Working from home

12 tips for a successful Zoom interview

For the last couple of years, many have been interviewed by zoom for the first time. But like many other things since the pandemic, there’s been a lasting preference for it, so you might find yourself still being requested to interview online. Face-to-face is always preferable, but it’s also super convenient to interview candidates online, saving everyone commuter time and money.

zoom interview tips

If you still feel you need to learn some tips for a zoom interview, or refresh them, then read on for a comprehensive list of tips for a zoom interview. This isn’t a post on general interview advice (as most of those apply either way) but things to consider when you are on camera. Don’t under prepare just because you’re comfy in your own home. You still need to be uber professional and present yourself well to give yourself the best chance. In fact, you may need to make more effort, as the camera takes away the opportunity to really make genuine eye contact and connection.

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1. Good lighting is essential

This should be checked at the rehearsal stage (see below) but also, just before the interview itself. This is because the lighting during the day could change, depending on the room’s light quality as well as the natural light from the windows. My flat gets really dark on gloomy days. Then on sunny days, you can barely see me on camera, so I need to check how I look on camera beforehand and adapt the lighting.

You could always get a ring light, as some are very small and conveniently clip onto your laptop. I thought they were only for the pros but they are very reasonably priced and make the lighting very flattering. If you work from home regularly, they are a good investment. This is definitely top of my tips for confidence on a zoom interview to get you off to a flying start.

2. The background should be presentable

There are virtual backgrounds to use if your home environment isn’t very professional looking, but these aren’t ideal. It would be better to use a tidy, neutral space that you don’t need to blur out or suspiciously hide. The virtual backgrounds can be a bit silly looking or cut you off when you gesture with your hand or move back. Even if you just have a corner or one plain wall, move your desk and laptop there for the interview.

You don’t want your interviewers distracted by your background. They should be focused on you and what you have to say. Don’t decide to use a new environment on the day, as you can’t predict what (or who!) will happen in the background.

3. Dress professionally, from head to toe

It should go without saying, dress appropriately for the interview and don’t forget your bottom half and shoes! You might be tempted to just dress smartly on your top half only, as that’s on camera and the rest is hidden. That would be a mistake. You never know, you might have to jump up or change the angle. Dressing well from head to foot, including the right shoes (not slippers!) will put you in a professional mode for the interview.

Don’t wear something completely new either, in case the fabric is noisy, uncomfortable or you have a wardrobe malfunction. Think about wearing a flattering yet professional outfit that won’t be distracting. Make sure it’s not see through with your glamorous extra lighting!

4. Minimise chance of interruption

Ensure you have support to keep away any pets and children while interviewing. However, after the pandemic, you will probably find people are more forgiving about this sort of thing. However, I mention it because it’s you that might be distracted or embarrassed and you need to stay focused.

Remember to ensure your laptop also communicates you are unavailable and busy if you use other apps such as Skype or Teams. Disconnect anything that might pop up and distract you such as email alerts.

5. Make sure it’s a quiet environment

Don’t decide to use a new environment as there could be surprise DIY next door, construction outside or other loud noise. If you live with others, warn them of your interview time and ask for their assistance in being quiet. Turn off any possible interruptive noise such as your phone ringer or doorbell, if loud. And silence any other notification alerts on your phone and laptop.

6. Make sure your internet connection is strong

You will need a good internet connection if using your camera so make sure all is working well. If you are concerned about sharing bandwidth and things slowing down, prepare for that. Ask flatmates or family not to stream when you are on your interview. Check all is well right before the interview and have a back up plan in place such as borrowing a neighbour’s connection (with permission) if yours fails.

7. Rehearse beforehand

A day or two before your interview, run a rehearsal. You can use this time to practice your likely interview questions and answers too. In terms of the zoom/video call aspects, a rehearsal will give you time to test your equipment, lighting, outfit choice and volume. In advance of the interview, you should check you have the right link and the correct software downloaded, if necessary. You should double check your camera is working, as well as your microphone and speakers. If your laptop microphone isn’t strong enough, consider buying an external one.

8. Consider your back up plan

If you or they do lose internet connection or the camera doesn’t work well, you need to have a back up plan. Perhaps you can keep going via an old fashioned phone call! Or will you request a quick restart to see if that works? Don’t panic as these things do happen and they might have problems their end. You may need to reschedule or delay for a few minutes. Just stay composed and they will see how well you handle things in tricky situations.

9. Make eye contact the best you can

The best eye contact will only have happened if you were actually in the same room, looking at each other in the eye. As you are on camera, you need to remember that if you look at the person in the eye on your screen, it will seem you are looking off camera to them. They will understand this and be doing the same but think about looking into the camera directly sometimes too. Test this during your rehearsal and record yourself so you can see what looks best on playback. If something looks weird you can avoid doing it on the real interview.

10. Pause to ensure others have finished talking

When you aren’t in the same room as someone, you don’t have the benefit of reading body language and gestures so closely. It’s easy to cut someone else off accidently, thinking they’ve finished and then go into the awkward back and forth of correcting that. Take your time when you speak and allow for a pause when you or they seem finished. Remember to breathe and not rush your words.

11. Look and sound engaged and interested

Again, as you aren’t in the same room, you might need to emphasise your engagement a little more. It’s easy to just sit there when you’re hidden away behind the barrier of a computer. You need to make a point of showing you are keen and engaged so nod, smile, and show expression and enthusiasm. Acknowledge the interviewer’s comments along the way when you’re not answering targeted questions, so they know you are listening.

12. Clear your desktop and tabs

In case you are presenting or sharing a screen, make sure all is tidy and professional-looking beforehand as part of your preparation. Clear your desktop of all those unnecessary shortcuts and move files to more appropriate places. Make sure there isn’t anything that looks unprofessional so you can look tip-top for your zoom interview.

Always ensure you don’t have any tabs or windows open that aren’t related to the interview too. There’s nothing worse than sharing your screen and having your private chat with a friend still open. Or your latest google search, possibly regarding your interview prep like this post! You want to look prepared, cool and confident!

Good luck and make sure you apply these tips for a brilliant zoom interview!

Remember the usual general interview advice still applies. Research the role and organisation, ask plenty of questions, give strong answers with examples and thank the interviewers for their time at the end. I hope these tips are helpful to you as you prepare for your zoom interview. Please share any more below that have worked for you, to help others avoid embarrassing situations!

If you work from home regularly, read the posts on staying productive while working from home and how to sneak in exercise if you work from home. If you end up staying put, then read more about making positive changes in your current job.

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