While a resume once consisted of a sheet of paper with your name, information, and experience, these days it’s a bit more complicated. Being a job hunter or professional at work means that in addition to the barest basics on paper, you likely have several additional versions of yourself you present to the world- most of them online.
What does your LinkedIn profile pic or Twitter avatar say to the world? And while we’re on the subject, how do you look when you’re Skyping or on a G-Chat? Are you perfectly poised and polished, or is your hair (and monitor) constantly askew?
As video calls are becoming more popular for everything from interviews to conferences to daily catch-ups with remote teams, you have to step up your video game. It takes a lot of vigilance. Just ask BBC dad, Professor Robert E. Kelly, who had perfectly arranged a room in his house for video interviews and spiffed himself up in a suit. Even so, an open door dashed his plans. While he benefitted from an adorable viral moment that he said was “incredibly cute,” it may not be so charming for you.
We asked some experts to weigh in on tips for presenting your best visual self online.
Elevate your angle
Los Angeles-based photographer and Nikon Ambassador Joey Terrill, whose A-List portfolio includes Justin Bieber and Rihanna among others, says there’s one major thing you can do to look better on video.
If you use Skype or video chat, Terrill says “The most important thing is to raise the camera lens on the laptop or phone to the level of your eyes—or even higher.”
He says you can use books or anything handy to raise the lens and “avoid that dreaded view from below.” Colleagues or potential interviewers don’t want to look up your nose.
A higher camera angle is “much more flattering, and prevents you from appearing intimidating on the other person’s screen. Placing the camera at eye level will make you appear more natural, friendly, and conversational.”
Elevate your environment and attitude
Before you even start the interview, make sure you’ve set yourself up as a professional. Your background should convey you mean business— or at least, neatness. Organize those bookshelves, straighten pictures, and make sure the lighting isn’t depressing.
Self-described success strategist Carlota Zimmerman, JD, runs workshops on using social media to excel in the job market. “It’s hard to be taken seriously if the cat is walking across the keyboard,” Zimmerman says.
Three good ways to manage your video image: Dress to impress in nice clothes you would wear to work anyway; invest in noise-cancelling headphones to hear better; write out your talking points so you remember what to say when the camera is on.
Most of all, practice using the technology beforehand.
There are few things worse than having to reschedule your video call because you can’t get Skype or Google Hangouts to work, and it can make you look flaky.
Light it up
Terrill advises paying attention to the way you’re illuminated during a video chat.
“Instead of using the overhead lighting in an office or bedroom. try turning in the direction of a north-facing window, or one that isn’t receiving direct sunlight. This type of ‘open shade’ will deliver flattering frontal light to your face and surroundings.”
Another tip: “If the interview is at night, turn the room lights on and try placing a lamp with a shade directly behind your laptop screen. This will make the room appear naturally lighted, while the table lamp will add flattering light to your face and a catch light in your eye.”
Look for tone and contrast
Terrill, the photographer, told Ladders that dressing for your skin tone is one thing to consider. Different colors can transform skin tones; experiment with what makes you look best.
In general, Terrell said, “people with lighter skin and hair colors tend to look more authoritative in darker clothing shades because of the contrast in tonalities — while darker hair or skin tones have the same result when combined lighter colors.”
Get comfortable with the camera
Whether it’s on video or for a professional photo or headshot, the hardest part of being on camera is how nerve-wracking it can be for those of us not used to being photographed all the time.
That anxiety even happens among professionals, Terrill said. “Finding a level of comfort in front of the camera can sometimes be the biggest challenge in getting a great portrait of yourself. Being photographed is intimidating for nearly everyone—even people who are photographed for a living.”
He suggests finding a good pose —anything from resting your hands on a table during a video call or leaning against a doorway for a photo —which allows you “to feel empowered and in control of your shot” and adds to your comfort.
Keep your online pictures up to date
A promotion or job change is probably the best time for an update to your online pictures on LinkedIn and other networks. Zimmerman told Ladders, “your head-shot should be current, professional and relevant to your industry. If you change your hair, or your look, if you get a big promotion, or make a career transition, these are excellent reasons to keep updating your online branding.”
Zimmerman strongly advised paying attention to your audience for each of the pictures on your social media accounts: “Your colleagues in a bank are going to have a different impression of you than your college or high school friends.”
She reminded us that “We all share the same internet. If all your social media is open to the public, your boss could at any time, seek you out on any platform.”
She also suggests keeping ensuring you’re only tagged in professional photos. Leave the drunken escapades for more private networks, if at all, and make sure your privacy settings are set to thwart curiosity seekers.
A key way to judge a good picture: look as authentic as possible. Wendy Lewis, president of Wendy Lewis & Co., says “some of the biggest mistakes we see all the time are to recycle photos from a decade ago. Having a current headshot taken by a professional photographer is a good investment.”
Lewis also advises having both a high and low resolution version to keep on file as needed. “Go for a warm, friendly, natural pose so when people meet you for the first time, they say, “I recognized you from your photo. You want to look like yourself but polished and approachable.”
Fight the shine
Cameras and video cameras are notoriously unforgiving, highlighting oily areas and blemishes. Men and women both can take tips from makeup artist Hillary Kline, although, naturally, women are the vast majority of makeup consumers.
- Use a setting powder or oil blotting sheets to make sure you don’t look shiny; it’s all heightened on camera because the light reflects off those areas.
- Concealer is your friend. Nothing is worse than waking up with dark under eye circles or having a blemish on a big day such as an interview via Skype, etc. Invest in a quality concealer and apply under your eye area with a concealer brush. If you have a blemish, place concealer on the blemish and blend.
- Define your features. Mascara will emphasize your eyes. Blush and contour will make sure your face keeps its shape on camera. Strong brows frame the face, so make sure they’re neatly groomed and filled in with a pencil, if necessary.
Armed with the perspective of experts, you can make your next video call your most polished and professional one yet.
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