Today, 86% of companies use video conferencing tools, like Zoom, to conduct job interviews. So, if you’re applying to jobs, chances are you’ll need to do a Zoom interview at one point or another.
While it’s true that most of the principles of how to do well in a job interview apply to a video interview, there are some nuances and adjustments you’ll want to know.
You might be surprised at the number of pet peeves hiring managers have when it comes to video interviews.
For example, in a recent survey, 82% of hiring managers said that their two biggest pet peeves during video interviews were:
- Getting distracted by something on your screen
- Focusing on yourself instead of making eye contact with the interviewer
That’s why, today, I’ll share 7 tried-and-tested ways you can prepare for your Zoom interview that will help you make the best impression possible.
- Make Sure You Have the Right Amount of Headroom
Remember the research about how tall people are perceived as leaders? The beauty of a Zoom interview is that we can actually change our perceived height by changing our headroom.
The Headroom, or the space between the top of your head and the top of the frame, is crucial in Zoom interviews. Too little headroom will make you look squeezed in the frame, while too much headroom will make you look tiny and unconfident.
For the ideal amount of headroom, aim to have one nose length from the top of your head to the top of the frame. To get this right, the easiest way is to tilt your camera slightly. The keyword here is slightly; be careful not to tilt it too much to avoid ending up with a bad angle.
Quick Tip: Try taking a screenshot of your Zoom interview setup and send it to a friend who likes photography. Usually, they’ll be able to tell you right away if anything needs to be adjusted.
- Create an Inviting and Professional Background
When most people prepare for an interview, they’ll spend a good amount of time deciding on the outfit that they’re going to wear. I think we can all agree that appearances matter, especially when you’re making a first impression in an interview.
In a video interview, your background is part of that first impression. When you’re preparing for your interview, spend at least a few minutes figuring out the background you want to have.
Of course, you can use a virtual background or create a natural background yourself. Either way, what you want to keep in mind for your interview background is to strike a balance between too much vs too little.
If your background is too loud or busy, it can distract your interviewer. Yet, it’s also important to show that you made an effort with your setup, so it’s not recommended to just sit in front of a blank wall. Ideally, aim to have 2-3 objects in the background. These should be items that speak to your experiences and personality. For instance, you might want to have a painting or a couple of plants on a shelf. These will add some interest without pulling the interviewer’s attention away from you.
Quick Tip: Three elements you should avoid having in the background are people’s faces, portraits, and items that are too bright. Those may draw the interviewer to focus on them instead of paying attention to you.
- Try to Take the Interview Standing Up
99% of job candidates will take their interviews sitting down. One way you can literally “stand out” from the competition is by taking your interview standing up.
There are many benefits to taking a video interview standing. For one, you can use more gestures when speaking, which is especially helpful for conveying enthusiasm. Additionally, it immediately makes your body language more open and engaged by letting you move your body more freely.
On top of that, standing up can help you feel more alert and focused throughout the interview, as standing tends to increase people’s energy. So, if your setup allows for it and you feel comfortable, consider taking the interview standing up.
- Make Sure Your Lighting Is Flattering
Just like how lighting conveys different emotions in movies, it can also do the same during video interviews.
Some common mistakes that people make with lighting during their interviews are:
- Backlighting: If you have a bright light behind you, your camera will adjust to it and it will make your face dark.
- Side lighting: If you have light coming from the side it can create shadows on your face. As humans, we subconsciously associate a shadowed face as suspicious or untrustworthy.
To have the most flattering light, you should have your brightest light coming from in front of you. If you have a window in the room, move near it and let the natural light hit your face. Alternatively, if there’s no window in the room, get one or two lamps that emit soft lighting and place them in front of your face, but slightly to the side. This will create a natural lighting setup that will help you look approachable and trustworthy. But, be careful to avoid the “deer in headlights” look. Always place your lamps at a distance, so you don’t squint your eyes.
- Make Sure Your Call Will Be Distraction-Free
Sometimes it’s as if the world conspires against us. Right as your interview call starts, an ambulance siren comes blaring past your window. Sometimes there are things we can’t control in the interview process.
However, when it comes to the noises you can control, it’s best to be safe. When I was a hiring manager, I couldn’t believe some of the distractions people didn’t take care of during their interviews. From cats jumping across the screen to little ones that cause (adorable) distractions, it’s understandable that sometimes life gets in the way, but it’s better if you can prevent these things.
The minute you know the date and time of your call, I recommend you start preparing for it. That may mean taking your dog for a walk to get their energy out or finding a way to keep kids entertained during the call.
Remember that noises aren’t only distracting for you, but for your interviewer as well. Distractions can cause a hiring manager to lose their train of thought, and that can make it even harder for you to build rapport during the interview.
Quick Tip: Another group of distractions to remember are those coming from your laptop and phone. To avoid digital distractions, silence your phone and close any open programs on your computer that can pop up notifications during the video interview.
- Bring More Energy Than You Think
Naturally, screens create distance between you and the interviewer. After all, when you’re not in the same room with each other it can be hard to make a connection. To compensate for that, you’ll want to bring more positive energy than you would in a normal conversation.
Of course, you should smile and nod more than you normally would when having a face-to-face conversation, but there are also a few other ways to boost your energy.
Quick Tip: Try doing a little light exercise 10 minutes prior to your interview. This can be anything from 20 jumping jacks or a light jog around the block. I personally started doing this before every interview and the effects were amazing! Doing this helps put you in a much better mental state for the call. Just make sure to give yourself 5 minutes to “cool down” so you’re not out of breath during the interview (I speak from experience).
- Take Advantage of Being Able to Have Notes
One of the best things about a Zoom interview is that you can have notes at the ready.
You want your notes to serve you, not distract you. Remember that the number one pet peeve for hiring managers are candidates being distracted by something on their screens. So, if you decide to have notes on your screen, I recommend having the following:
- A copy of your resume
- Your LinkedIn profile
- 5 Bullet points about interview stories you can tell
I don’t recommend writing out full sentences or having big blocks of text. Your notes should just be there as a reference to jog your memory, not to provide you with full answers to interview questions.
Takeaways & Next Steps
These Zoom interview tips may seem like a lot but remember what’s at stake here. Your job interview could result in tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars ending up in your pocket if you land the job.
The extra 30-60 minutes invested in your setup and prep can literally provide you with a fulfilling job, a great salary, and a career you will love for years to come. So, it’s well worth it to take a little bit of extra time to put your best self forward.
If you’re struggling to get through the interview process, I highly recommend reading about the difference between a recruiter interview vs a hiring manager interview.
With the right preparation using these tips, you will crush your next Zoom interview!
Bogdan Zlatkov is the Founder of GrowthHackYourCareer.com and has taught thousands of smart job seekers how to optimize their resumes, reach “All-Star” status with their LinkedIn profiles, and how to ace their interviews to land their next job faster. Before starting GHYC, Bogdan was a Content Manager at LinkedIn Learning and the author of, “The Ultimate Guide to Job Hunting,” ranked #1 on Google. To accelerate your next job search, visit GrowthHackYourCareer.com