The rapid emergence of COVID-19 has caused employers and potential employees to make immediate and significant shifts in terms of how they interact with each other during the hiring process—and after.
One of the most significant is that now the vast majority of interviews are being conducted remotely, often through Zoom, a very popular video conferencing platform that allows interviewers and interviewees to see and interact with each other seamlessly.
It’s a different kind of process, though, and not one that most job seekers have extensive experience with. Here we offer some tips for making the most of your Zoom-related interview interactions.
Just as when anticipating an interview of any kind, preparation is critical. Never go in cold. Even if you’ve used Zoom or other videoconferencing tools previously, still take the time before each session to follow important best-practice advice that can help ensure that you come across as professionally as possible.
Miguel Gonzalez owns a boutique retirement planning firm in New York City. His Zoom best practice list that he created for clients offers a number of great tips for job seekers as well. Following these best practices can ensure that you come across as polished, professional, and confident.
“Plan to join the meeting 10-15 minutes early in case you experience any technical difficulties,” Gonzalez advises. In addition he says: “Locate yourself close to your wireless router or use a wired connection for a better experience.”
Frances Gain, a workplace strategist at global design firm M Moser Associates, also recommends finding your “screen angle” before you go live. “My camera is at the bottom of my laptop,” Gain says, “so I need to stack it on books to avoid a double chin gaze.” Check out how your image displays, consider the background (add a nice plant, ensure good lighting), and put your best face forward.
Another key consideration: your clothing. While it’s not uncommon for people using Zoom for any purpose to only give thought to how the top half of their body will appear, some amusing mishaps have occurred since virtual connections have become the norm. An ABC reporter, for instance, appears to be pantless during a live Good Morning America segment. You don’t want this to happen to you!
Joining the Meeting
At the beginning of the Zoom session, you’ll be presented with some audio options (you can join by computer or by phone, Gonzalez says. “If you are joining by phone, but also joining by video—with no audio—choose to have Zoom call you when you enter the meeting,” he recommends. “This will ensure that your video and audio sync up.” You’ll also be prompted to test your audio when you join, Gonzalez says—take this step to ensure your microphone and speaker are working properly.
Gonzalez further recommends:
- Start your video when you join. Make sure there’s nothing blocking or covering your camera.
- When you join the Zoom meeting you will be unmuted. You can mute and un-mute yourself by clicking the microphone icon, which is located in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. “You’ll be able to see whether or not you are muted by looking at your video on the screen,” Gonzalez says. “If muted, there will be red bar through the microphone in the left-hand corner of your video.”
- In the upper right-hand corner of your screen, click into the speaker view. This will allow you to see the presenter front-and-center during the meeting.
- Close all non-essential applications and open Google Chrome. Copy and paste the meeting link – included in the meeting invitation – into your browser. Chrome, says Gonzalez, is the best browser for Zoom.
Never join a Zoom meeting at the last minute. As with technology of any kind, things can—and often do—go awry. Especially in an interview setting you want to come across as cool and collected, not frantic.
During the Session
During the Zoom interview session itself it’s important to also be cognizant of how you’re appearing to those you’re speaking with.
Virtual meetings are awkward, says Gain. “Constantly staring into multiple, close-up faces, including your own, is uncomfortable,” she says. How to overcome? She offers the following tips:
- Sweep the screen crowd. Chances are, your remote interview will be with a panel of people so you’ll be seeing multiple images at the same time. Gain recommends: “Look at the full crew. Don’t get stuck looking at yourself, one person, or no one.”
- Embrace the pause. Awkward silences don’t have to be awkward, says Gain. These are just natural breathers between information, she says. “Show confidence in your ideas by letting them land. If you wait out the quiet, the other person usually fills the pause with helpful or revealing information.”
Zoom interviews offer a lot of convenience for both interviewers and interviewees, especially during the pandemic when interactions might otherwise be impossible. They’re not flawless, however. It pays to take the time to think about and plan for these interactions—especially when interviewing for a new job opportunity. Following the steps above can help you make a great first impression with a future employer.