Looking for a job has changed a lot in the past ten years. For one thing, there’s less of a need to actually leave your house for a job interview.
Inexpensive Web cams and videoconferencing tools like Skype mean that, nowadays, your first interview (or first couple of interviews) with a company may take place in front of your home computer — maybe, that is, a “virtual interview.”
But although the technology is ready, are you? Before your virtual interview, make sure you’re prepared.
- Get a handle on it.
Whether it’s Skype, an instant-messaging client, or another videoconferencing app, you likely have a user name or “handle” that you sign in with. Make sure it’s not something like beerlover2011 or casanova4u. As with your email account, choose something professional — if you can’t use just your name because it’s already taken, try your name combined with your industry (jsmith_Construction, for instance).
- Dress for it.
Even for a phone interview, getting dressed as you would for a face-to-face interview can make you feel more confident and professional (and that feeling will affect your performance). Don’t be casual just because the medium seems more casual. And don’t go with the business-on-top, bunny-pajamas-on-the-bottom look. You just might have to stand up for some reason, so get dressed all the way down to the shoes.
- Straighten it up.
Consider your background, and make sure it’s professional. You don’t want to start the chat on your Web cam and then notice that your unmade bed is in the corner of the shot. Position your camera so that an interviewer might think you’re in an office (sit in front of a bookshelf, for instance), find a neutral-color background, or find some other background that represents you as a professional in your industry. And make sure you have a copy of your CV and your portfolio (and so on) at hand.
- Keep the cat out of it.
I participate in video chats all the time, and I often work from a home office — where my cat has elected herself as my assistant (she likes to help me type). If she shows up in the frame when I’m chatting with a colleague, it’s not a big deal. But when I do more professional meetings, I close the door to Kitty. Whether you’re on the phone or on a Web cam, move pets and kids out of the area, and make sure the environment is quiet (no TV blaring in the next room).
- Get an angle on it.
If you’re using a laptop at a traditional desk, your built-in camera may be positioned below your face. As any movie star will tell you, this can be an unflattering angle. A face-on view is better; setting your laptop on a couple of books might help. And pay attention to lighting: if you sit with your back to a very bright window, your face will appear as a dark blob; a light to the side can give you an overly dramatic, shadowy look. Muted sun through a window positioned in front of your desk (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) or a uniform lighting source will help you shine in the interview. (Test your setup with a friend before the big day.)