don't do this on a video interviewPart of me is amazed that I need to write this post. I can’t believe people don’t know better given current technology and the prevalence of video interviews but, never fear, I’m here to help!

My advice today?

When you conduct a video interview please make sure there is nothing unprofessional behind you or visible on your desk. Please make sure. Very sure.

Do not make the mistake that someone else did recently. During the entire interview, they were framed by a beer bottle collection on the shelves behind them.

Yup. It happened. It was a little distracting and a lot unprofessional.

How can you come across as the kind of person a company would want to hire this way? It instantly sends a message that you don’t want to send during a job interview. You want them thinking about your skills and how talented you are, not what you do in your spare time. And I’m not just saying no to a lineup of adult beverages. Your stuffed bears, sports trophies, or bobblehead collection are not appropriate either.

When you participate in a video interview, the desk in front of the screen and the wall behind you should be free from clutter. Period. A plant or two, a nice landscape picture, or a simple vase of flowers makes a good backdrop. You want it to be as “office-like” as possible. Think conference room, not dorm room. Dentist office, not family den. Think neutral, simple and clean.

And, as long as we’re at it, here are a few other things NOT to do for a video interview:

  • Dress casually (or worse!). Doesn’t matter that you’re only on the phone, you should be in appropriate attire. Dress as you would if you were meeting in person. Wear a suit and tie if that’s what the office dress code is. Or wear a jacket with no tie or vice versa if a bit more casual is really ok.
  • Be in a room that is too light or dark. Don’t sit with a window or bright lamps behind you, the light will reflect and distract. Be careful about too dark though too. Overhead lighting is not very flattering, but it will suffice in a pinch. The best is to have light coming from in front of you, behind your webcam. If you can, sit looking at a window to get natural light, it’s the most flattering. If there’s not enough sunshine, or you don’t have a window, use a lamp on either side of the desk, again, in front of you, not behind. Use soft, natural light bulbs for the best results. 
  • Be interrupted. Silence all notifications and alarms on your computer, cell phone and other devices. Better yet, put the ones you’re not using away in another room. Lock the door, hang a sign, or work another system out with your family, roommates, or anyone else sharing your space. Let them know not to open the door, walk behind you, or otherwise interrupt.
  • Have faulty technology. Make sure your phone, computer mic, speakers, etc. are working and good quality. Have a good, strong connection or signal. Nothing is more frustrating for either participant than sound that fades in and out or is filled with static.

So now you know better. It’s easy to overlook things like this when you are excited about the interview, busy learning about the company, and preparing answers to anticipated questions, but don’t make preventable mistakes. You want your interviewer to notice you, not be distracted. You want your talent and awesomeness to shine through. Don’t make these mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to impressing them!

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