A lasting legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic is the Zoom job interview, where an eager and enthusiastic – but likely nervous – job applicant faces his or her prospective employer via a video chat.
No more firm handshakes. No scoping out the rest of the office while waiting – or chatting to an employee in the hallway ahead of the interview to learn more about the boss and the work environment.
In the brave new world of online job interviews, Zoom video conferencing is king. And none of those old standbys can be used anymore to communicate energy and pick up on the reality of the work environment.
The meeting opens – and you’re there. Face-to-face in a window on the screen of your laptop, desktop or tablet.
But if Zoom has made some old strategies and procedures obsolete, it has also opened up the door to new ways to impress the prospective employer – and created new pitfalls to avoid.
So, take a few minutes and read carefully because these are your Top 10 Easy Steps To Ace Your Next Zoom Interview.
1. Wear The Whole Outfit – Avoid Pajama Bottoms Or Sweats Or Flip-Flops
It sounds like it shouldn’t need to be said but … wear the whole outfit for the job interview. Don’t decide to wear the shirt and tie and jacket – or the professional blouse and jacket – and then simply skip the bottom half of the outfit because, theoretically, the webcam isn’t going to show anything but your face and shoulders anyways.
Webcams slip. Screens tilt forward. When they do, your fuzzy slippers, Star Wars pajamas, sweatpants or flip flops can suddenly be right there for everybody to see. You might laugh it off. But, in that one moment, you may have killed your chances of landing the job.
Many a job interviewee has gotten up, thinking the Zoom meeting had ended and shown himself or herself to be less than professionally attired from the waist down. Don’t believe it? Check out YouTube. This is almost a modern-day meme.
Avoid this pitfall and dress for the part just as you would for an in-person interview.
2. Master The Technology – And Test It
Anyone going for an in-person interview checks out the route they’ll need to take to get to the employer’s workplace. Everyone knows arriving late with a lame excuse about not being able to find the office is an unacceptable faux pas.
In the world of Zoom job interviews, the technology is the route you take to get to the job interview. Learn it. Test it out.
Ahead of the interview, double check the link to the Zoom meeting and make sure you have the access code. The employer will set everything up and should send you all this information. If they haven’t, ask them for it.
Well before the day of the job interview, test your microphone and your webcam. Gone are the days when this was all new to employer. He or she will now expect you to have mastered the technology. Failing to do so is the Zoom equivalent of not showing up for an in-person interview.
3. Set The Stage
One of the great perks of Zoom interviews for job seekers is that the technology goes a long way towards leveling the playing field and removing unconscious biases and it allows job seekers to present themselves in the most positive light. Literally.
Even a casual glance is often enough to spot a preferred look in many workplaces. Without even necessarily being aware of it, many employers will tend to hire people who are like them.
In Zoom job interviews, though, everyone is sitting down. Suddenly, everyone is roughly the same height. Lighting and camera angles can make job seekers look taller or shorter, or thinner or bigger.
The background, too, can play an important part on projecting the right image.
Trying to look learned? Shelves of books with impressive – and relevant – titles can help. Framed degrees and certificates of achievement and trophies project success. Musical instruments, according to one study, can make a person seem more attractive.
A Zoom meeting is essentially a live theatrical performance. You’re the leading actor, the director, lighting and sound manager, and writer. Use everything you can. Set the stage.
4. Banish All Distractions, Including Children, Puppies, And Kittens
Unless you’ve got a seeing-eye dog, you would never take a puppy into a boardroom for a job interview. Ditto for a small child or a kitten.
Don’t make that mistake for your Zoom interview. Everyone knows you’re at home. Everyone knows you have a family and a pet and are a wonderful, multi-faceted human being. That’s good. You want your pets and children to have everything they need. Everyone gets that.
But there’s a time and place for everything. And having your puppy jump onto the kitchen table and knock over your coffee or your toddler come in half-naked and crying during the Zoom interview is just not acceptable. These kinds of incidents give the impression that you don’t have your life under control and, as importantly, they disrupt you and the interviewer’s train of thought during the interview and waste valuable time.
Unplug the landline. Turn off your mobile. Ensure a competent caregiver is watching your child. Place the puppy with a friend for an hour or so. Put a note on the door that no-one is to ring the bell. Close the windows to prevent outside traffic noise.
When the Zoom job interview starts, that – and only that – should be your entire world. Shut everything else out for the duration of the interview.
5. Be. On. Time. Punctuality Matters
There are three kinds of people when it comes to time. There are those who always arrive late. That’s completely unacceptable for a job interview, either in person or on Zoom. Despite Hollywood’s entertaining depictions of slackers who cleverly get great jobs while not showing on time or even trying, punctuality does matter and those who arrive late generally make a very bad impression.
That’s hardly surprising. All throughout high school, students are told to not be late. Unfortunately, taking that advice too seriously results in something almost as bad for Zoom job interviews.
Arriving too early.
In a Zoom meeting, there is no row of chairs in the lobby where candidates can wait. Depending on how the employer has set up the meeting, an unusually early arrival can wind up interrupting another, on-going job interview with another candidate. That’s both rude to the other job interviewee and annoying to the interviewers who may now feel rushed for time because you’re there breathing down their necks. Figuratively, of course.
For Zoom interviews, the rule of thumb is to arrive and be ready for the meeting to start no more than 10 minutes before it is scheduled. If you can arrange it, arrive only a minute or two before the scheduled time.
Be on time, neither too late nor too early.
6. Develop Answers For The Most Common Interview Questions
Every job interviewer comes with his or her own bag of tricks to figure out who you are and what you can contribute to the business in that job. There are those who will ask you to draw a house for a herd of elephants in 60 seconds or teach them something they don’t already know in three minutes.
Good luck with those.
But job interviewing isn’t exactly uncharted territory, either. There are a lot of standard questions interviewers use over and over and over again.
Among them are:
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- What do you know about this job – or our company?
- How did you hear about this position?
- Why did you apply for this job?
- Why are you looking to leave your current job or company?
- What’s a challenge or difficult situation you’ve faced and how did you handle it?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Why should we hire you over the other candidates?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Why did you leave your last job?
Each one of those questions comes with possible pitfalls. And, yes, there are some answers that are better than others depending on the nature of the job and the company.
Figure out your answers to these questions. Practice those answers until they come out naturally, without hesitation.
7. Ask Good Questions Of Your Own
One of the best reasons to practice answering the standard questions and to ensure your home is free of distractions is to provide you with the opportunity to really listen to what the job interviewer is saying and, when the right time comes, to ask intelligent, probing questions of your own.
There is perhaps nothing more flattering than to know someone is really listening to you and interested in what you have to say. By paying attention, you as the interviewee are helping to develop a personal rapport with the job interviewer.
When you then pick up on something he or she has said and ask an intelligent, reasonable question about it during the job interview, you will demonstrate not only your interest but also your perceptiveness and willingness to learn.
During the interview, make sure you pay attention so you can ask a good question near the end. If you can, write down those questions.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a couple of questions to ask written down and sitting on the desk in front of you before the interview in case you blank out during the interview itself can can’t think of any on the spot. These will be your back-up questions, your safety net.
If you do write down these questions, write them in a Word document that you can open up on your screen during the Zoom interview, just below the window for the meeting itself. That way, you can read off the question while still appearing to make eye contact with the interviewer. It’ll seem more natural than glancing down to read a piece of paper.
8. Speak Clearly, Slowly, and Distinctly
Most of us speak with a surprising – and embarrassing – number of “ehs” “ahs” and “you knows”. Filling in awkward pauses with these words prevents long, silent moments.
For in-person interviews, that’s not great but, hey, everyone does it. It’s generally shrugged off. Even most journalists will not report on all these filler words used in off-the-cuff comments made by a politician, business leader or sports star.
On Zoom, though, everyone tends to revert back to thinking they are watching TV. And the actors on TV and news anchors do not use these filler words. They would look unprofessional on camera if they did.
The best way to avoid using too many of these filler words is resist the temptation to ramble on quickly during the Zoom interview. Speak slowly, distinctly, and clearly. If you think you sound a bit ridiculous and that you’re over-pronouncing and speaking too slowly, then you’re probably doing it just right.
But test yourself before the Zoom interview. Practice speaking into your microphone. Record what you say. Then, listen to it as you would to anyone else on TV or YouTube.
Remember, Zoom is live. But it’s not in-person. On Zoom, you’re putting on a performance. Speak clearly.
9. Don’t Fidget, Play With Your Hair, Chew Your Pen, Or Clench Your Teeth.
Since the Zoom interviewee is physically alone at home during the meeting, there’s a tendency to behave as if he or she was alone. For many people, that means tapping a foot, twirling a strand of hair absent-mindedly, chewing on a pen or clenching their teeth.
When people are alone, they give free rein to a plethora of annoying habits. Why shouldn’t they? It releases anxiety and stress and, most of the time, no-one will ever know.
Zoom, though, is where that tendency to act as if we’re alone can scuttle a job interview. You may be physically alone but you are, in fact, also in a meeting with other people.
Act professionally. In your mind, imagine you are there, in person, in front of these people. Sit up straight. Stop fidgeting. Make eye contact.
Use your body language to convey the message: “I’m here. I’m engaged. I’m listening. And I’m ready to join your company and do a great job!”
10. Double And Triple-Check The Time, Date – And The Time Zone – Of The Zoom Meeting.
A company in Toronto that’s interviewing someone in Calgary for a job may have sent out an invitation to a Zoom meeting that notes the time in either of the two time zones, or both, or neither if the company is actually headquartered in, say, Halifax.
Check out the time zone to make sure you show up at the right time. If it’s the time of the year when the clocks are being moved forward or backward, make sure your alarm is set for the right time too.
Knowing the right time has perhaps never been easier because today’s computers automatically adjust for daylight savings time or standard time and always show the right date.
But Zoom meetings, often involving people spread out over several time zones, often leave some of the participants thinking the appointment was for a different time than it really was.
Don’t be that person who got the time zone wrong. Double and triple check if you have to – but show up on time.