Your video setup can make a massive difference in the impression you make with your interviewer(s). Here are a few tips for participating in a video call to help ensure you present well and demonstrate that you are technologically competent:
- Lighting – it is critical that you are well lit – to achieve this, place a bright light or two in front of you and don’t have a light or window behind you.
- Background – ensure you have a very professional background. For example, use a neutral virtual background to eliminate distraction. If you are using technology that does not have a background or does not produce a crisp image of you with a virtual background, ensure that you have a clean, clutter-free professional room behind you. You do not want viewers focusing on your background. Check out this tutorial article on how to use a Zoom background.
- Camera height, angle and eye contact
- It is critical that the camera is positioned to be at your eye-level and that you are facing the camera. For most people who are sitting at a desk with an office chair and using a laptop, this requires setting the laptop on multiple books. It is not sufficient to simply tilt the laptop screen – the laptop screen should always be completely vertical and parallel to your face; if you are not positioned right then you need to raise the entire laptop. What you are trying to avoid is a slouched appearance, your face appearing low in the screen (i.e., the floating head), or the camera shooting up your nose (this happens when you tilt a laptop screen that is below your eye-level instead of raising the whole computer).
- The top of your head should be pretty close to the top of the screen, your back should be straight, and your upper torso and head should be filling much of the screen so that your face is clearly visible even when other participants are viewing you amongst multiple thumbnail images on their screens.
- While you will want to look at the other participants to be able to read their expressions, try to also look directly into the camera as much as you can to establish virtual eye contact.
- Sound – it may seem obvious but turn off all sources of sound around you, close doors and ensure that you are sitting close to the computer microphone or are using a headset / AirPods. Ensure that you close applications on your computer other than the video application to avoid sounds. Also, put your phone on “do not disturb” (e.g. to avoid a FaceTime call or text messages audibly popping up on your laptop). Avoid sitting outside as the noise of birds, traffic, aircraft and other sounds beyond your control can sound much louder to other Zoom participants than to you and can be very distracting.
- Attire – dress like you would for an in-person interview, if possible get a haircut, etc.
- Distractions – while people are generally understanding about unavoidable distractions, they are still distractions and interviewers will expect that you have addressed distractions within your control. For example, if possible, don’t have a pet in the same room with you during your interview, turn off the ringer on your phone, and sit as far as possible away from the doorbell. If you have a child in the house, ideally have another adult around during the video call to keep the child from interrupting and to handle any other distractions that may pop up.
- Cell phone – if at all possible do not use a cell phone as many of these best practices are difficult to achieve using a cell phone.
- Backup plan – if possible, make sure you have a call-in phone number for the video call in the event there is a wifi issue, a problem logging in, etc. This will at least enable you to participate by phone if your video is down. However, if the interviewer is expecting a video interview you should participate by video if at all possible.
- Utilize best practices from in-person interviews – e.g., show up early (log in in advance), be prepared with questions and answers, research ahead of time, etc.
- Practice in Advance – it is very helpful to test your set-up by having a practice call in advance.
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