional from your home environment. Try to build an appropriate setup. Make sure no phones are around – there is nothing that destroys the mood of an interview quite like a ringing landline. Most importantly, avoid the cardinal sins of a virtual background – that means, no towels, bed, shoes or anything remotely intimate!
One of the upsides of an online interview is that you’re given a blank canvas to show something about yourself. For example, for a marketing role in a creative company, you can include a lovely piece of art on the wall behind you within the camera frame. This can act as a nice little icebreaker or conversation starter with your interviewer. For a serious role, go for something more neutral like a houseplant or a bookcase. If in doubt, go for a plain wall with lots of natural light – that always looks good.
Remember, this is an opportunity to curate your image – make it work for you, not against you.
Tip 3: A video interview is still an interview
Always research the company and prepare at least one question for them at the end. Understand what the role is and how you can harness your past experience to showcase yourself as a good fit for the new job. Think about your values, their values, and then look for alignment. i
Excellent interview technique, whether virtual or in person, requires you to know your stuff. They won’t just believe you - you need to have evidence, stories, statistics and examples to back up your points. Have clear structured examples ready in your head with positive outcomes. Try to remember the STAR method to help you: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This will give you a structure to answer those difficult interview questions.
The great thing about Zoom interviews is that you can have some notes in your eye line next to or above your computer (we don't recommend having them typed out on your screen), out of sight of the interviewer. Use these notes to keep you on track and stay on your A game, but don't rely on them.
Here's a bit more about how you can improve your interview technique:
Tip 4: First impressions count!
Arrive a couple of minutes early so you can be as calm and composed as possible. Technical issues are all too common so it’s good to have this under control. A last minute technical problem could leave you faffing or flustered and jeopardise that all-important first impression.
Always do a technical practice to make sure that you have a good set up: good lighting, strong internet connection and clear audio. By practising beforehand, you will be able to make all the necessary adjustments so that you don’t have to worry about anything during the interview except yourself.
Your body language and facial expressions will be even more vital during a virtual interview, where only your top half can be seen. Try to smile, listen carefully, take as many cues as possible from your interviewer and maintain that energy throughout. Look directly into the camera for extra impact.
Zoom interviews might seem daunting and unfamiliar. But don’t forget to see the positives – no one can see your twitching fingers or tapping foot. A lot of your nervous energy may now be imperceptible to an interviewer leaving you free to nail that interview and bag your dream job!
Tip 5: Use your secret mirror
Try not to look down too much during your interview. Checking the self view camera now and again is a great way of correcting yourself. Think of it as your secret mirror. Use it! Have a quick glance at yourself to see if your eyes are alive, if you’re smiling and if you look approachable and presentable at all times. Employers are looking for someone they can connect with on a personal and professional level.
Be mindful of your shoulders. Avoid slumping forward and tipping backwards: Straight spine, aligned shoulders and neck. If you’re not aligned this will also compromise your voice. 15 minutes before the interview do a quick VOCAL WARM UP like this one here.
Try not to talk too much! Answer a question simply and stop to let them ask another question. The nerves can make us talk and talk and talk, and it’s tempting because you have a captive audience. But focus on answering their question, not ten other questions. Be aware that rattling on is a really classic interview faux pas. It’s something that we all do, but one to avoid as talking too much can make them tune out.
Communication is about sharing the ideas in your head as well as listening to others and finding balance in communication. Focus on the idea that you are explaining. Have they got it? Watch for their reaction. Let them hear you.
If you’re looking for guidance with an upcoming zoom job interview, check out our bespoke 1:1 coaching on Interview Technique where we can teach you how to make a great impression and bag the job you want - choose from 1, 3 or 5 sessions.