7 Tips for Zoom Job Interviews (and Other Stressful Video Calls)
As if job interviews weren’t nerve-wracking enough, there is now the added layer of “performing” onscreen thrown into the mix. Below are just a few tips to make sure you can use technology to your best advantage and make it an asset instead of an additional challenge.
1. Review your appearance on screen at least one day before the interview, wearing the clothing you plan to wear. Turn on Zoom and click New Meeting but don’t invite anyone to join you. Click the “Start Video” button and spend some time perfecting your posture, your framing, and your overall appearance. Use it like you would a mirror to prepare for a speech. Talk a little to see how that feels or, better yet, schedule a call with a friend to help you conduct a mock interview. Experiment with relaxing your posture to see – not so much that you look like you don’t care but just enough so that you convey confidence and, more importantly, feel like yourself. The more comfortable you are, the smarter and more competent you will seem.
2. Find a place to conduct the interview that offers good lighting and a background with few distractions or clutter. Generally, a location that is facing a window is better than one that has your back to one. You can benefit from the light of the window on your face and not create a distracting bright light behind you. If you must be to the side of a window or have one behind you, try to orient yourself at an angle to minimize glare. Be mindful of the time of day and the potential brightness of the day. Tidy up any space that will appear on camera or reveal personal details, like a whiteboard calendar or family photos. Consider your background a set you are decorating and sending a message about yourself that is professional and attractive. (Use your judgment, though – if you think the M.C. Escher print behind you says something meaningful, then by all means include it in the shot. This is your close-up!)
3. Wear clothing with a minimum of patterns or shiny surfaces. Those of you old enough to remember Johnny Carson even a little bit might remember when he would remark about certain patterns or fabrics of his neckties creating weird glowing effects onscreen. It can still happen today. Stick with solid or minimalist patterns and wear little to no jewelry – earrings, in particular, can catch the light and be distracting. Your monitor may be state of art and show people in sharp resolution, but your interviewer may be dealing with slightly dated technology. Aim to create a serene, calming aspect that provides your personality, charm and intellect the chance to shine.
4. Take advantage of your ability to post notes behind or above your screen to prompt you for questions that tend to stump you. This is something you definitely cannot do in an in-person interview, so why not take advantage of this option. Keep your notes to short reminders and mnemonic devices – anything that you are afraid you will forget to mention or thoroughly answer appropriately. For instance, sketch out a brief timeline if this will help you deliver a snappy answer to the “Tell me about yourself” question or put three reminders of “greatest weaknesses” or “complicated challenges you encountered that exposed quick-thinking and creative problem-solving skills.”
5. Make sure the space in which you are conducting the interview stays quiet and free of interruption. A door on an office that locks is ideal but barring that make it crystal clear to family members and roommates that you are not to be interrupted for the duration of the interview and you would appreciate that sounds be kept down. Even seemingly innocuous noises like the running of a dishwasher can prove incredibly distracting to others on a Zoom call.
6. Give yourself time before the Zoom call to take a walk, jump on an elliptical machine or do some pushups. Physical activity before a stressful encounter can lower our anxiety levels and minimize the chance that back, shoulder or neck pain will compromise your performance. It will also help you clear your head and give you an added boost of confidence.
7. Invest in a comfortable office chair (if you haven’t already). This is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, especially if you will be continuing (or are presently) working from home. The benefits of ergonomic furniture pays off dividends over the years, making you more productive and preserving your posture, which will save you money and time on chiropractic visits. If conference calls will be a long-term proposition once you do land a new job, the right chair will be a must-have since a major contributor to “Zoom fatigue” is a bad posture habits like slouching and hunching, which increases strain on the neck, back and shoulders.
As with any interviews, the more Zoom interviews you do, the more comfortable it will become. Since video interfacing can feel more like a performance than meeting in person, rehearsing as much as possible will ease your mind and improve your odds. Remember that the people with whom you are meeting are likely to be nervous as well, since most of us are getting a crash course in remote work technologies. It’s a brave new world, but the basics of interviewing have not really changed that much. Simply take a deep breath, pour yourself a glass of water, and do an Amy Cuddy power pose, and you will rock any video encounter you face.
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at www.sparkacareer.com.