Now more than ever, it's important that you look great on camera in your next interview. This is something that doesn't get talked about enough. Obviously, you need to bring the content as well — make sure you're fully prepared for your interview, do roleplays, review most-asked questions and do your research.
Here are seven tips to look amazing for your next virtual interview:
1. Use the camera on your phone, not the one on your laptop.
Unless your laptop is brand new, most likely its camera is nowhere near as good as the camera on your phone. So I would suggest joining the meeting link in advance to see if you are able to join with your phone. Most of them allow you to download and use an app to log in from mobile. Your picture will look amazing compared to most laptop computers, which generally don't have very good cameras.
2. Turn your phone horizontal.
I know a lot of us are accustomed to using our phones in portrait format. However, for interviewing, I recommend using the widescreen or horizontal mode. Otherwise, it's not going to look good in the Zoom meeting. This is because most virtual platforms are designed for the horizontal or widescreen format, not portrait.
3. Place your phone on a tripod.
We're not talking about a big investment here. For $15 on Amazon, you can pick up an inexpensive tripod to set up on your desk, or else someplace where you can stand. I know that sounds odd. But if this is an interview that's very important to you, I suggest standing. Personally, I feel I have better energy when standing. If you feel more comfortable sitting down, still put your phone on a tripod. This will help you avoid constantly adjusting it, which can be very distracting during the interview process.
4. Place your natural light source in front of you, not behind you.
I see this happen quite a bit when I interview people. They have the light source, which is usually a window, behind them, and that's the opposite of what you want to do. You want to have a light source in front of you. People may say they want to show their nice background, but a light source behind you doesn't show the background, it washes out the scene so the interviewer can't see it. If you're going to have a window involved, make sure you're facing it. This means you'll have to give some attention to what's behind you, which we'll also address in just a moment. If you do not have access to sufficient natural light, feel free to use lighting that faces you.
5. Dress exactly like you would for an in-person interview.
If you would normally dress up to go in for a face-to-face interview, dress up. Don't try to go too casual; I see that quite a bit as well. The exception to that rule would be if you're interviewing during the workday, and they understand that you're at work, whatever you wear to work is fine.
6. Use a plain background.
Just like I mentioned earlier, if you're going to make your light source a window, that means a wall is going to be behind you. Try to make it as plain as possible so there's little chance for distraction. Remove logos, quotes, symbols or anything that can distract from the interview — you can put them right back up when the interview is over. If you're like me, I'm sure you look at someone's background when you're talking to them over video chat. You can't help it; your eye just goes there. So, let's minimize those distractions for your interviewer.
7. Use an external microphone.
Most of us can tolerate bad video better than we can tolerate bad sound. Think about all the things you watch or listen to in a given day. When the sound quality is not good, or if there's background noise, it's just not something you're drawn to. An external microphone will greatly improve the sound quality of your voice. Many are relatively inexpensive, like lavalier microphones. You can pick these up for $20 to $30, and a better one for $35 on Amazon. This is a relatively small investment for a business opportunity that could ultimately net you hundreds of thousands of dollars (depending on how long you work at your new company and what position you take). Having an external mic also helps drown out some of the external sounds that are normally quite loud on laptop and phone mics.
These tips are based on hundreds of interviews conducted over the past two years. If you are able to implement them, they will help you stand out as a top candidate from a presentation standpoint. You will also likely feel more comfortable during the interview, which contributes to a great experience for you as well as the other party. Happy interviewing!