There’s a good chance that during the course of your job search you may be invited to participate in a Zoom interview. But how do you prepare? And should you treat it as a phone or an in-person interview?
This quick guide outlines what you need to know about a Zoom interview so you can approach your next one with confidence.
What is a Zoom interview?
A Zoom interview is also known as a video interview, as it will be conducted via video chat on your computer.
In today’s increasingly technological world, some employers are choosing to replace traditional in-person interviews with Zoom interviews to save time and resources. They may also use it as a way to screen candidates before inviting them to meet in person, or to connect with potential candidates who live further away.
Whether you’re expecting to be invited to participate in a Zoom interview or not, it’s always best to be prepared in case you’re offered one at short notice.
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Top tips to help you approach a Zoom interview with confidence
Test your software and hardware first to avoid technical difficulties
Once you’ve been offered a Zoom interview, there are a few things you’ll want to do before it rolls around.
First, it’s important to make sure that you’ve got Zoom (or any equivalent video technology like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Skype) downloaded on your computer. Next, make sure your profile is set up, and that all the elements needed for your interview to go ahead are working – most importantly, your microphone and camera.
If you’re unsure about using Zoom, then it’s worth testing it out with a friend or family member a couple of days before. Even if you’re feeling confident before the call, a technical glitch can set your nerves on edge or could mean that the interview is unable to go ahead – so it’s always best to test first.
Position yourself well and think carefully about body language
Be sure to pay attention to how you’re framed on the screen, for example, making sure that your head, shoulders, and hands are visible and that you have good posture and relaxed shoulders to avoid stiffness.
Body language and non-verbal cues are just as important as verbal communication when it comes to connecting with others, so it’s important to make sure that your upper body is showing if you want your interviewer to be able to read yours. However, be conscious of making lots of rapid or jerky movements which could lead to you becoming a blur on the screen.
Make sure you look at the camera, not the screen
As natural as it may feel to look at the screen during your interview (as that’s where the interviewer is situated on your screen), it’s important not to look here, but to look at the camera instead.
This may feel a bit strange, but it will give your interviewer the illusion that you are looking them straight in the eye, making you appear more confident and assured.
Prepare your surroundings
How and where you position yourself in front of the camera during a Zoom interview can really affect the impression that a prospective employer forms of you. Make sure that you choose somewhere quiet, tidy, and neutral to take your interview with nothing distracting in the background ( for example, no mess or vibrant wallpaper). This will allow you to remain the focal point of the screen.
It’s also best to avoid coffee shops and other busy areas as the background noise can be highly distracting for both you and the interviewer.
Dress to impress (but not to distract)
As tempting as it may be to take a Zoom interview in your pyjama bottoms, it’s better to keep things professional (even if the interviewer can’t see what trousers you’re wearing). Often, the way we present ourselves aesthetically impacts our own behaviour and the way we think.
By dressing as you would if you were being invited to attend the interview in person, your body language may appear more professional and confident, which is more likely to convince your interviewer that you’re serious about the job. While, it’s important to dress well, try to stick to neutral colours that won’t distract attention away from what you’re saying.
Slow it down
It can be much easier to talk over each other during video chats or phone calls where body language and non-verbal cues are less prominent, and where there can sometimes be a slight delay in the sound coming through.
The best way to combat this is to try speaking slightly slower and pausing to wait until you’re sure that your interviewer has finished speaking before starting to speak yourself.
Don’t be afraid to use notes
Sometimes, seeing yourself on screen during your interview can be off-putting and it can be easy to find yourself focusing more on how you’re coming across on screen and less on what you’re saying. For this reason, it can be useful to have a few notes (or prompts) that can help to jog your memory if nerves get the better of you.
It’s best to have these as post-it notes on the edge of your screen or easily visible on your desk (but make sure they don’t obscure the camera in any way). This will mean that you don’t have to keep looking down or away from the screen, and it’ll be less obvious to your interviewer that you’re using them.
Nonetheless, while notes can give you a helpful hint, try not to rely on them too much as this can make your interview sound scripted. The best interviews are those where you can relax and be yourself.
Find the right lighting
Too much, or not enough light on your camera screen can really affect the quality of your video interview. Too much light can be very distracting and may make you appear very harsh, while not enough light can leave your interviewer struggling to see you.
If you’re not sure what the lighting’s like where you’ll be having your interview, then it’s best to test it out ahead of time. You may need to experiment with changing the position/angle of your computer or lighting to get it right.
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Keep your profile professional
Your interviewer’s first impression of you will begin forming from the moment they see your Zoom profile, so it’s important to keep it simple. This means having a sensible Zoom name and profile photo that won’t allow your interviewer to make incorrect assumptions about you before they’ve even hit the call button.
If you’re nervous about your current profile then it’s worth setting up a new account prior to the interview to give them those details in advance.
If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s plugged in
It may sound simple, but your computer flashing up the ‘low battery’ warning mid-way through your interview is one of the easiest ways to end up feeling flustered. So make sure you don’t forget to plug it in well before your interview is due to take place.
Close all other tabs/programmes running in the background
It can be incredibly distracting for both interviewer and interviewee if programmes on your computer are flashing up notifications or making noise in the background.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure all additional tabs on your browser are closed and any notifications (e.g. Facebook) disabled, before your interview.
A video chat only allows you and your interviewer to see one another in 2D format, which can make you seem less lively than you may otherwise appear in person.
So to help your enthusiasm shine through, it can help to make an effort to smile wherever possible and to adopt an animated and interested tone of voice. This will help to show the person you’re talking to that you really want the job.
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While it can feel like there’s a lot to think about here, the single most important thing to focus on is whether your equipment is working properly ahead of the interview – so make sure that you test it by calling a friend or family member a few days before.
It’s best to do your test call from the same spot you plan to use for the interview, from the same laptop, and at broadly the same time of day. It will quickly become obvious if anything’s not quite right, which means if there’s something wrong, you should have enough time to make alternative plans for the day. Plus, what better excuse to give a good friend a call for a bit of moral support…