Zoom has become a hallmark of 2020. We’re using it to catch up with friends, find love, and even interview for our dream jobs. Without the ability to build rapport with your interviewer face-to-face, navigating a remote interview can feel scary and even overwhelming.
But no need to distress. As with any skill, remote interviewing can be practiced and developed over time. These five tips can help make your next interview go smoothly and land you your dream job.
Mitigate distraction risk to the best of your ability
It can be tough to juggle kids, pets, roommates, and partners while working from home, even more so during an interview. While many employers have adapted to seeing a stray dog make a casual appearance during a work meeting, mitigating this risk remains important, so make sure your setup has minimal distractions.
Much like a traditional in-person interview, it’s important to turn off your phone, stop alarm clocks, and hush shoutouts from your at-home pals, Google and Alexa.
Before your interview, make sure you don’t have any scheduled deliveries where a doorbell might ring, advise family and roommates to not interrupt you, and put pets in another room.
“It’s still an interview, treat it the same as if it were face to face (i.e., put on pants),” says John Sudburry, a cyber intelligence specialist who landed his dream job. Eye contact is still important, so look directly into the camera when you speak. Don’t try reading off your screen or a subtle check of the phone, as it’s obvious to us! Schedule deliveries accordingly, and ensure your dependents (regardless of how many legs) don’t barge into the interview demanding snacks.”
But also remember, sometimes things are out of our control. If a child or pet makes a surprise appearance in your interview, make a lighthearted joke, and continue the interview with professionalism. While an unexpected interruption can be stressful, it can also be an opportunity to let your personality shine as you handle the situation in a calm and collected manner.
Light up your personality and let it shine
Having great lighting will not only help you stand out, but also help your personality shine. “Use way more light than you think you need,” advises Adam Ghahramani, a data scientist in New York who has conducted dozens of interviews. “Even higher-end webcams are underpowered and need help to capture a crisp image. Choose a location with good ambient light and then place a powerful lamp directly behind your computer. Either shine it directly on your face or bounce it off a nearby wall. You, and your interviewer, will be stunned at the results. Throw in a well-manicured background, and it’s the difference between showing up to an interview wearing a sharp suit vs. a baggy hoodie.”
Another option to add a burst of lighting to video calls is a ring light. These circular lights can help provide the perfect amount of lighting for your next call. You can find a wide variety of computer lighting options on sites like Amazon starting at twenty dollars.
Build virtual rapport through body language
It can be hard to know exactly what your interviewer is thinking. Remembering basic psychology principles can set you miles ahead of your competition. “Most of the time, even in person, people are behind a desk, so we are reading them from the waist up,” says therapist Gina Moffa LCSW, who helps clients navigate workplace stressors. “Social cues can be hard to read in a job interview for a variety of reasons, but going into the interview with a positive attitude, as much confidence in your skills and abilities as you can muster, and the ability to stay neutral will be helpful. If the interviewer gets personal, feels relaxed and more informal, you can follow suit, while still remembering you’re “auditioning” for a professional position.”
During your interview, stay attuned to not only your potential employer’s words, but also their body language. Are they smiling? Nodding? Staring blankly? Denoting facial expressions and body movements can help you navigate the conversation and move it towards a productive and impressive conversation.
Stay true to yourself
Whether an in-person or at-home interview, it’s important to stay true to yourself. Remember your accomplishments but refrain from embellishments or flat out lies. Even on a Zoom call, employers can see right through a little white lie.
“Recently, we were interviewing for a research assistant position where knowledge of programming would be an asset,” says Kris Hans, an instructor at University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “It became rather apparent that the student was lying about their qualifications right away […] their body language gave it away. Asking the right question all but confirmed it. The only difference [in an online interview] is that you can’t shake hands and feel the person’s authenticity. You have to look for this feeling in a digital space by picking up on non-verbal cues.”
You want an employer to hire the real you and not a fake persona you’ve only created to ace an interview. As such, you should make showing your true self a priority. Jobs are a two-way street. A new position should be a good match not only for an employer but also for yourself. Remember, you’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
Dress for success
It can be tempting to put on a blazer over pajama bottoms, but dressing up like you would for an in-person interview help you look and feel more confident. “For me, being fully dressed can work as a mental and physical trigger, readying me for my interview, not unlike an athlete putting on a uniform,” says editor and copywriter Eddie Kim. “It locks me in for the task at hand.”
Before your interview, turn on your camera and see how your outfit compliments your background. Make sure it doesn’t blend in. For example, if you have a blue wall, avoid wearing a blue top. Or, if you’re in front of a white wall, avoid wearing pastels.
Wear an outfit that makes you feel confident and also expresses yourself. If you’re interviewing for a marketing position, adding a splash of color can help show off your creative side. If you’re working in a more conservative field like finance, sticking to neutrals can help show your professionalism.
Just because you’re in a digital space, it doesn’t mean you can’t build rapport and have fun. Ask your interviewer how they’ve been holding up this year, what pandemic hobbies they’ve picked up, and find common ground to talk about. Now it’s time to put on your blazer, turn on your ring light, and get ready to ace your next interview!