EVENTS & INSIGHTS / INSIGHT

How to nail your Zoom interview

by Shannon Houde

Thanks to Coronavirus there’s been a major increase in the number of recruiters opting for video interviews. Even in March, in the early stages of social distancing, there was reportedly a 524% spike in companies asking prospective candidates to interview online, rather than in person.

For interviewees this can feel like a daunting prospect.

“I’m so worried about where to look and the wi-fi crashing in the middle of the interview,” says Fiona, a 27-year-old that has just learned she’ll be facing a three-strong panel interview via video for a stakeholder engagement role with a top food brand. “It’s been three years since I’ve had any kind of important job interview and it feels really nerve-wracking that my first will be carried out online. Not being able to connect in person feels a bit stilted.”

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These concerns are understandable. With video you don’t get the chance to shake a recruiter’s hand or look them directly in the eye. It can feel harder to respond to body language and gauge social cues through a screen.  Then there are all the potential pitfalls of technology: what if I can’t set up the software? What if my laptop suddenly dies partway through?

Don’t panic!

There are lots of steps you can take to prepare mentally, physically, and technologically for a video interview, as well as ways to tailor your approach during the process itself. You can sell yourself and your skills through a screen, just as easily as you would in person.

Before the interview:

Set the scene. Make sure you find a quiet spot in advance, one that’s private and free of distractions to carry out the interview. Pay particular attention to your backdrop: go for something neutral and uncluttered and leave about 3 feet between your head and the back of the wall to avoid flattening the image. Finally let family or housemates know in advance where you’ll be and when so there are no unwelcome interruptions.

Practise with the software. Check which video conferencing software will be used and make sure you’re familiar with it. Download it in advance, have a play with the various functions, and test both audio and your web camera with it. Best of all, ask a friend or family member to carry out a mock interview with you using the software.

Dress to impress. Don’t be tempted into thinking your outfit isn’t as important during a video interview. Or that you can get away with simply dressing from the waist up. Dressing for success isn’t only a tired old cliché, studies show that we’re better at both strategic and creative thinking when we wear more formal business attire. So even if your prospective employer can’t see it – the right outfit will give you an extra boost.

For a 1:1 interview:

Watch your tone. Though it might be tempting to raise your voice to be heard through a microphone, doing so is more likely to create distortions for the interviewer. Instead adopt a normal pitch, even mimicking the tone and tempo of the interviewer where possible to create rapport.

Prioritize the camera. What matters is that the interviewer has a clear view of you, rather than the other way around. So pick your device according to the best camera, and even consider investing in a flexible arm mount to capture the best view. During the interview make sure you look directly at the camera to make eye contact too, rather than the screen itself.

Create a cheat sheet. One big advantage of video interviews is the ability to have a few notes or prompts nearby. Make sure you’re not looking down at a notebook though. Instead attach a few strategically placed post-its around the screen.

Keep energy levels high. You might be at home, or even in your bedroom, but don’t let that stop you from oozing energy and positivity through the screen. This is even more important when interviewing for a role that requires great communication skills. With remote working set to become the norm long after the pandemic, interviewers will see this as a showcase for how you’ll present yourself to future clients.

For a panel interview:

Take a pause. The combination of several people on a video call, slightly different devices, and the potential for short time delays, is a recipe for interrupting and talking over one another. Keep this to a minimum by leaving a brief pause between their question and your answer. That gives any other panellists the chance to add their thoughts, and you an extra second to collect your own.

Don’t forget, you’re always on show. When you’re one of several people on a call it can be easy to forget that you’re the focus. Whether you’re speaking or not always remember you’re being evaluated. Use non-verbal cues to show that you’re actively listening to what’s being said (eye contact, nodding along and leaning slightly toward the camera) and eliminate any potential distractions, such as mobile phones.

Have a strong close. With a video interview the end can be more abrupt. There’s no shaking the hand of each panellist or opportunity for small talk as one guides you back to reception. So ensure you have a strong close prepared. Thank each panellist by name, clarify next steps and reiterate how grateful you are for the opportunity.

Have more questions? Then why not join me on my next Coffee and Connect event. Taking place live every Thursday you’ll have the chance to ask me anything you like on preparing for your next video interview, as well as having the chance to win a 1:1 coaching session. I look forward to seeing you!

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