With more and more commercial and government organisations moving toward utilising video technology in recruitment, here’s our 9 top tips for success in the virtual world.
Tip 1: Set the scene
When we step into an interview in a recruiter’s office or the hiring company, the hirer controls the environment. This is not the case with an online interview.
The interview room is now operating in two spaces, theirs and yours. You’ll be responsible for ensuring that yours is professional, clean and well presented.
Tip 2: Personal presentation
For a face-to-face interviews, you would ensure appropriate dress, polished shoes, good personal grooming and this is no different in a virtual setting. Wearing interview appropriate clothing to an online video is essential as it set’s the ‘tone’ , demonstrates your commitment and interest in the role and helps establish your professional presence.
We’ve all heard the stories of the person who throws on his favourite pink business shirt over his pyjama pants for team meetings via Zoom, but there’s always a risk that you will need to stand and be caught out. If you’re appropriately dressed and you have to move from your seat, the interviewers will see that you’re the whole package.
Tip 3: Align the camera
I like to set my camera at a distance from me. I’m a big hand talker (tie mine behind my back and I’ll struggle to say three words!) and waving hands too close to the camera is just a skin-coloured blur – very distracting. A good balance is to show the top third of your body – head and shoulders.
Make sure the camera is aligned to your eye height – this will reduce the likelihood of you looking as though you’re looking down. No-one wants to see the top of your head or up your nostrils.
Offset your camera. A nice touch is to offset the camera so that it is not pointing directly at you, this slight shift can create a warmer, inclusive mood to the viewer.
Tip 4: Check the background
What’s behind you? Is it a blank wall? This is OK, but could be improved by some artwork, a lamp or a plant. Something to soften the view and frame your face – just make sure the plant doesn’t make you look like it’s growing out of your head!
If using a bookshelf, ensure that the titles of the books are appropriate and adding to your professional persona.
If you don’t have a wall or space that is appropriate, consider utilising the virtual backgrounds available in Zoom (if that’s the tech you’re using). You can get creative around these if it will reflect well on you (e.g. using the employer’s brand or a motif that aligns with the organisations work, in the background).
Tip 5: Check the lighting
Face some natural light, as this will show you to your best effect, ensure that your interviewers can see you and read your expressions.
If you wear glasses, check for the reflection from any other objects, the screen, the view outside, etc.
Tip 6: Check your tech
Test your video camera, microphone and headphones well in advance of the interview. Ensure that they are all connected to the technology and in good working order and at the right noise levels.
Tip 7: Manage the surrounding space
Ensure that you are operating in a private space where you will not be interrupted and can communicate freely with your interviewer.
If you are connecting from the home environment, ensure all pets are outside, phones are placed on do not disturb and others in your house are aware of your engagement. I suggest to my clients that they send their housemates out for a coffee!
Tip 8: Props
Props can be a useful tool. Consider if you will need to explain a key concept, whether a whiteboard might be a useful backdrop. Alternatively, you may wish to pre-write some key points on the whiteboard to refer to during the interview.
Sticky notes can be your friend. Try a smiley face above the camera, to remind you to look directly into the camera when speaking.
Key words and dot-points, and interview panellists names can also be added along the edge of your screen – but please don’t overuse these as it will be obvious to those on the other end if you’re reading notes!
Tip 9: Be prepared and be flexible in an imperfect world
With all the very best intentions and planning, technology can play a hand in the success or otherwise of your online interview. It will be important to ensure that you have a back-up plan. For instance, if connecting via wifi, have a hotspot available via your phone in case there is a connection problem at your end. Provide your phone number as backup in case the connection is lost and you need to move to a phone call. Remember, technology plays a role at both ends, and despite your best efforts, the problems may occur at the interviewer’s end. Be prepared, be flexible and keep breathing!