Virtual interviews require1 part Producer, 1 part lighting technician, 1 part set director, 4 parts self-confidence.
It would not be surprising if you are already a video veteran of sorts. Remote working is becoming commonplace for positions that do not require a physical presence and you might be routinely conferencing with colleagues or collaborating with a coworker via video. Your confidence in your video communication skills is high. But you know these people. What happens when a stranger requests a conference, particularly when that stranger is a hiring manager? Do you know how to prepare for a virtual interview?
Virtual Interviews are Becoming Routine Events
Virtual interviews were hitting their stride well before the pandemic made them almost mandatory. In a 2015 survey of hiring managers, fully 75% used virtual interviews for their leading candidates. From a business perspective, virtual interviews save time and travel expenses without degrading the interview process.
Those same benefits are enjoyed by the candidate as well. No stressing over being on time, getting stuck in traffic, or finding a place to park. However, it is important to remember that a virtual interview is just that, an interview. If it has been a while since you last interviewed for a new opportunity, you might want to refresh your skills using these helpful interview tips.
Now let’s review the basics in producing virtual communications.
Checklist to Prepare for Your Virtual Interview
Making a pitch to an employer via a video conferencing platform might seem a bit daunting. But if you need some basic production principles you will come off just as well or maybe even better than a face-to-face meeting.
Check Your Equipment
If you have watched news broadcast in the past six months, you know what can go wrong with wi-fi based communications. The first step in getting prepared for a virtual interview is to ensure your equipment is working. Test your wi-fi speed, the image quality of your camera, and the clarity of your audio. To ensure strong connectivity, turn off your other devices (smartphone, tablet, streaming service, etc.) and place your device as close to the router as possible. If you have one, plug in a headset just in case the hiring manager is having difficulty hearing you, or you are having trouble understanding him or her. Don’t use it unless necessary, but it is nice to have one handy should the audio go south.
Pick Your Space and Get Comfortable
Your “studio” should be a place with no or minimal visual distractions in the background. Ideally, you want a blank wall behind you. You don’t want the camera to see anything other than you. Busy backgrounds detract from your presence. You also want this space to be private. You don’t want interruptions from kids, spouses, or pets. Close windows during the interview to mitigate outside noise from traffic, lawnmowers, pets, etc.
Pick a comfortable desk chair and adjust the height so you can easily look directly into the camera. The camera is at the top of the device, not the center of the screen. Looking directly into the camera is the equivalent of looking directly into the eyes of the hiring manager. You may want to consider using a small pillow behind your lower back to help you keep the great posture for the hour or more that the interview will last.
Lighting Your Video Interview
The difference between homemade and professional video is lighting. It is also the one production element that most video conference participants ignore. You can set yourself apart from the competition by taking the time to develop a lighting scheme that works. To do that, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not aim the light directly at your face. Direct light will cause distracting shadows unless you have a “key” lighting source located below you are aiming up. The light coming at you from the side and slightly behind you is typically the best lighting scheme.
- Do not mix lighting sources. Different kinds of light have different color temperatures and when you combine them you get less than favorable results. Sunlight is great and if you have a window to the side, that may be enough light to get the job done (providing it does not cloud up during the interview). Flexible LED desk lamps can work as well. What you don’t want to do is mix light sources (natural light, different LED color temperatures, incandescent, fluorescent) as you will get “splotches” on the image.
- Get a softer look. Direct lighting can give you a harsh look on video. You can soften that look by aiming your light source(s) at a nearby wall or even the ceiling and having it reflect indirect light. If that does not work, try taping a piece of cheesecloth to the lamp as a diffuser. The softer look will give you a much more favorable image.
Make a Test Call
Once you have the technical and staging elements under control, make a test call to a friend and ask him or her to evaluate:
- The quality of the video image
- The quality of the audio
- Do you appear to be speaking directly at them or are you looking slightly down
- Effectiveness of lighting (do you look natural)
- Appropriateness of background
Make any adjustments necessary until your friend gives you a thumbs up.
Dress the same way you would dress if this interview was being conducted face-to-face. In most, but not all, cases this means formal business attire. Formal business attire includes pants. It is unlikely you will have to stand up but it would be bad form if you wound up showing off your sweat pants or baggy shorts. Do not wear bright colors or aggressive patterns as they can become distractions and even reflect light in an unfavorable way.
Prepare Your Workspace
A virtual interview provides you with a major advantage over an in-person interview. All the employer can see is you and your background. He or she cannot see what is on the desk space in front of you or what might be taped to the sides of your screen. You have an opportunity to put your talking points or questions to ask the employer on Post It notes and places them around the screen for ready reference. You have to be discreet reading them, but they are available without needing much in the way of head movement.
Remember, there is nothing magic about a virtual interview. It is simply an interview conducted via different media than the traditional face-to-face. Once you are comfortable with the technical aspects, your success will rely on how well you are prepared and how confident you perform.