Preparing for a Successful On-Screen Interview

Even before the recent pandemic, employers began to make more extensive use of new media to conduct job interviews online. Virtual interviews provide more complete communication than phone interviews because much of the communication is non-verbal. Also, virtual interviews allow interviewers from more than one location to attend. Face-to-face and video chat or virtual interviews have much in common. But there are additional elements to consider to make your online, onscreen interview a success!

Virtual interviews are conducted on Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx and a few other lesser known software services. Attendees can use computers, tablets or phones with cameras plus installed software to facilitate the conversation.

This post is written from the point of view of a marketer who has sold business ideas to clients via video conference for several years. What happens on screen and how you use the technology matters to the viewer! Think of this as your new movie or an interview with Steven Colbert. Set the stage, dress the part, deliver your lines like a professional and WIN THE AUDIENCE.

Consider these points:

1) Set the Stage Strategically:

• Pick a stationary location for the interview with reliable internet, no distractions, a relatively minimalist professional décor and where you feel comfortable.

• Make sure the light level is bright enough to see you clearly on camera. Use soft white light bulbs (to avoid squinting and sheen) in two lamps placed no more than 3 feet from your face on the left and right sides of the webcam or computer camera to light your face evenly. Avoid solo overhead lighting since it casts shadows downward which can make you look sad and tired. If you prefer to use a headphone rather than the computer mic, select one that doesn’t cover or extend from your face.

2) Dress for success:

• Just as you would be mindful to dress well for a face to face meeting you must make the same effort for a virtual interview. Hair, makeup and attire should be done according to the standards of your profession and the employer’s office culture. This along with your room setting says much about your professionalism. Put flattering, solid colors near your face, just like celebrities do. Check your teeth for food particles. Make sure the room temperature is set to minimize sheen and to avoid you having to remove jackets etc., which is disconcerting to watch.

3) Position the camera for optimal eye contact:

• Clean the camera lens.

• Position the computer or the separate webcam so that the lens is placed approximately 2” above your eyebrows and angled down just a few degrees. This will create a flattering image on the other end of your face, neck and shoulders. To achieve this you may sit the computer on a short stack of books or on a portable, adjustable laptop stand but be sure this is stabilized. Experiment with the distance of the camera from your face to show face/shoulders or more of your arms and hands.

• For most of the interview look directly into the camera (rather than at the image of the person on the screen) as you would look directly at the interviewer during a face-to face meeting. But, do not stare and don’t be afraid to casually, occasionally look to the left or right of the camera.

• Consider using “cue cards” to prompt your memory during the interview. These can be in the form of key talking points in 14-16pt font printed on 8.5” by 11” or 14” paper held in angled acrylic sign holders positioned on the left and right side of the camera. Do not block the above mentioned light sources and avoid the interviewer’s field of vision). Do not read notes from the desktop. This creates an image of you looking down and away from the camera which is like holding up a piece of paper in front of your face during a in-person meeting.

4) Action and Sound

• Be sure that you are comfortable in the chair, room, clothing etc. to avoid fidgeting which reads as nervous or uncomfortable. Remember that not all gestures can be seen on camera unless your hands or near your chin. To come across on camera, expressions must be a little larger than life (but not melodramatic). Longer than usual head nods are needed to register with the viewer in order to convey silent agreement.

• Depending upon the software used for the meeting there can be a short delay in the transmission of sound. Give the person speaking a few more seconds than usual before responding to avoid cutting them off.

5) Rehearse

• Confirm which software the employer will use for the interview and download the program a few days before the meeting. Practice using it to be sure you know the features. Call a friend to practice a few interview Q&A so you get objective feedback as to the impression you’re making using the program and equipment.

At the beginning of this post, I noted that face-to-face and virtual interviews had much in common. No matter the format, the interviewer is still charged with finding someone who 1) can do the job, 2) will do the job enthusiastically and 3) work well with a range of people on the team. In addition to your convincing dialogue you must use the virtual meeting technology and setting to convince the hiring managers that you are right for the position. Lights, camera, action! Break a Leg!

For more information, I recommend reading:

1. INDEED CAREER GUIDE: Video Interview Guide: Tips for a Successful Interview,

2. LINKEDIN videos:

• How to Nail a Phone or Video Interview,

• Video Conferencing,

• Phone and Video-based (remote) Job Interviews

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