By Patrick Rowan, Partner

Interviewing virtually has become the new normal in recruitment. The most common platforms are Microsoft Teams and Zoom, but there are many others that recruiters and corporations may use in their hiring processes, each with its own unique features.

Although you may feel like you have become a pro with these online meeting tools after the past few years of pandemic and post-pandemic virtual meetings and remote/hybrid work, you may be losing out on making your best impression by making some simple, unintended errors.

On the other hand, if you truly are a pro, your skills with these online tools might even be viewed as a strength. At any rate, taking these tools seriously and investing in some better technology while you are fully engaged in a job search will pay dividends.

Here are some of the key concepts to keep in mind.

Internet Connection

The strength of your internet connection is the single most important factor in a virtual interview. Purchase the best internet package you can afford, even temporarily, because drops in your connection, delays and breaks in the video and sound will make it difficult for you to make a positive impression.

In a highly competitive recruitment process, you may not advance to the next stage simply because the interviewer could not understand your answers clearly or could not see you clearly enough to read your body language and nonverbal cues.

Camera and Sound

The image provided by your webcam and microphone could make or break you. Do not assume that the camera that came with your laptop or monitor is of the best quality. Buy a high-quality 1080p 30 fps camera/microphone combo to mount on your computer just above eye level and give your viewing audience a clear picture of you.

Look directly into the camera while you are answering questions, using your peripheral vision to keep an eye on your audience’s reaction, follow-up questions, or “hands up.”

If the camera is below eye level, you will appear to be looking down, which does not allow for the best visual impression and personal connection with your audience.

Use a laptop stand to raise the camera to eye level so you are looking directly at your audience.

If using earbuds, keep in mind that your virtual meeting software may default to the microphone on your earbuds, which may be of lesser sound quality than the microphone on your camera or your laptop.

Assess the quality of the microphone before your interview so you will be presenting your best self.

Another “sound” tip to keep in mind is notifications from your laptop or phone – pinging sounds will distract you and your audience and make it appear that you are not paying attention. Turn off notifications or shut down your phone or desktop email application.

Software

The invitation that you receive will show you which virtual meeting tool you will be using.

Take time well in advance to practice with the tool, so that you’re fumbling with the controls as you struggle to figure out why your microphone is muted, or your camera is off.

Use the mute and unmute functions and practice sharing your screen, so that your interview or presentation goes smoothly.

Background and Lighting

The best background is something professional and simple, such as shelves of books, or a large room behind you with neutral details, colours, patterns, and furniture.

Virtual backgrounds are fine, if they do not give your head and body an irregular and shimmering border that breaks up as you talk.

Be sure that pets and housemates are not wandering through your background and be aware of your lighting – natural light may work fine, but for best results try using an LED ring light or 3-point lighting (three LED photo studio lights set at 45-degree angles – two in front of you and one behind you) to reduce facial shadowing and room darkness.

At the very least make sure that you don’t have a window behind you, which would make your face 100% dark, and be careful about glares on your eyeglasses that restrict the interviewer from seeing your eyes, which play a big part in your facial expressions. Or may just simply be annoying.

Adjust the angle of any lighting that you are using to correct this. Your lighting setup is more important than your camera, and so try different options – you will be surprised at how much better a small investment of time and money will improve your experience.

You

The people that you are meeting with may be at home and may choose to wear sweatshirts, ball caps and hoodies, but this is still your chance to make your best impression.

If you are wearing a formal top and a casual bottom, be careful not to raise any part of your lower body, or get up from your chair suddenly, to expose those comfortable pajamas or shorts.

Also, be aware that the audience may be viewing your face up close – personal grooming may become a little more important.

And would you wear headphones to an in-person interview? Of course not. Small, discreet earbuds are fine, but bulky over-ear headphones that make you look like a helicopter pilot may not be your best bet, depending on your profession.

Practice!

Spend some time perfecting your skills. Record yourself to see how your lighting, background and sound appear, and practice speaking to the camera, using positive expressions, and trying different tones and inflections in your voice.

These are simple concepts but hopefully, a good reminder to you as you venture forth into the world of virtual interviewing!