We all remember the confusion that ensued as the global workforce responded to changes from the pandemic. Just as we were thinking maybe we’d never have to go back to work, our offices rebounded into digital look-alikes. Suddenly, Zoom became a household name.
Along with it, Zoom brought a plethora of nuances to our work lives. This has had a particularly strong influence on one of the most intimidating parts of the job–the interview. In addition to all the standard interview prep we were already doing, we now have to also consider elements like setting up professional spaces in our homes, ensuring strong wifi connections, and whether to look at the camera or the interviewer’s face.
It feels like a lot, but with these tips, you’ll be able to prepare yourself for your next remote Zoom interview.
In this article, we’ll cover
Step-by-step instructions for using Zoom for interviews
How to prepare your space
Zoom interview etiquette
How to ace a Zoom interview
Tips for Zoom interviews
For the most part, an interview on Zoom will function in the same way it always has. You’ll be asked about your current employment, you’ll share what inspired you to pursue the position, you’ll be told a bit more about the company and the role, you’ll ask questions, and then the interview wraps up. You can expect most interviews to still follow this general outline, whether it’s digital or not.
How to do a Zoom interview
For the technologically disadvantaged, the biggest concern about a Zoom interview is simply how to make it work. Give yourself some time to practice the set-up well before your meeting by following these directions to get the program up and running.
Step-by-step Zoom interview set-up
The interviewer has likely sent you a link to the interview. This might show up as an email with a subject line similar to “Cathy is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting”.
Click this email to open it up. You will see an email that shows you the topic, time, meeting ID, and a list of dial-in numbers. Assuming you already know the time of your interview, you can largely disregard the information on this page. All we need is one specific line.
You will see the words “Join Zoom Meeting” and below it, a link (you can tell it is a link because it will be underlined and in blue font). Press this blue link.
When you press the link, a new page will appear. You will see the Zoom logo at the top. Wait for a moment and a smaller pop-up window will appear with the option to “Open Zoom Meeting”. Press this button.
Zoom meetings work by having a host (in this case it’s the interviewer) set it up. This essentially puts the host in charge, meaning that when you press the link, you will be sent to a digital waiting room until the host invites you to enter the meeting. You and the host will both be notified when you enter the waiting room. Sometimes, the host has changed the settings so that you can enter the meeting whenever you’re ready, and if that’s the case, you will see a button indicating that you can enter. Other times, you just wait there until the host is ready.
While in the waiting room, you will see yourself on a preview screen. At the bottom of your video preview, you will see icons, one representing a microphone, one representing a video camera, and one representing options for a background. Press these buttons accordingly to turn your mic and camera on/off. When turned off, you will see a dash appear through the icon.
While you wait to enter the meeting, take a look at the preview screen. Is your lighting good? Is your whole head visible? Is there anything inappropriate in the background? Now is a good time to perfect your setup.
How to prepare for a Zoom interview
Preparing your space is as important as preparing yourself when it comes to Zoom interviews. Technology makes interviews more convenient, but not necessarily any easier. The biggest thing to focus on is creating a workspace in your house. If avoidable, try not to be in public for an interview.
Creating an interview space in your home is easy to do. The main elements to focus on are visuals and audio.
The first thing to consider is your background. Try to find a space that has a neutral wall; limited artwork, no busy patterns, and nothing that moves or makes noise (like a clock). If there is some art or decorative flair, it should be minimal and work-appropriate.
If you’re having trouble creating a space in your home that makes you feel comfortable and confident, consider browsing the backgrounds offered by Zoom. These are essentially green screens that are applied to the space around you. You can find these options by clicking on the ‘Preferences’ button, then choosing ‘Backgrounds & Filters’.
Lighting is another very important visual component. You want your face to be in focus and illuminated. To achieve this, you need light in front of you and therefore it should come from behind your computer. Perhaps you set up in front of a window, where you are facing the window, to allow for natural light on your face. If that’s not an option, grab a few lamps from around the house and plug them in. Again, you want the lamps to be behind your computer so that you are facing them. Any time light is emitting from behind you, it creates a silhouette effect.
As far as audio is concerned, most computers and laptops these days come with microphones built in. What you should consider when setting up your space, on the other hand, are sounds from your house. Does your family know that you have an interview so you should not be interrupted? If you have a dog that tends to bark, do you have a friend who would mind taking them for a walk for an hour?
Zoom interview etiquette
There are a couple of pieces of etiquette to keep in mind as you move through your interview that are specific to the Zoom world.
Take turns speaking
For starters, understand that all virtual meetings function best when people aren’t speaking over each other. The computer speakers will only project the sound of one person at a time.
I, for example, am a very engaged listener. It wasn’t until I started participating in Zoom meetings that I realized just how much noise I make during a conversation. The issue was that anytime I agreed with the other person by making “Mhmm” or “Ah” sounds, the audio would glitch. I didn’t get to hear the other person’s full thoughts, and they couldn’t tell if I was trying to interject. Out of courtesy, they’d stop and ask me what I was trying to say, to which I’d reluctantly respond, “Oh nothing, sorry. Please continue”.
The best way to move through this is to rely strictly on body language to show agreement. Nodding your head and smiling get the same point across, with a much smoother application.
Keep your camera on
Many of us have had to work through the discomfort of feeling put on display because of Zoom. Having to welcome work colleagues and professional acquaintances into your home is a new paradigm. Though this discomfort is understandable, it’s very important to have your camera on during an interview. Remember, you are not being judged on your appearance or on your home. Keep your camera on so that you provide the interviewer with a visual reference and a memorable interaction.
Should I look at the camera during a Zoom interview?
A goal of any interview is to maintain eye contact, and a Zoom interview is no exception. But how to do this when eye contact means staring at a tiny black circle? A good balance for maintaining eye contact during a Zoom interview is to allow yourself to look at the screen when the other person is talking and to look into your camera when you are speaking. This allows both parties to feel connected, respected, and engaged whether listening or speaking.
Have a plan B
You should put effort into making sure you are connected to the strongest internet available to you. If you tend to have connectivity problems, it’s good to think ahead.
Interviews typically have a set time limit, and you don’t want to waste precious time trying to restart your router or deal with a frozen screen. If you notice your video starting to glitch or lag, let your interviewer know and offer to switch to audio. Have the phone number already pulled up on your phone so that you can have a quick recovery and get back into the flow of the interview.
If you usually hotspot your internet from your phone, consider doing the interview directly from your phone to ensure a stronger connection. If you do this, however, still prepare your space in the same way you would for a computer set up, and utilize a tripod for the best quality video.
How to ace an interview on Zoom
After you’ve created the ideal space for your interview, you’ve reviewed the etiquette, and you’ve prepared yourself, the rest of the interview will feel pretty normal. These last tips will help you stand out from the crowd during your Zoom interview.
Take a moment to consider the role of the interviewer. They too have had to transition to the virtual realm over the last few years, and they’ve learned that it can be difficult to read a person correctly through a screen. Use that insight to your advantage. Be bold and inviting, be warm, and be personable. If the interviewer is meeting with 10 people that day, and all of them appear as faces on a screen, what can you do to stand out? Ask yourself this, and take a few minutes to come up with an approach that represents you well.
When the interviewer asks how you’re doing today, don’t answer with “Good” or “Fine, thanks”. Instead, be transparent. Tell them about how you’re moving this weekend so you’ve got a lot going on. Share the excitement you have over your weekend plans. Do what you can to be seen as a human.
Do your research
With all the tools available to us today, it’s the expectation that you enter an interview already having done your research. If you have an interview approaching, LinkedIn and Glassdoor are excellent resources for getting an upper hand.
Look up the name of your interviewer. What’s their role within the company, how long have they been there, and how can you make a personal connection with them?
Go beyond just reading the job posting. Do a Google search of the position title you’re applying for. What are common tasks or projects that others perform? What kind of prerequisites or preferred qualifications are expected?
Look up average wages for the position and come to the interview with a salary range in mind, then be prepared to negotiate salary.
Find the company website and social media accounts. Read every page that you can find. Learn about their mission, the founders, and the services or products offered.
Come prepared with the best questions to ask in a job interview.
You’ve got this!
Plan ahead and prepare your space.
Do your research thoroughly.
Follow common guidelines for Zoom etiquette.