Face to face interaction will never die, but this curveball of a year has seen everything we once considered crucial to our working day (and every other day besides) get thrown on its ear. Lockdown is over for now, but with social distancing and geographic spread, the rapid rise of interviewing online for jobs is most certainly on the increase.

If you’re preparing for an online interview, Franklin Smith’s consultants are unanimous about the one thing you absolutely need to do: you may not be up close and personal with your interviewer, but take this as seriously as you would a normal, face to face interview! It may be virtual but it’s not a drill, kid!

There are more than a few of us who don’t find appearing on camera all that natural, so below you’ll find a few tips on how to knock that looming video interview out of the park.

First impressions still count

First up, your focus needs to be solely on questions and answers between you and your interviewer. You don’t want the stark realization the camera shows far more chins than you thought you had to break your stride. Several local news outlets reported a sharp increase in plastic surgery enquiries following New Zealand’s first lockdown, after people didn’t like what they saw of themselves on camera.

As far as wardrobe goes, again, remember this is a proper interview. Keep your entire outfit professional. I’d even say go as far as putting your interview shoes on – they’ll never see them, but it’ll get you in that professional mindset. Don’t even think about going casual with your off-camera wardrobe choice on the bottom half. What if you have to get up suddenly? Boardie’s, leggings and pajama bottoms are out.

It could pay to trial your interview outfit on camera and see how it shows up. Bright colours and white may not necessarily work. Why? They can be too loud on camera and take the focus off your face. Ditto black, which can wash you out.

Consider your surroundings, as you don’t want to blend into your background, appearing to be a floating head. Navy, grey, all the ‘yawn-inducing’ colours are actually pretty appropriate in this scenario. Rich, strong block colours also work. Clean lines are good, and nothing too busy in terms of shape. Remember, you are the focus.

Work the room

Any photographer or camera operator will tell you there’s simply no substitute for good lighting. Strategic lighting will make you look your best and do wonders for your confidence throughout the online interview process.

Consider adjusting your curtains/blinds, lamps and overhead lighting depending on what time of day the interview will be. Will you be utilizing natural light, artificial, or a combination of both? If you can swing it, don’t place a lamp or a window directly in front of you – side lighting is best.

Not everyone has a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with highbrow titles, but what’s in the background of your camera frame can make a difference. Make a frank assessment of what’s behind you. Do you want an interviewer to spot it? No? Then move it! Don’t be tempted to implement a virtual background – they can be distracting and unprofessional.

Make technology work for you

Where do you tend to look when you’re on a video call? Ideally you’d like the camera to be level at your eye line, as looking down at it can make you look chinny. (Plus, you don’t want your interviewer’s perspective of you to be a view up your nose.) Put a box or some books under your laptop to get it to the level required.

Try to focus mostly on the camera rather than the face on your screen. This can be tricky, but worthwhile as looking only at the screen can look like you’re staring off into space.

Think about the username you currently have on your account. ‘Minecraftgod’ or ‘jimmylovesbeerz’ may be fine for off-duty, but probably won’t convey the right impression for a job interview. Ensure you’ve got the right versions of all the software you need and that your audio and video are working exactly as they should – nothing will elevate the stress levels like a ten minute software upgrade the minute your interview is supposed to begin.

Dodge the distractions

The possibility of distractions may be more prevalent on a video interview, but do your best to eliminate them. Your cat walking over the keyboard is not cute in this situation. Don’t try and hold the interview in a busy or noisy location.

Are there kids at home? Try to get someone to keep an eye on them for the duration of the interview so they don’t burst in, as mine tend to do when they see a closed door.

In an online interview you can bring paperwork with some prep/notes on it, but don’t rely on it too heavily. These can include things you don’t want to forget, questions, points you want to make – but it’s got to be a prop, not a crutch. A good tip is to stick this behind your laptop so if you need to refer to it as you want to avoid looking down too much.

Also close all other browsers and forget about trying to Google anything on the fly!

In an increasingly virtual world it is still possible to make a personal impact via screens. Just stay focused, light yourself right – and don’t forget to disconnect when you’re done.

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