Here’s how to ace it from home:
The current global crisis means that just about every job interview these days is a remote interview. In some ways, this is a great thing: No one likes an all-day grilling by multiple members of a team in a conference room (at least no one we’d like to work with). You don’t have to worry about being late because of a train delay or having sweaty palms when you’re shaking a dozen hands. You’re seated in the comfort of your own home, which makes everything a little easier.
But remote interviews are a little more involved than clicking on, Facetime, Skype, or a Zoom link, and smiling for the webcam. Projecting a polished, professional presence requires investing some time in your physical and technical settings in addition to the usual preparation you’d do for any job you’re competing for. The next time you have a remote interview, follow these tips to put your best foot forward (under your desk where the interviewer can’t see it, of course).
Tip #1: Don’t make your computer compete for resources
As a technology professional, checking to make sure your technology works is second nature. So, it is a given that you do not want your video to glitch out in the middle of an interview. Your camera is taking a certain number of photos of you per second and sending them to your processor, which send them to your video conferencing application, which then uses your processor to send them to your network card, and finally sends them out into the world. Be sure you’re not running CPU-intensive software or anything that’s downloading information from a broadband connection.
Tip #2: Check your Wi-Fi speed
This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. Zoom recommends 1.2 Mbps (megabits per second) inbound (for you to see the person you’re on a call with), and outbound (for them to see you). Skype suggests 1.5 Mbps for outbound and inbound HD video, and Google Hangouts is highest, using 2.6 Mbps each way. You can do a quick check of your speed over on speedtest.net. If your connection is looking a little sluggish, try moving to a room closer to your Wi-Fi router or even using an ethernet cable if that’s an option (and make sure anyone else on your Wi-Fi isn’t streaming at the same time.)
Tip #3: Look and sound the part
No one expects your video calls to have a Hollywood lighting setup, but there are a few little tricks you can do to make yourself look more natural. If you are using a bright LED lamp, try aiming it at a nearby wall so that the light bouncing back is diffused. Natural lighting from a window off to the side also works, but don’t mix artificial and natural lighting. Keep any artificial light at your eye level to prevent weird shadowing. Your webcam, on the other hand, should be positioned slightly above your eye level. If you’re using a laptop, an adjustable laptop stand can help. Sound quality is important as well: Using an external microphone or headphones will sound better than your computer’s built-in mic.
Tip #4: Act like the pro you are.
Just like in-person interviews, all the usual prep work applies. Research the company’s history, practice answers to standard questions, and come up with a couple of your own creative questions for the interviewer. Log in to your call approximately 5 minutes in advance—you don’t want to keep your interviewer waiting. Dress professionally and try not to move around in your wheeled office chair (sit in a chair without wheels if you do it absentmindedly). Definitely don’t use a virtual background, which can glitch; sitting in front of a neutral backdrop such as an organized bookcase or some plants works well. Oh, and don’t forget to shut your office door to prevent accidental interruptions from whoever else is home, as charming as they may be!