The online interview is a sort of movie staging; you must act as your own personal production crew working to construct and present your genuine, professional self to your audience. That being said, no movie has ever been produced without preparation, consideration, or review, and this also applies to the increasingly frequent remote classes, meetings, and interviews. As university students finishing up our studies and preparing to enter the daunting world of work, we especially must learn how to confront this new reality. For this reason, I will be sharing four tips to help you thrive on camera and present yourself professionally and authentically when being interviewed whether it be via a Zoom, Teams, or Skype virtual interview.
1. Be prepared and punctual
I cannot stress this point enough: do not, under any circumstances, treat virtual interviews as less important than in-person ones! This calls for pre-interview prep – you should never wait until the scheduled time to double check that your equipment is functioning correctly, i.e. microphone, camera, wifi connection etc., and that your laptop is fully charged. The interviewer needs to know that you are taking this interaction seriously and that you know how to work the basics of a computer and video communication app. If the interviewer has sent you a list of guidelines before your meeting, these should be your first point of reference, as they will give you an idea as to what is expected from you and your conversation. Punctuality is also key, as not only do you have no valid excuse related to the commute from your bed to your desk, but it also shows that you take what you are doing seriously and that you are dependable. Plus, the sooner you start, the sooner it’s over!
2. Choose the right spot
The beautiful thing about virtual calls is that you can control what others see. You have the power to spotlight whatever you like and establish your own image. Why else would all of our lecturers and tutors set up their stations in front of overflowing bookshelves and libraries? Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to set up your scene and background so that it is not too distracting, and instead appears clean and polished. The first step is to clean your room, and the second is to find suitable and diffused natural lighting. This can be done by sitting by or in front of a window during the day, or once the sun has set you can move around and play with all the lamps that you have to illuminate yourself. That being said, it is important that your background is stationary – do not under any circumstances connect on the move or from your mobile device. Set some time aside and make sure that you have a private space where you can be for the duration of the interview, and shoo away any pets, family, or flatmates that might cause distraction or interruption.
3. Retain formality
Even if carried out remotely, this interview will define your first impression, so treat it accordingly! Do not slouch or connect from your couch. Your computer should not be set up on your lap or floor, but on an elevated surface such at a desk with you sitting upright behind it. You should be completely centered and in frame! This should make it so that you are looking up, not angled down, in a way to visually give your interviewer your full attention. In this vein, try not to look at your own video while talking, aim your gaze either towards your interviewer’s face or the computer’s camera. Lastly, just because the interviewer cannot see everything, this is no excuse to fidget, i.e. biting your nails or clicking pens. These situations are stressful – I know fully well – but try to remain calm and collected. A trick I always use to keep myself from being overly fidgety is wearing at least one ring on my finger so that I can covertly play with it and it just looks like my hands are folded in my lap.
4. Project, be clear, and smile
Finally, and most importantly, show that you are engaged and confident. Virtual calls lower our energy levels as we are not conversing directly with others but through multiple mediating channels: your computer, the cloud, and the interviewer’s computer setup. For this reason, make sure that you are projecting so that your interviewer hears everything you are saying and doesn’t assume that you are mumbling out of shyness. At the end of the day, an interview is set up for everyone to get to know one another and fully understand whether you, as an interviewee, are fit for the role. So, make sure that even after a full day of screentime, your own battery is sufficiently charged and fuelled by coffee, tea, a shower, or whatever works for you.
Virtual calls, especially interviews, are a new challenge that we must all face and adapt to. That being said, while there is no secret formula or code to crack, I hope that these tips will help you take some pressure off of this otherwise stressful situation and understand that this new platform is, afterall, another learning curve. These tips can apply to any virtual interaction where you want to present your best self and make your own image of yourself. So, bottomline, please remember to clean your room!