7 Things You Should Always Do Before a Zoom Job Interview, According to Career Experts

published Jul 14, 2021
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Credit: Lula Poggi

No matter what career path you’re on, knowing how to successfully navigate an a job. “Interviews are competitive,” says John Roccia, the Director of Career Services at career and life coaching company Ama La Vida. “You can meet all the listed qualifications and know that you could do the job well, but if you aren’t the most impressive out of a field of applicants, there is no second place.”

If you’re currently being considered for a new job, career coach Kenitra “Keni” Dominguez says there’s a good chance you’ll be interviewing for the role remotely.  “Zoom interviews can be especially challenging because there are more things to consider and prepare for in advance,” she warns. “You have to figure out everything from the best background and lighting to how to mitigate potential technical issues.” 

Fortunately, a little effort can go a long way when you’re prepping for a virtual job interview. From tips for making eye contact to professional-looking background ideas and more, here are seven things career coaches say you can do to ace your next Zoom interview. 

Use a computer if you have one, and plug it in before the meeting starts.

Sherry Sims, the founder and CEO of Black Career Women’s Network, is a fan of using cameras rather than smartphones or tablets (though that’s not always possible for everyone) . “Desktop and laptops offer stronger wireless signals, so you’re less likely to drop the call during a critical part of the interview,” she explains. “Additionally, mobile phone and tablet batteries can drain and die quickly when using video, so there’s an even greater chance you’ll get disconnected during the interview.” 

Along with improved connectivity, Sims says the webcams on desktops and laptops also supply prospective employers with better visuals. “They provide a more balanced view of you — and your surroundings — from the waist up, instead of just a face shot,” she says. If all you have available to you is a smartphone or tablet, be sure to plug it in before your call begins. Or if you and other members of your household share a tablet and laptop, ask the them if you can reserve the laptop for a given hour.

Credit: Samara Vise

Keep your webcam lens at eye level.

When you’re videoconferencing from a desk or table, Roccia says the lens on your computer’s camera is usually at about your chest level. “This means it’s looking up your nose, which is not a flattering angle,” he warns. “If you prop your computer or webcam up so that it’s even with your eyes, you’ll look and feel much more natural while you interview.”

Maintaining eye contact with a potential employer can also be tricky during a virtual interview, because the lens recording you is positioned off the computer screen. “Put a small mirror somewhere directly behind the camera, and talk to your own reflection,” Roccia advises. “You’ll be able to check your facial expressions and speak more naturally, and making eye contact will be much easier.” 

Be conscious of non-verbal communication.

Just because an interview isn’t being held inside a formal office doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mind your professional Ps and Qs. “As in person, it’s important to be mindful of your facial expressions and body language,” Sims explains. “You may feel more comfortable in your setting, but it isn’t an excuse to act casually at an interview.”

This also means you should wear professional attire to a virtual interview. “Dress exactly how you would for an in-person interview,” Dominguez advises. “Even if the interviewer will only be seeing you from the waist up, wearing professional clothes from head-to-toe will help put you in an interview mindset.”

Find a distraction-free space. 

Make no mistake about it: Roccia says the background of your video call can make or break your job interview. “The backdrop doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should look clean and professional,” he explains. “When in doubt, a simple room or plain wall is usually a safe bet.” 

To minimize distractions and awkward interruptions, Dominguez suggests picking a spot that’s free of noise, smartphones, and if possible, people. “Notify anyone that lives with you that you’ll be interviewing ahead of time, so they know not to disturb you,” she advises. 

Look for good lighting.

Harsh or bright lighting can be distracting (and unflattering) during a virtual interview, which is why career coach Jena Viviano of Recruit the Employer suggests splurging on a ring light for your space. “Gone are the days when ring lights were just for makeup vloggers,” she explains. “By purchasing a low-cost ring light, you can guarantee great lighting no matter where you are in your home.”

If you can’t get your hands on a ring light prior to your Zoom interview, Sims says sunlight is the next best thing. “Find a space with good natural lighting and if possible, schedule your interview in the morning or early afternoon during peak natural light hours,” she advises.

Credit: Ana Kamin

Take handwritten notes during the interview.

Once your PC or laptop is set up with the camera lens at eye level and a nice backdrop in view, Roccia says you should plan to take interview notes on paper — not on your computer. “You don’t want to use your computer for anything other than the video, because it can shake or disrupt the camera, or accidently cause other technical issues,” he explains. “A notebook is tried and true, and sends the impression that you’re well-prepared for the interview.”

To further facilitate a virtual job interview, Sims recommends creating a list of questions to ask your potential employer, and jotting down responses on a notepad or in a notebook. “If they see you writing, that’s okay,” she says. “You would be doing it in person anyway.”

Do a run-through before the interview. 

Practice may not always make perfect, but Dominguez says it can definitely minimize unnecessary disruptions during a virtual job interview. “Prepare for technical issues by doing a test run prior to the interview,” she advises. “Make sure you’ve downloaded the appropriate software on your computer, then test your audio and video, and check your Wi-Fi to confirm you have a strong connection.”

If you really want to land the job, Viviano recommends doing a dress rehearsal prior to the interview. “Check the lighting, make any changes to your backdrop that don’t look good in the video frame, and practice your answers to commonly asked interview questions,” she advises. “Similar to if you were performing in a play, you want to make sure you do a thorough run-through before the interview.”