how can I do well in video interviews?

A reader writes:

I’m job-searching for the first time in nearly a decade and am realizing that a lot of interviews these days, especially in early rounds, are done over video. This is a change from the last time I was interviewing, so I’m wondering what the best practices are for video interviews.

I don’t have a ton of options for quiet, private places with reliable internet for video calls. Is it OK to do these calls from my desk in my bedroom? The backdrop doesn’t really show anything personal — bookshelves, plants, a neat sofa. Part of my bed would be visible, though of course I would make it neatly. Is a bedroom too personal or too unprofessional a location to take a video call?

Any other tips or tricks to do well in video interviews?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 193 comments… read them below }

    1. Justin*

      oh it says that, I missed the intro, sorry.

      I tried to bring a lot of energy through the screen when I was interviewing and it usually went well.

    2. constant_craving*

      I really, really hate when people use these. Extremely distracting, hair keeps appearing and disappearing, etc. I wish the use of them would stop entirely. I have never seen them work well.

      1. Rosyglasses*

        One of the things I like about Google Meet is the option for partial blur. I have fair skin and strawberry blonde hair and my edges of self are ALWAYS disappearing in full blur or virtual backgrounds, but this is a happy medium that mutes the background noise/distraction but doesn’t make me look weird.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          I use Teams and also use the blur. I think its less distracting than the backdrops but it still blurs out enough that they’re not seeing your private stuff. Definitely tidy the background a little bit though, because you can see enough with the blur to see heaps of stuff everywhere.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        You can buy a photo backdrop fairly inexpensively (<$50 US) and use one of those instead. I also get distracted fairly easily by virtual backgrounds (thank you, ADHD), and I think something that doesn't flicker would make you look a little more professional and help you stand out.

      3. M*

        I 100% understand where you’re coming from but as someone working from a studio apartment with a partner for the beginning of the pandemic, they are a wholly necessary evil.

    3. Artemesia*

      or blur the background. If you have a neat bedroom and then blur it, it will be totally unobtrusive. The problem with virtual backgrounds is that sometimes you fade in and out like a cheshire cat — the blur might work better.

    4. LCH*

      i’d blur or try to set up in front of a bookcase. if the blur is too bed-shaped, throw some things back there until the blur looks ambiguous.

      if you can’t guarantee quiet, use headphones. this way you can hear them, they can hear you via the mic. also you won’t have to project to get your computer to pick up your voice.

    5. Yorick*

      It might help to practice with the virtual background beforehand. Is the lighting not right for it and if so can you change that? Do you move around too much for that and if so can you move less and still feel natural? Et cetera. You can decide if the virtual background is ok or if you need to find a spot in front of a wall.

    6. Get me outta here*

      Sometimes when I am sent the link and it is the organisation’s virtual platform, as an external party I do not have the option to add a background. Eg they have corporate zoom and I have corporate Teams.
      This is why I always make sure my background is just a wall with no adornments, just in case I unable to change the background.

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        You can still do it, using a virtual camera. That is, your camera feed goes into a program on your computer, over which you have full control, which then tweaks and alters the image and creates a virtual camera which you pass into Zoom. Zoom cannot place any restrictions on that, because as far as it’s concerned, it’s just receiving a normal camera feed. The best-known such program is OBS.

        You do need a computer with pretty good RAM, though, or it’ll introduce a noticeable delay, which can be off-putting.

  1. Corrigan*

    I try to make things not look cluttered of course but blurring your background can do a lot too. you can see there’s a table behind me but can’t really make out anything on it.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Agreed, blurring is better than a full virtual background in my experience. The boundary is less noticeable, so if it’s not in exactly the right place it’s less distracting.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I agree that a blurred background is probably better, if you’re not confident in your space, than a virtual background, which can be distracting. I’ve seen too many virtual backgrounds that start of looking okay but then end up flickering or eating part of the person’s hair or whatever.

      1. amoeba*

        Hm, I feel like when I started out with Zoom at the beginning of the pandemic, they were like that, but nowadays they really work quite well! (We’re on Teams now, so don’t know about other platforms). A lot of people use them even when in the office – not because we need them, but because some of them are nice. I still have the pride one on, even though my background is a completely neutral cupboard that’s not private or distracting at all.

        That said – I feel like the background the LW describes seems innocuous enough and I wouldn’t think twice about using it. Maybe with a nice throw rug and cushions over the bed so it doesn’t look so much like sleeping but more couch-like?
        Blur can also work well, of course.

        For myself, I do try to use blur/virtual background if my office isn’t as orderly as I’d prefer, but sometimes interviews can be on unfamiliar platforms that also won’t let you join until the other party “lets you in” – and then you don’t want to be scrambling to blur while they already see you! So just in case, I’d make sure you’re at least not embarrassed by the background if you cannot blur/go virtual.

        Another option: any chance you could turn your desk around/move it to the middle of the room/sit at the kitchen table/whatever so that your back is to a wall? I mean, if it’s only for a video call, you can probably have a lot of additional setups that would be impracticable for everyday use, but fine for half an hour or an hour… even if you’re in a corner and have to climb over your bed to get in the chair. They can’t actually see that, right?

    3. Beth*

      I also prefer a blurred background. Both are perfectly professional, but virtual backgrounds often leave part of my hair or earring or shirt clipping in and out, and it’s distracting to me.

    4. Orange_Erin*

      I’m team blur over virtual background/clean actual background. Blurring just removes anything else I might see or be distracted by. As an interviewer, I don’t want to see inside your home as much as you don’t want me to either. I just want to focus on you, what you say, and your body language.

  2. Fieldpoppy*

    And I know Alison covered this, but I’m chiming in for get the best web cam and microphone you can. One of my colleagues’ mic cuts in and out all* the* time* and she says “there’s nothing I can do about it” and it generates irritation and crankiness in trying to hear her. Don’t irritate the people interviewing you!

    1. leslie knope*

      And if you’re doing an external web cam and microphone, make sure you’re super comfortable with how to change the input in your videoconference software — practice in advance, because your computer may default to the built-in options instead.

      1. amoeba*

        True. Doesn’t always help if the interviewer choses some weird, exotic platform you’ve never heard of… but at least be comfortable for the standard ones, they tend to be understanding when they’re the ones who chose the uncommon software, anyway. If you’re completely lost on Teams or Zoom, it’s probably a worse look. (Although I’ve only ever met understanding people, but maybe I was just lucky!)

  3. jane's nemesis*

    I really wish everyone would learn to look at the camera, not just for interviews but for all their virtual meetings! It’s so distracting to me to be talking to someone who appears to be looking away intently at something, even when I am pretty sure that something is MY video box on THEIR screen! I always re-size my window and rearrange it so that the person I’m talking to is up at the top of the screen right underneath my webcam, especially for 1×1 meetings. I also try to do this for group meetings but it’s harder to make sure the person currently talking stays at the top, especially on some programs (TEAMS, you suck)

    But the people I’m talking to never do the same for me! I miss eye contact. (I work fully remotely.)

    1. Buffy will save us*

      I think it’s hard because we’re also trying to make eye contact and gauge reactions to what we’re saying. I watch the people in my meetings because I want to make sure they understand what I’m saying.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      If I look at the camera, I can’t actually focus on your face though. You’re still not going to make eye contact by rearranging the screen. And if there are multiple people in the meeting, forget it. It’s just something you have to accept as a quirk of technology.

      1. jane's nemesis*

        On my webcam, if I’m looking at their face in a window right under the camera, it looks like I’m looking directly at the camera – I have tested this with screenshots. So I’m still watching them but “looking” at the camera. I should have made this clear in my original comment.

        1. Lexi Lynn*

          If you have an external camera, there’s a company called Plexicam. Ridiculously expensive but they sell a clear plastic camera mount so you can have your camera in the middle of your screen but the mount doesn’t block too much. I have a very large monitor and being able to kove the camera diwn and not block the PowerPoint I’m sharing has been helpful.

    3. Beth*

      I think this is just a reality of remote work. I make the effort to look at the camera instead of the presenter when I’m really trying to make a good impression on someone (an interview would definitely qualify!). But it doesn’t make sense in everyday life. If we’re all looking at our cameras, then who’s even seeing us give the appearance of eye contact? It’s better to engage functionally–to look at someone’s shared screen, each other’s faces, our notes, etc–than to be really caught up in appearances on a day-to-day basis.

    4. Ms. Murchison*

      Looking at the camera is really disconcerting when you’re speaking, and unnatural. You can’t see how your audience is reacting. I think we all need to get accustomed to people looking at other spots while talking on video calls. It’s not that different from someone looking off to the side while collecting their thoughts and the speaker’s facial expressions will be more genuine because they’re visually connecting with their audience.

      1. jane's nemesis*

        I explained this above and should have explained in my original comment – if I am looking at their face in a window right below my webcam, it looks like I’m looking at them. I’ve tested it!

        1. Claire*

          Ok but what about when there are multiple people in the meeting? They can’t all be right under your webcam.

          1. jane's nemesis*

            I don’t worry about this as much in group meetings, but sometimes I will do quick shuffling – easier in some programs than others. Also, as someone else noted, if you turn off gallery view and turn on speaker view, the person talking is the one in the window that I want to look at.

          2. Salsa Your Face*

            The issue is more when people have multiple screens, and their chat window is on a different screen from their webcam. It gives the impression that they’re not focused on the meeting. If someone is looking in the correct general direction, it doesn’t really matter if they’re looking straight into the eye of the camera or a couple of inches lower.

            1. Yorick*

              I think it’s too much to expect that people will look like they’re making eye contact. That may just not be feasible depending on your setup. But putting your meeting on the same monitor as the webcam is great advice! At then you’ll be looking closer to the camera.

    5. ProducerNYC*

      I put a post it near the computer camera to focus on when I’m answering– I try to look at that most of the time, with occasional glimpses at people talking to me. I can tell when people are often staring at their reflection (myself included) and I find it so distracting!

      1. Teapot Unionist*

        I had a little stuffed animal (think beanie baby type) that was straddling my monitor/webcam in my old office and would talk to the stuffed animal during interviews. my current monitor and webcam aren’t as sturdy so he slips too much. Now he just sits next to the window, which is appropriate, since he is a bull and he hangs out by the window and the houseplants and my copy of a favorite childhood book, Ferdinand.

    6. CommanderBanana*

      I’ve seen some coworkers do stuff like putting googly eyes or a bright arrow cutout pointing to the camera as a reminder. Keeping the self-view hidden works for me because then I don’t feel compelled to look at my own face, which I also find exhausting.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      I would rather than people look at their audience’s faces when speaking rather than looking straight into the camera lens because they miss reactions that can guide what they’re saying or give important feedback to them. To me, I’d rather have someone actually paying attention versus performing attention into the camera.

      I also have a second monitor that is much larger than my laptop screen, so I put anything I have to see in detail on that screen and leave the talking-head boxes on the laptop screen near the camera. If I’m reviewing something, I have to look to the side, though I will mention this so no one thinks I’ve just stopped paying attention to them.

      1. A friendly reminder*

        That’s what you want logically and makes sense. But it’s fairly common to feel that someone who is not making eye contact much of the time is being evasive or deceptive. THis feeling is often at a subconscious level. At least in the US.

        On a video interview you’re in competition with other people who will make eye contact, and if you don’t that puts you at a disadvantage.

        1. Allonge*

          But there is a middle ground between never making (or in a video call, faking) eye contact and looking deep into each other eyes every moment. Sure, people should look at the camera regularly, using whatever works for a reminder*, but it’s not like in an in-person interview we would be holding eye contact for an hour straight!

          I also expect that people are more used to the realities of videoconferencing in this and “eye contact” works if it’s a close approximation. Obviously it’s not great to use a camera but look sideways to another screen, but if you are facing the camera, there is quite a lot of leeway.

          *My best setup for this: laptop + large screen. I put my large screen behind the laptop and its camera is more or less in the middle of the large screen. Video call gets displayed on large screen – I look like I am looking at the camera.

    8. Mimmy*

      I don’t know how others do it, but I always set my Zoom to where whoever is speaking at the moment is in full view (as opposed to gallery view, where you see everyone at once and the speaking square gets highlighted). This works better for me because I can stay focused on the full screen and look at the speaker. In gallery view, I’d be looking in multiple directions depending on how many participants there are.

    9. Bit o' Brit*

      I really wish everyone would get over the whole eye contact thing, speaking as someone with ASD.

      1. Orange_Erin*

        I think as long as you are looking ahead and engaged, you are fine. I’d rather see someone speak naturally than obsess over where they are looking.

        1. jane's nemesis*

          I’m sorry it made you uncomfortable – my spouse was recently diagnosed with ASD and I swear, I don’t judge people who don’t make neurotypical amounts of eye contact. But I do work with some neurotypical people (or neurodivergent people who do not have eye contact issues, of which I am one), and I miss being able to make eye contact with them like we did in person, before remote work. It is okay for people without eye contact issues to enjoy eye contact, right?

      2. Stuff*

        Yea, I basically am forced to disclose ASD prior to interviews at this point, to avoid being judged for lack of eye contact.

      3. amoeba*

        I don’t have ASD and I’ve actually been told that nowadays, I do apparently look people in the eye when talking to them (I know I didn’t use to do it when I was younger), but the obsession with it plainly baffles me. I’d rather have somebody look not in my eye, but in my general direction than staring me intently in the eye every second because they trained themselves to do that. It’s actually a little creepy, honestly!

        I mean, sure, if the other person looks in a completely different direction (or at my chest, sigh), that can also be disconcerting. But this obsession with eye contact… this is an interview, not a date!

        Also, on virtual meetings, I’d much rather know the other person is seeing my video on full screen and looking at me when I talk because, you know, I want them to react to me, not stare at the little green dot? I mean, sure, you can minimise the window and have it underneath the camera as a trick, but then… I’m still super tiny on their screen and I’d actually find that slightly impolite because why wouldn’t they actually want to see me talk?

        1. jane's nemesis*

          It’s actually easier for me to “see” you and interpret your facial expressions when you’re small. I can’t take in what someone’s face is doing and concentrate on what they’re saying if their face is larger than life, as it is when the window is full-sized. (I use a large monitor and people tend to sit very close to their cameras.)

  4. Heidi*

    I keep cough drops/lozenges nearby because long periods of talking makes my throat dry out. I also use a headset instead of my computer microphone – people have told me that my audio is noticeably clearer when I’m using it.

    1. Beth*

      On the topic of audio–make sure you’re not overlapping speaking with anyone else. This is really normal to do in real life, but most video meeting programs are really bad at handling two people talking at once. I routinely have to remind myself to let there be a moment of quiet before I start talking, because it helps create a smooth audio transition.

      1. Calpurrnia*

        This is a huge issue for me because of the delay – I am apparently interrupting people all. the. time. on video calls! During what seems like a quiet moment where I can start speaking, I’ll say something but someone else has started talking too, but I haven’t heard it yet on my end, and we both interrupt each other as we hear the audio from the other end come through… Resulting in a ton of the “go ahead” “no, you go ahead” dance. It’s really frustrating but I have no idea what I can do to change it. I have a fast computer and reasonably good Internet, but there is still enough lag that I can basically never have a single conversation on a Teams call without one of us talking over the other.

    2. Mimmy*

      My throat dries out easily too (which I forgot during a recent in-person interview :( ). I use throat soothers, but I don’t love the idea of sucking on those during a job interview. A good alternative is water.

  5. Beth*

    You don’t need to schedule time with a friend for a test run! You can just open a zoom session (or other program–most of them have a free account option that will let you do this) with yourself. You can even usually look at the video output in the settings and confirm that you’re framed properly, well lit, have your background of choice set up, etc.

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      And that you’re not looking down too far, if your laptop is much lower than your face. This kind of test allows you to lift your computer on books etc. to get a flattering angle. Although a friend’s assessment can also help with determining if your internet is strong enough to project a sharp picture. You might look fine on your own machine and pixelated across the country.

    2. Rosyglasses*

      And take a screenshot of when you’re looking at yourself vs the camera (if you’re on a laptop) and you’ll see where you need to position your eyes.

    3. MissMeghan*

      I think the friend is nice for an audio check though. When you sit the way you will in an interview, does the audio come in clearly? If you move at all, does it significantly change how loud/soft you are? That’s good to test in addition to video

    4. Yorick*

      You can definitely do this, but it’s worth scheduling time with a friend for things like sound quality

  6. Marna Nightingale*

    This might be really easy or completely impossible, so take it for what it’s worth, but can you shift your desk a bit?

    I honestly don’t think that a bit of visible bed is an issue, but I do think that if it’s bugging you that WILL be an issue, so see if you can rearrange some furniture or invest in a paper folding screen.

    Other than that, my biggest tip is, if at all possible arrange a chatty video call with a friend in the next few days so you can find and tweak any issues such as:

    making sure you know where all the controls are, and can adjust them without looking flustered,
    figuring out where you want to put your glass of water, which you will probably want, and anything you might need to refer to as you talk,
    checking that the shirt you want to wear looks the same way onscreen as it does in real life,
    ensuring the window light doesn’t have you backlit or squinting,
    checking that your “fill” light, the one behind your camera, is the right level of bright and also a colour temperature that doesn’t blind you or wash you out (or make you look malarial),
    deciding if you want to wear any makeup, and
    making sure nothing in your background moves unexpectedly (curtains, hanging decor, that sort of thing), and, lastly,
    Figure out if your pets, if any, will
    a) quietly stay in another room without raising hell, or if you need to
    b) figure out an appropriate bribe to get them to stay quietly out of shot for the period of time you need.
    (tip: always take the dog out BEFORE an important call, even if they don’t usually need to go at that time. While you’re at it, change the battery in your smoke detector if you’re going to be doing a lot of video interviews, so it doesn’t go into a prolonged fit of weeping while you’re on a call.)

    Quite honestly I doubt that many, if any, of these things are big issues for interviewers, but if you’re more comfortable, you’re more confident. And that’s good.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        White and bright yellow are especially tricky. Doubly so in stripes.

        So is some jewelry, though a fill light isn’t anything like as bright as a tv camera. Still, if you wear a lot of silver, maybe check it’s not stealing the show when you gesture or turn your head.

        I have a friend who before she retired was periodically asked to come and be in a documentary or discussion panel show about her speciality, and she had The Shirt. A nice mid-size paisley print, in deep colours, matte silk.

        She used to claim that it could very probably, by the end of its career, have gotten itself down to the BBC without her, and probably done the talking, too.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      If it’s a laptop, they might just be able to angle the computer itself (and the chair) to optimize the background. It will probably create a setup that doesn’t work for a full workday, but that’s not what you’re doing here.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        And if it’s a laptop, be sure to raise it on some books or something, so you’re looking at the webcam more at eye level and not peering down at it. It will make a huge difference.

    2. Random Academic Cog*

      As far as learning the controls ahead of time, that is difficult beyond generally spending some time in online meetings. It’s unlikely the interviewee is the one setting up the meeting, so there’s no way to know what version of even the most common platforms will be used without logging into the meeting. For most platforms, external people can’t access the actual room until an internal person approves them. You can attempt to login 5 (or less) minutes early, but we usually don’t let the external person in until everyone else is there anyway.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        True that! I was thinking more of the keyboard controls: making sure you can easily adjust your volume and brightness, mute and unmute as required, get your headset to pair, and that sort of thing without having to hunt about.

      2. Claire*

        But what matters is the version YOU have on your computer, not the version the host has. And being able to access the room early completely depends on what settings the host has chosen; in some cases you can do it (at least on zoom).

      3. rollyex*

        ” It’s unlikely the interviewee is the one setting up the meeting, so there’s no way to know what version of even the most common platforms will be used without logging into the meeting.”

        You can often tell what the platform is from the URL in the meeting invitation – is it Zoom, Webex, Google Meet or whatever. In many case you can then get a free account with that service and do test calls. Be sure to put the same name you use with your application in the account.

        In terms of versions – these meeting are facilitated occur via sofware in the cloud, so the version of the meeting will be the latest. If software on your computer is also involved, you will likely be able to update (perhaps even forced too) when doing your test call.

  7. ecnaseener*

    Also, test out your microphone/speaker situation on that test call. An echo *really* kills the flow of conversation (and of course bad sound quality can too if they can’t understand you).

  8. RPOhno*

    Something I learned in a professional communications course in grad school that has been far more useful than I ever expected it to be: you look at least one or two shades less happy on camera than you do in person, so make sure your “neutral” is at least a smile, because your true neutral will look like your dog just died

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Oh man, this sooo much. I definitely dial up the perk in virtual interviews.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah although I do think warm, bright lighting helps with this; it’s sometimes the washed-out image that makes us look dour and grim.

    3. Rosyglasses*

      And this is why it is so much more exhausting to have several Zoom calls in a day vs in person meetings – you are having to create more energy to just keep the baseline going on video!

      1. allathian*

        It’s partly this and partly the delay between video and audio that makes it much more difficult to read expressions, and impossible if you’re looking at your camera.

        Thankfully my team’s very non-judgmental in this. There’s no requirement (implicit or explicit) to keep staring at the camera and nobody cares if someone keeps popping in and out a bit with their virtual background (or at least we have the sense to keep our annoyance to ourselves if we find it distracting). In meetings with my 7-person team, we usually keep cameras on all the time. In our larger department meetings with 25 people, we have cameras on at the start of the meeting, and when someone’s presenting, we can choose to keep cameras on or off. We use Teams, and PowerPoint Live lets the presenter see those with cameras on. Before we started using PPL, keeping cameras on during presentations was irrelevant because the presenter was talking to the void anyway.

    4. I Have RBF*

      This is why I’m glad that my company has a “cameras off” culture. Because there are days when we end up on problem solving marathon meetings. I really do have RBF, and if I’m concentrating, I often look like I’m mad at someone. But my voice isn’t angry. So when we end up on a six hour troubleshooting meeting where I actually have to do things and share my screen, I would have my RBF hanging out if my video was on. Instead I have the customer service “voice of calm competence” that people hear most of the time.

  9. R*

    Sooo I’ve been interviewing candidates via video for the past year and I have another tip from personal experience — please do not bring notes with prepared answers to reference/read from when you’re answering the interviewer’s qs. Interviewers can *definitely* see your eyes flicking to the notes/can tell when you’re reading, and the lighting often changes when you are on an open screen with a doc on it vs not. It’s totally fine to look at a doc (or down at your desk, etc) when you are asking your own questions — I assume you have those on hand somewhere — but I personally don’t want to a candidate you try to hit all the talking points they came in with vs. engaging with me and my qs more directly. Most people wouldn’t reference prepared notes in an IRL interview when answering a question or talking about their work history, and I personally think it makes sense to approach a video interview the same way!

    1. Nico M*

      Why the hell shouldn’t a candidate glance at notes in an interview? Do you want the best candidate or just the candidate with the best short term memory?

      1. leslie knope*

        Looking at notes because you had a couple prepared questions you wanted to ask of the interviewers is totally normal. Looking at notes because you scripted your “greatest strength and weakness” is not generally understood to be kosher, and would read poorly in almost any interview setting — virtual or not. Yes, we understand people can anticipate the questions and develop appropriate talking points, but the idea of the interview is that you should fundamentally be having a conversation and responding to the questions, not reciting the planned answer you wrote last night. If I had a candidate pull out notes to respond to my answers in an in-person interview, I’d find that quite off-putting and a sign they didn’t understand professional norms.

        1. R*

          Exactly @leslieknope…this is about avoiding the scripted “greatest strength and weakness,” not about memorizing every follow-up q that you want to ask. I have never encountered a candidate reading from notes in an IRL interview but I’m seeing it a lot in virtual interviews, which is why I’m mentioning it — it seems like something people are definitely approaching differently on Zoom because they think it’s not going to be visible to the interviewer.

          1. Miss Muffet*

            Oh my gosh I’ve always had notes in IRL interviews. Mostly just quick reminders of situations I may want to speak to but it definitely helps with the nerves and general fear of having the thing on the tip of my tongue but vanishing from my brain as I’m being asked. Not a script but certainly notes.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this. My notes are always just keywords anyway, not complete scripted sentences. I agree the latter could come across as a bit awkward.

              That said, the last time I interviewed (in person), I had quite copious notes, but the conversation went so smoothly that I never referred to them during the interview. But I liked having them there as a security blanket if I blanked out. Having them made me much less anxious. I was just nervous enough to stay focused, not a wreck.

      2. Elsajeni*

        I think a reasonable way of putting it might be “don’t look at notes MORE than you would in a face-to-face interview” — people sometimes think when they’re on a video call, aha, the person I’m talking to can’t see anything outside of the frame, so they won’t be able to tell if I’m reading off of a pre-written script! (or googling the question in another window, or doing a sudoku on my phone, or whatever) When in fact, the person you’re talking to often can tell — most people are not as good at maintaining “eye contact” with the camera while actually looking at their phone as they think they are, opening a Word document bathes your face in white light, etc. — and it will come off just as badly as if you were answering questions in a face-to-face interview by reading from a printed script.

    2. leslie knope*

      To Allison’s point about the settling-in period being awkward, I recommend having a couple planned small-talk comments in advance (if that’s not something that comes naturally to you). It’s so common to have to fill time while waiting for another interviewer on the other end; easiest thing is to be able to say something like, “I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s finally fall here! Are you also based on the East Coast?” or similar. Not every interviewer is going to be chatty but it’s better to mentally prepare to fill time than to wait awkwardly.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I think a lot of people WOULD look at prepared notes during an IRL interview, but agreed that reading answers to questions is not the move.

    4. A Noney Noney*

      I would love more people’s take on this! I have used notes in the past – just bullet points really, but am hesitating going forward for the reasons you stated. Do other hiring managers find it distracting?

      1. jane's nemesis*

        I was a hiring manager earlier this year, and while it didn’t happen to me, I don’t think I would like it if a candidate I were interviewing were reading an answer word-for-word from the screen – that cadence where you can tell they’re reading aloud? Especially if it didn’t sound like “their” voice/language choices – I’d wonder if they cribbed an answer to an expected interview question off the internet and are just reading it to me.

        But I absolutely would not mind a candidate glancing at notes to jog their memory about something, and usually do that myself when in my own virtual interviews!

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, I think glancing at bullet points to jog your memory/make sure you don’t forget anything is absolutely fine – reading out whole, polished sentences comes across as strange. At least to me.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is a case of interviewer preference and not good advice.

      I’ve been interviewing people for decades now, both in person and via videoconference, and it would never occur to me to ding someone for coming prepared with notes. And, yes, I had plenty of candidates come to in-person interviews with prepared notes or marked-up versions of their resumes that they referred to during the interview. Bringing in notes and talking points is also an advantage if you have a bad interviewer who is not asking the right questions (like what kind of tree would you be versus about things listed specifically in the job description).

      There are some people who are greatly assisted by making notes in advance, whether because interviewing makes them incredibly nervous or because of neurodiversity. If someone’s taken the time to create a support system for themselves that helps them perform better, then they’re taking the process seriously and preparing – exactly what you want out of a candidate. Unless off-the-cuff answers are required for the position, this is a silly thing – and possibly discriminatory thing – to downgrade candidates for.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Y’all, R isn’t saying you shouldn’t bring notes or that it’s not OK to glance at notes as you talk. They’re saying don’t READ your answers straight from your notes, which is very much good advice. Those are two completely different things.

    7. rollyex*

      Glancing at notes occasionally is totally normal. It’s a business meeting. We should be acting like we do in a business conversation – giving the vast majority of our attention to the speaker but not 100%, which would be freakish. Mainly to the speaker, but a glance down for notes or eyes wandering for a very few seconds. Even closing one’s eyes while listening and smiling and/or nodding along (be careful with this – movement is essential if your eyes are closed – otherwise it could look *really* bad).

      As Knope puts it “Looking at notes because you had a couple prepared questions you wanted to ask of the interviewers is totally normal. Looking at notes because you scripted your “greatest strength and weakness” is not generally understood to be kosher, and would read poorly in almost any interview setting — virtual or not. “

    8. buddleia*

      Lol and here’s me with my prepared script of answers to the questions, which get sent to me at most a day in advance. (I work in the public service in Canada.)

      The interview panel always says that “in case we don’t make eye contact with you, it’s because we’re writing so please don’t feel like we’re not paying attention to you.” I absolutely read from my script but I try not to sound like I’m reading – I still try to have expression and make it sound like I’m conversing and not sounding robotic. I haven’t gotten negative feedback from doing this; the last video interview I had was Friday morning at 8 am (and I was peppy! The interviewers jokingly said they weren’t lol) and I did get a job offer for that one, but turned it town. Got another job offer which was a better fit. :)

  10. Ms. Murchison*

    Be thoughtful about what you eat or drink before the call. You might want your favorite comfort food or drink, but pick something that won’t irritate your throat. Hydrate (but not too much) and consider tea with honey. Maybe do some public speaking exercises beforehand too, to get your tongue warmed up. It’s easy to forget how silent we are at home, if you live alone.

    For my meeting backgrounds, I have a selection of images from the Webb Space Telescope, and I select one that goes with my outfit. They are beautiful and can be a conversation starter, as long as you make sure you remember what its depicting. But they are busier than Alison’s recommendation.

    1. Pat*

      This made me laugh – at myself! I’m never silent when I’m home alone. I’m a verbal processor and talk to myself a lot, so I wouldn’t need to warm up my voice. My main worry is not realizing someone is nearby and possibly hearing me narrate my thoughts. I always try to double check that I’m actually on mute when I think I am.

  11. HonorBox*

    If you can use a virtual background, definitely do it. But a desk in the bedroom isn’t a huge problem. I’ve had several interviews and several meetings with people who are sitting in a bedroom, and it doesn’t make things weird.

    Lighting is key! Make sure you’re well lit.

  12. Thistle Pie*

    While I think that taking the call in your bedroom and blurring your background is fine, my one tip is that many public libraries now have private meeting rooms you can reserve. Some of the newer ones have a hardwired ethernet connection. It has the added bonus of a quiet distraction free space without the chance of your dogs barking at the mailman or your absent minded family member interrupting you.

    1. Marian the Librarian*

      I came here to say this! I work at a library and we get folks in all the time using our study rooms for things like virtual interviews, meetings, and even court dates. Definitely look into it.

    2. rayray*

      I did this for a few interviews, including when I interviewed for the job I have now.

      I’d suggest bring headphones or earbuds with microphone capability for the sound. Definitely make time to go in 20-30 minutes early to be sure everything is working properly and to have time to mentally prepare.

    3. Not that other person you didn't like*

      Yes! I’d suggested this to a question about finding a good place away from home to duck out of work for interviews and calls, but it works in this situation as well.

  13. Angie S.*

    My local library has study rooms that you can booked in advance. Is it possible to book a room there for your interview? I suppose all libraries these days have strong internet signals.

    If the Wifi signal is a concern and if your cellphone plan supports it, I would consider using your phone to crate a hotspot, and have your laptop or tablet connected to that.

    1. Mill Miker*

      Also, if you have a good way to mount it, don’t discount using the phone itself. I have a decent telework setup, but when I’m on the road, my phone is way better at blurring the background, keeping my face centred, etc. especially with a good bluetooth headset. A modern flagship phone probably has better camera’s than any computer you haven’t specifically set up for video calls.

      The tradeoff, of course, is a smaller screen, so it might not be a great idea for a panel interview, but I think it’s worth looking into.

  14. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Spinoff question – what do people wear for virtual interviews? OK, we have established it in the article that PJ pants with ducks on them are a no-go, but otherwise? Back in the day when I used to interview a lot (in person), I wore a suit and medium-heel pumps to mine. Should I still, or would a nice top and a professional pair of pants/skirt with a pair of flats do?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think the bar is lower for virtual interviews, personally (but higher than duckie pajamas). No printed graphic tees unless you know it’s an extremely casual workplace, but any reasonably professional outfit will look okay on screen, and it’s less noticeable than if you’re in a well lit room with someone examining the sheen of the fabric on their blouse or the cut of their suit.

    2. Too Many Days*

      I (a woman) typically* wore a blazer and a dress shirt, and then something nice-ish but comfy on the bottom (like…a nice maxi skirt). Typically, uh, no shoes, because I come from a culture that never wears shoes at home, though in retrospect that’s probably weird. Make-up that I knew looked okay on camera, jewelry that wouldn’t interfere with my mic. I work in a job where anything from “jeans and a reasonably nice top” on up are acceptable unless you have an important meeting.

      *During a truly horrifying heatwave I once wore a polo. I’m sure that was also fine.

        1. Runner up*

          I did all of my virtual interviews barefoot. If any of the interviewers had seen my feet, there would have been bigger issues than whether that was professional or not.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I probably try to go a jot heavier with makeup for a zoom interview than I usually would in real life because I feel like the camera washes me out a bit.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      People aren’t wearing suits for in-person interviews anymore, either, in my experience! But maybe that’s just the result of everything getting more casual — a step up from normal office wear doesn’t hit the level of a full suit anymore.

      If I were doing an interview from home, I’d wear the nice top (maybe including a jacket) over black yoga pants and probably slippers, tbh.

      1. I Have RBF*

        The last one that I did, that got me my current job, I was wearing a polo shirt, no jacket. I don’t wear makeup, so that isn’t an issue. I blurred my background, because there’s too much stuff in my (shared) office, it’s also a crafting space.

      2. OrangeCup*

        Yep! I just got a new job wearing nice blouses and necklaces on Zoom interviews with yoga pants and slippers! It’s like business on top, party on the bottom….or something….lol!!!

    4. rollyex*

      I wonder about this. Whereas wearing a suit and tie would make sense in person, if I’m obviously at home it feels a little much. I’ve thought of dialing it back “one level” – like suit jacket and dress shirt, but no tie.

      I wonder what other people think. This is for white collar work. I’m a dude.

      1. AnotherLawyer*

        In my experience, attorneys I’ve interviewed with are still all suit and tie. Also, not all interviewers are at home, so if they’re in the office and dressed for interviews it can feel out of place to be underdressed. I still went full suit for my interviews as if I were coming to the office in person.

        We always seem to be the slowest to adapt to changes in work attire though, so take from that what you will :)

    5. There You Are*

      I wear one of 3 business professional sleeveless blouses under a blazer with black leggings. The neck on the blouses comes up to my collar bone. I wear shirts with lower necklines in person, but anything lower than my collar bone on video looks like I’m showing too much skin.

      1. Transatlantic*

        I’ve noticed the same about necklines on video – even a basic scoop can be a bit more suggestive than expected. I guess it has to do with the fact you can’t usually see the whole torso. I’ve also noticed that if I’m not wearing a collared shirt, then the top should be high contrast to my skin. I have a couple of beige or light pink tops that are very innocuous in person, but again, slightly suggests scandalousness even though they are very modest.

    6. Pita Chips*

      From the waist up the same as I’d wear to a normal intervew. For the bottoms, probably a pair of pants that are comfortable but match. I’m convinced that if I interviewed in shorts, I’d drop something and have to bend over to pick it up and show the interviewers my duckie pajamas.

    7. Salsa Your Face*

      I aim for close to an in-person interview on top–a blouse and a blazer, though not a full on suit. On bottom, I’m fine wearing jeans. They’re extremely unlikely to see me below the waist, and I figure as long as I wouldn’t be embarrassed by my bottoms on the rare chance that it happens, it’s fine. I work in a less formal business environment, though, so this probably would be too casual for, say, finance or law.

    8. RuledByCats*

      Definitely check your clothing with a friend over Zoom! I discovered on an informal team Zoom that one of my favourite shirts – horizontal dark blue & white stripes that were quite fine, 1-2mm, interacted with the camera and constantly had a “roll/flicker” effect. One person started to feel a little seasick! Shirt was retired from all on line video events. Another team member’s home office had green walls, and if they wore anything green toned the whole screen sort of…weirded out and things just vanished, or flickered in and out.

    9. amoeba*

      While suits are definitely not required in in-person interviews in my field, either, I do still wear a nice blazer and slacks or something for those.

      For virtual, I honestly just wear something quite neutral, not dressy – think, dark green pullover, or a black and white button-up (in my case, the stripes luckily don’t interfere with my webcam!), or depending on the temperature, just a plain black t-shirt… and then usually whatever trousers I have around, so often jeans or whatever. I’ve actually never had to get up in any of my many virtual interviews, so I don’t put much thought into it – I just avoid the “ducky pajama bottoms” that I otherwise totally wear in home office. Basically, something that wouldn’t embarrass me in the unlikely case it becomes visible, but nothing special.

      And never any shoes – I don’t ever wear shoes at home and it would feel super weird to put them on for a video call. Do people ever do that? I honestly always assumed everybody else on my calls who’s in home office is also barefoot/in socks, haha!

      1. Salsa Your Face*

        I even joked about your last point during one of the later-round interviews for my current job. I forget how the topic came up, but I said “I might look put together, but I’m secretly wearing fuzzy slippers.” The interviewer laughed and I got an offer!

  15. Applesauced*

    I took a public speaking and presentation class in 2020 that quickly pivoted to all virtual.

    The best thing I learned was to get myself to look at the camera, put a sticky-note with eyes above the camera lens.

    Bonus points if you use googly eyes!

  16. M-Dub*

    One thing we do in my Federal Government Agency on video calls is as soon as you are done speaking, you say “Over”. That way the moderator or the next person speaking knows you are finished. It’s a little awkward at first, but it’s a very clear signal and interruption/talking over each other is minimal. We’ve conducted 25 interviews over the last 3 weeks, and only one person didn’t do this and that was the interview that had the awkwardness of people starting to move on to the next question and then that person would continue answering the previous one after a 5 second pause.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I think this would come across as EXTREMELY weird during an interview, though, unless that norm is established at the beginning of the call.

      1. cardigarden*

        I had a video interview back in March expected me to announce that I was finished answering with every. single. answer. I forgot on like the third question but very clearly finished the thought and was prompted, “So… are you done with your answer?” The whole thing was so weird and I was completely turned off from the position, and they thought it was strange that I thought it was bizarre.

      2. M-Dub*

        As I said, it’s something we do in my FGA, so it is a pretty established norm. And it was honestly weirder and more awkward when the one person we interviewed didn’t do it, b/c we would assume that he was done answering after a long pause, would move onto the next question, and then he would talk over us to continue answering the previous question. You waste more time and are more awkward with the “oh sorry” “no go ahead” back and forth than if you just quickly said “over” at the end.

        My agency also does a lot of comms over hand held radio and with military so, again, it’s weirder and more confusing if it’s not done.

        1. rollyex*

          Are you only interviewing people inside your organization? Otherwise, this is bizarre.

          I’ll add that there are other ways to deal with people speaking over each other. One is to accept that it happens and it’s not that big a deal. Really – we do it in-person and we do it online. It’s not weird – it’s normal in small amounts. “Over” is weird with people outside your org or team.

          And the other is to really listen to what people are saying and take it slow.

          If people are constantly talking over each other – either in person or in a video call – then they’re probably not really listening. Or if the call has a lot of people and they all jump in, then the moderator should take control – calling on people in some order and asking people people should not speak until asked.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Of course it makes sense on a hand-held.

          I would laugh so hard if people at my job started doing this on zooms.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I’ve never encountered this ever on a video call, and I would find it super odd if someone did it.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I mean, the good thing about video calls as opposed to phone interviews is that you can actually see the other person – which, in my opinion, makes it (almost) as easy as in a face to face conversation to not talk over each other! Honestly, the majority of my meetings are virtual or hybrid and I literally never have any issues with it. Maybe if there’s a lag or something? But with a good connection, that’s just a weird solution to a non-problem.

    3. rollyex*

      Don’t do this in an interview. Don’t expect other people to do this who are not part of your team.

      If you want to make it a little clear you’ve done in typical meeting, you might mute yourself.

      1. Allonge*

        In an interview if there are multiple interviewers, 1. there should be a chair who gives the ‘floor’ to people and 2. the interviewers should be obvious about when they are expecting someone else to talk (Peter, do you have anything to add on X?)

        I agree that doing ‘ over’ is a bit too much – obviously it’s fine to use it in internals-only meetings, but expecting an interviewee to pick up on this and to use it is a bit weird.

  17. 2014WantsItsPasswordBack*

    Very much not saying people shouldn’t use them if they want to, but the blurred and artificial backgrounds both give my the same hard to focus feeling I have when I’ve got a migraine. I am way more distracted by that than anything that’s happening in your background. It doesn’t actually give me a migraine, and I realize people have lots of reasons to want their space to be private, so I would never tell people not to use them. Maybe I actually just want to know if there’s anyone other than me who hates them?

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Oh I hate them, and agree. Seeing people floating in space or have half their face disappear is distracting. I totally understand why people do it and I have mine on sometimes, especially in the summer when the kids are home and just meandering in the background.

    2. spcepickle*

      I strongly dislike looking at them. I find them very distracting and slightly stomach churning when people pop in and out of them. When I have to do video calls at home I thumb tack a sheet to the ceiling behind me.

    3. amoeba*

      I’m just really surprised how many people still have issues like faces disappearing or people popping in and out! I haven’t encountered any of those in the last year or three – maybe it depends on the platform?

      I do agree that that’s annoying and distracting, and I remember when it used to be an issue on 2020 Zoom. On 2023 Teams, they just seem to… work, at least in my org. No weird floating faces or anything.

      1. greenland*

        Totally agree — these days I’ve even been tricked by some particularly good ones. Having good lighting on the person to separate them from their background helps, but in my experience the technology has come miles from the common issues being discussed here.

  18. Heather*

    The most important factor when starting a video interview is to be technically competent for your first impression. Don’t fumble with sound, or lighting, or move things around on camera while others wait for you. Below is a pretty standard list for getting started.
    1. Record yourself answering mock questions on multiple formats and watch yourself back.
    — What looked good on camera? (color shirt, eye contact, lighting)
    – What did you notice that you would like to correct?
    2. Look into the camera itself, not the main screen.
    3. Split the screen into two windows.
    – One for the interview and the other for any notes/questions you have about the job.
    4. Practice joining calls on multiple formats with friends (Meet/Zoom/Teams)
    – You will be able to test out where the mic/camera buttons are for each.
    – You can also make sure you have extensions/updates ready for each.
    5. Close any other tabs/windows unrelated to your interview
    6. Be prepared for the rest of the interview with research on the company, role, salary, etc.

  19. rollyex*

    Adding to #7, it’s not a bad idea to reboot your computer sometime before the meeting, and be sure to update Zoom if you’re using it.

    For #5, it can help if you make the meeting window quite small and very close to the camera.

    Also, if you can try to have a nice headshot and your full name in the profile for whatever software you are using. The name looks good in general, and the headshot can be nice if there is a crisis and have to shut your camera off briefly.

    If you really want to be serious and are in an echoey space with hard floors and walls, consider doing some sound treatment such as temporarily putting some blankets or pillows on the floor around you. And perhaps off screen to your sides.

    1. amoeba*

      Oh, yes, making sure Zoom is up to date is a good point. Sometimes the organisation’s side won’t accept older versions, so even though your older version worked fine for a call with somebody else, with a different call it’s suddenly “update required”! And at least on Ubuntu, that’s annoying and not straightforward and horrible to do in the minutes before an interview. Have had to change to browser version because I failed…turned out OK, but would have been a good idea to save myself the stress!

  20. higheredadmin*

    Best on-line meeting/interview advice that I’ve found, and follow, is to hide yourself if the platform allows. It prevents you from staring at yourself the whole time and does reduce the stress and exhaustion factor. (I find I’m like a parrot with a mirror if I can see myself, so this has worked wonders.)

    1. jane's nemesis*

      I also stare at myself, especially in group meetings, but I find when I hide my self-view that I get paranoid that I’m making weird faces/expressions. I always end up turning it back on to check for a pleasant “listening” expression.

      1. Pita Chips*

        This so much. I used to work in radio, so listening to myself speak hasn’t been a problem for decades, but watching myself? Yeah…no.

  21. Mimmy*

    The part about looking at the camera and not the speaker was interesting. My eye contact isn’t great to begin with, especially when I’m speaking, so I can only imagine what I look like during video interviews lol.

    My camera is mounted on top of my (large) monitor, so looking at it instead of the speaker feels so unnatural. I’ll have to experiment with someone because that could explain why I have yet to get past first round interviews :/

    1. jane's nemesis*

      Here’s what I do to mimic eye contact but make sure I can still see the face of the person I’m interviewing with/talking to in a 1×1 meeting:

      -make the window SMALLER. This makes it easier to take in the whole of their face – I can’t take in people’s expressions if they’re the size of my monitor without darting my eyes all over the place. I shrink the Zoom/Teams/whatever window down to like a 4×6 square – it’s like looking at a polaroid on my screen.

      -position the window at the very top of your screen, directly under your webcam. I have tested with screenshots of myself: looking at the person’s face just *below* the webcam still looks like I’m making great eye contact with the webcam, but I’m actually looking at their face/seeing their reactions. It removes the awkwardness of feeling like I’m staring at the webcam.

      -hide your self-view (if you can stand it). I often hide mine at the start because I don’t want to just stare at myself, but then I end up unhiding it because I get worried that I’m making weird expressions and I want to make sure I’m keeping a pleasant/neutral expression.

    2. rollyex*

      “My camera is mounted on top of my (large) monitor,”

      Make the meeting window smaller, put it as close to the camera as you can, and hide everything else. If your desktop is cluttered and that distracts you, perhaps have a maximized Word or Powerpoint document over the desktop but under the meeting window.

    3. Elsajeni*

      Some people find that putting a “face” near the camera helps — balancing a stuffed animal on your monitor, sticking a pair of googly eyes on either side of the camera, drawing a little face on a post-it and sticking it up there, whatever.

  22. Imogen*

    Don’t feel the need to hide plants or shelves – there was an article in The Guardian about a study showing they give the best first impression, over a blank or blurred background! Will link in reply

      1. rollyex*

        Good info.

        I was aware of this and for a while was privileged to have a background with those. Got 9 out of 10 on Roomrater on Twitter for my setup.

  23. There You Are*

    Definitely practice with friends if you haven’t been doing a ton of video meetings in your current job. Not just to get your lighting and background correct, but to get comfortable talking on camera.

    I recently went through a bunch of rounds of interviews, all but one of which were on-camera. They were normal conversations and actually felt less stressful than in-person interviews.

    I noticed that interviewers were more engaged when I looked at the camera while they were talking. To make it easier, I shrink the video window and drag it directly below the camera that is sitting on top of my monitor (up there, it is only an inch above my eye level). So even when I glance away from the camera to check on the other person’s body language, it’s an eye movement measure in fractions of an inch, not whole inches.

  24. TootsNYC*

    re: this
    >>>. Look at the camera, not the people you’re talking to.
    I shrink the person’s image and position it on the screen so that it’s right under the camera. That helps get the eye gaze in the right place.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      this is what I do too! just shrinking the window helps a lot – I find looking at a larger than life face to be disconcerting anyways, and it’s easier to take in their expressions when the window is smaller.

  25. Prefer my pets*

    Better than a virtual background is a folding screen. Virtual backgrounds have a tendency to blur your edges & the flicker can be distracting for a lot of people. I bought a cheap self-supporting folding screen off amazon early in the pandemic & it was well worth it. It’s light enough I can keep it folded up out of the way (folds to about 4″ thick x 1.5′ wide so tucks neatly behind the room door) when I don’t have meetings but looks professional for online meetings, particularly as more people are back in the office. Bonus it evens out the way the room lighting hits me so I don’t get weird halo effects.

    1. Allison K*

      I bought a cheap rolling clothes rack and draped a piece of plain dark fabric over it, holding the fabric in place with binder clips. Blocks out everything and it’s neutral!

  26. Whyamihere*

    I had to conduct some interviews and as long as the actual background was tidy I was fine. My biggest issue was our company is very casual but if someone was a referral they would dress too casually sometimes.

  27. Toolate12*

    I’ve now gone through many, many online interviews as both an interviewer and interviewee, and one thing I’ve struggled with is how to project charisma in the virtual conversation. In person, for some reason, it’s so much easier to ask questions or direct the conversation in a way that leads to the person’s passion, or to a mutual exchange of really interesting information. Difficult to do so virtually

    1. rollyex*

      Good points.
      I think it’s really key to start off with super-easy questions. “How did you hear about the opening?” and things like that. Be mellow and try to smile. Nod at answers to easy questions. Share about the work environment. If you project openness it can come back at you.

    2. Heather*

      Think of it as a facetime call with someone like a friend vs a virtual interview. Your demeanor may come off less formal and project more energy.

  28. DannyG*

    Good lighting can’t be emphasized enough. I have turned a desk lamp against the wall to give a nice, defused lighting without shadows or glare. I also have a nice wooden panel that I can set up at home as a backdrop.

  29. Anax*

    It’s still hot here, so another small one – make sure your fan or other appliances won’t be audible on your call! I test ahead of time to make sure they’re being filtered out by the microphone/software, because interview clothes are typically a little warm and I overheat easily. I won’t interview at my best if I’m turning into a tomato.

    1. Get me outta here*

      And I find I always have nervous sweat anyway. When interviewing in person I always wear a jacket or coat because I get the nervous sweat, then their air conditioning makes me cold from the sweat and I start to shiver! It’s a dreadful situation

  30. Nina*

    My dad (works from home, constant video calls) has his office in my old bedroom because the light is fantastic nearly all day buuuuuuut there is a wall of beanie babies and Trixie Belden that is not amazingly profesh and that my mom won’t let him move, so he bought

    – a stand-up clothes airer (you could also use a room divider, but y’know, an airer was cheaper)
    – a white curtain

    pinned the curtain to the airer, put it behind his chair. Hey presto, removable neutral background.

  31. Orange_Erin*

    Get comfortable with whatever video conferencing service the interview takes place on. Each service is a little different so taking some time beforehand to figure out backgrounds (I’m also in the blur background camp but blurring on Zoom looks very different than say Teams), sound settings, camera flips, etc. Call a friend on the service and test it out.

    If you wear glasses keep in mind there could be reflection/glare from your screen on your glasses (another reason to go through a trial run).

    It’s okay to drink water/coffee, take notes, take a moment to collect your thoughts, etc. Treat the conversation just like you would if you were in person.

  32. Orange_Erin*

    One more tip, this should probably be obvious, but don’t use your phone for the interview (unless your computer had a catastrophic failure). I’ve had so many new-to-the-workforce candidates just jump on their phones to do a video call interview. I can tell it’s a phone, the screen tends to move around and you are much closer to the camera than if you were sitting at a desk in front of a webcam.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Or set up the phone on a stand using all of the same advice about eye level and all that.

  33. Champagne Cocktail*

    I tend to recommend the partial blur vs a virtual background. Oftentimes they can throw your audio and video out of sync.

    If you’re not using an app, but using your browser, clear your cache and restart Chrome, Firefox, Edge, whatever you’re using sometime before you start. I’ve found this especially helpful with Teams which can be a big resource sucker.

    If you’re taking notes on another screen or on a pad of paper next to you, tell your audience so they understand why you might not be staring at the camera the whole time.

    This might sound weird, but don’t be afraid to use gestures. It’s a way to show enthusiasm and engagement. I’ve noticed friendlier responses in interviews where I’ve done that.

    Good luck!

  34. MissMeghan*

    Additional tip: Take note of who all is on the call so you can do thank you’s after like you would for an in-person interview.

  35. spcepickle*

    This sounds basic – but do not interview while holding your phone! I had two people do that last week and it was so distracting as they moved and bobbed around.
    Using your phone to interview is fine, but make sure you have good place to prop it and have worked out how to get good sound to it.

    1. Lucy*

      If you need to use your phone for some reason, pick up a small tripod or even a selfie stick, so it can be nice and steady.

  36. Lucy*

    A couple people have mentioned this, but lighting is really important. Ring lights that plug into USB are cheap and plentiful, and many will let you adjust the lighting temperature warmer or cooler, so you can get a nice flattering light.

    If you plan to blur your background or use a virtual one, having your face brightly lit helps separate it from the background. This is (unfortunately) especially important for people with darker skin, as most video calling programs are calibrated for lighter-skinned folks. Even if you’re just using your room as a backdrop, light helps the camera find you.

    I also personally find that having a bright light near the screen helps signal my brain that this is the most important thing happening in the room and I need to pay attention to it.

  37. Raida*

    That sounds just fine.

    Alternatively, just use a background filter – everyone is used to them by now, it’s not going to be odd if you’ve got it blurred or replaced with a photo.

  38. RedinSC*

    Movement is much more noticeable on camera than in person. So practice sitting still and talking into the camera. Don’t sway back and forth, or bounce your leg up and down. All of those actions are super noticeable on video calls and much less so in person. Record yourself having a little conversation and watch that as practice.

    1. Get me outta here*

      Also on this topic, if you have a wobbly desk it can exaggerate movement too. I have a colleague whose screen is always shaking around a bit during meetings and it’s not her but the screen moving with the desk movement.

  39. Miss Flowerpot*

    One recommendation from someone who has interviewed a lot of people on video this year: if you share living space with anyone else, give them a heads up that you will be having a video and, if at all possible, enclose yourself in a separate (hopefully quiet-ish) room while you’re in the interview. I was in the middle of interviewing one man whose roommate walked in and proceeded to do dishes throughout the second half of the interview. I pretended I didn’t notice but… yeah. Not great!

  40. Nicki Name*

    I’ve found it helps me look at the camera if I position the images of other people as close to the camera as possible. (With a laptop and an extra monitor, this basically means putting the video window on the laptop screen.)

    1. Get me outta here*

      That’s a great idea! I usually position my notes right under the camera so it doesn’t look like I’m reading off a page

  41. Get me outta here*

    Re wearing pants: I once worked for an awesome fun organisation who told me about one of my colleagues, the very reason they’d hired him was because he stood up in his virtual interview revealing a pair of board shorts, so they knew he was going to be fun and fit in.

  42. Name (Required)*

    It’s really hard to look at the camera instead of the person on the screen. If I can’t see someone’s face when I’m talking to them I can miss a lot of non verbal cues. Someone suggested to me to shrink your meeting window and place it at the top of your screen right underneath your camera. You’ll be close enough to looking at the camera that you’ll be appearing to make eye contact AND you can look the pertain in the face

  43. Tiger Snake*

    My computer is also in my bedroom. If I recall, last time I had a video interview, I move anything that wasn’t physically impossible to carry to a different room, moved my decorations off the wall into another room, made up my bed real nice, and then carefully piled pillows tall-wise on the side of the bed that’s up against the wall.

    That made it look like the bed was actually used for the purposes of being a couch/sitting space, and that meant it looked like I was in a neutral spare room that doubled as both an office space and a spare bedroom, rather than my personal space.

Comments are closed.