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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Virtual interviews - all the latest

Updated: Jun 7


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Time to shine


As the job market starts to pick up a little, it means one thing: callbacks! An invitation to interview can be exciting and nerve-wracking. Typical advance work includes researching the organization, preparing for expected questions (such as the popular Tell Me About Yourself), and practicing.

The element of virtual interviewing adds a new technical component, and it's one you can plan for. This post will cover a few production related components to increase comfort and confidence.


Let's go!


Lighting


As the world shifted to WFH, I developed a case of 'lighting envy'. I felt that everyone on virtual platforms was better lit than me. It wasn't so much about image or beauty, as it was about clarity in communication in this new, virtual world where it is more difficult to see and convey visual cues, facial expressions, and build rapport through a screen.


After doing some online research, talking with a few of my production friends, and trying (lots of) things, here are a few of my DIY tips for interviews:

  • Move your device near a window or do the interview outside (in a quiet space). Natural light is so much easier to work with and creates a friendly atmosphere. It's also more relaxing on your eyes.

  • For indoors, I chose to swap in 'daylight' light bulbs that are, admittedly, super bright. Since they are white and not that yellow/orange tungsten color, they mimic daylight and deliver more light to the electronic device. An extra bonus has been that it's actually easier to wake up in the morning and start my day. (The tradeoff is, I have to turn off some of the lights in the evening, because they are seriously bright.)

  • I ultimately chose to invest in a low-cost, affordable ring light, that I set up near my computer and can reposition, any way I like. While not perfect nor Hollywood grade, it helps the situation. The one I chose has three different light settings. You can also move a lamp, nearby, for a similar effect. Contrary to a lot of the information out there, you do not necessarily need to stare into the ring light. In fact, when I tried that virtual suggestion it prompted a very real headache. Find what works best for you. Generally speaking, you want to position the ring light near the device and/or near you in a way that adds a natural boost of light to your hair/face.

  • Since sunlight streaming through your windows changes throughout the day, I recommend clients prepare their virtual set ahead of time, and then recheck 30-45 minutes before their interview.

Backgrounds


In some ways, I feel candidates and interviewers should all use virtual backgrounds as an equalizing factor since everyone's living situation is unique. I am sensitive to the economic disparities between candidates and hiring managers seen through the computer screen. Also, when it comes to privacy, not everyone is comfortable – whether candidate, hiring manager, coworker – at having people, let alone a stranger, peer into their living space. I recognize we have been navigating this WFH road for more than a year now (or longer, if your work has always been remote) but I think it is more pronounced since everyone is dealing with so much right now. Some feel it is humanizing while others feel (and are) judged.


The good news, is that the vast majority of people are very kind, understanding, and flexible as to whether you choose a virtual or real background. We're all in ad hoc work spaces doing the best we can. I would encourage doing what feels easiest for you, for the purpose of interviews (and your workday).


If you opt for a virtual background, I suggest something that is on par with the tone of the organization/industry for which you are applying. Aim for a background that is interesting but not distracting, to keep the focus on you.


For IRL backgrounds, a neat and presentable area behind you is a good place to start. Some people include objects with a pleasing color palette, wall art, a plant, a bookcase or some throw pillows. Items like these can accent your space and make you and the person you're talking with feel relaxed. Whether you choose a virtual or real background, be your wonderful, authentic self.


Tech run-through


If you are on virtual platforms all day, it can be tempting to skip this part. Yet, each organization has their own virtual technology, which may be customized. Pre-load any new app or software a few days before your interview. If they send a test-link, use it ahead of time to make sure everything is functional.


Grab a friend, mentor, or job search coach to help with your tech run-through. Choose someone who is supportive, encouraging, and good-natured. Try out different backgrounds, your device’s microphone, and potential interview outfits to see how everything gels together. Your run-through partner can provide feedback on sound, lighting, and help you adjust your background frame. This gives you a chance to tweak anything before the big day, gaining confidence in the process.


Line of sight


Another benefit of a run-through with a friend/job search coach, is to check your line of sight. I've read and tested various suggestions to look into the camera lens, a little above, or a little below. After extensive unofficial research, I have come to the very human conclusion that it's always going to be (or feel) a little off. Experiment with your run-through partner and find what works best. You can also adjust the monitor (or device) height with adjustable stands or books.


It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with the viewing options, within each platform. For example, I usually move the other person's image to the top of my screen, near the camera lens, so that when they're speaking (and I'm looking at their face) my line of sight is closer to a direct gaze, rather than appearing to look downwards.


Connection


Even with modern technology, the goals of effective interviewing remain the same: to demonstrate you're a great fit for the position, to build rapport, and to obtain details about the opportunity so you can make an informed decision, if you receive an offer. It’s still a conversation with a chance to connect, learn, and grow.


One last tip: if you are not working in an external job right now, consider taking the initiative to add some virtual meetings to your calendar, even before you begin receiving callbacks. While employed job candidates have the benefit of ongoing, virtual work meetings, you can arrange your own virtual video calls with friends & family, participate in free webinars, and join virtual events to get more comfortable - or not get rusty. It's natural to retreat a little bit without a structured workday and/or while job searching; stay connected to the people you love for the health & wellbeing benefits and to stay ready for upcoming interviews.

Good things are on the way!



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