Technology plays such a large role in the hiring and recruiting process these days. So you shouldn't be surprised if you're asked to participate in a virtual job interview for one or more positions for which you've applied.
Basically, the same rules apply whether an interview is in-person or online. You should conduct yourself in the same professional manner. But there are a few other things to consider with regards to technology. Use these tips to make sure you appear as approachable through a webcam as you would in-person.
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1. Get your technology ready. These days, most computers come with webcams. Make sure to test yours out before your interview, so that you have time to invest in a better camera if yours isn't up to par, or to adjust the lighting so the interviewer can see you.
Depending on what video platform the employer plans to use, you may need to install additional software, like Skype or ooVoo. After installing it, test it out by calling a friend who also has webcam capabilities. This can help you pinpoint issues with sound or voice quality, and you can take care of them prior to trying to impress the hiring manager.
2. Dress for the camera. Not every type of clothing renders as well on camera as it does in real life. Patterns tend to appear jumbled and may be an eyesore, so stick to plain colors. If the camera washed out your features during your test run, wear colors that complement your skin type, and wear a little extra makeup if you're a woman. Just don't go overboard--you want to look natural, and sometimes that requires a little extra effort for the camera.
3. Remove distractions. Make sure that your pets and your children are in a different room when it comes time for your interview. Shooing your cat off your keyboard mid-sentence kills the flow of the conversation. Make plans to have the kids and pets cared for while you are on the interview to avoid all noise distractions and interruptions.
Don't forget to look for visual distractions behind you on screen. A messy room, the corner of your bed, and busy walls distract the interviewer and appear unprofessional. A neutral-colored, blank wall or a tidy office-like environment work best.
4. Do a dry run. In addition to simply checking that your technology works beforehand, it may be helpful for you to have a mock interview with a friend via webcam. This can help you adjust your volume (or talk speed) to ensure the interviewer can hear and understand you well.
5. Look directly into the camera. We have the tendency to look at our monitor when using the computer, but if you are looking at the monitor while on a webcam, the viewer perceives that you are looking away or at something else. Look directly into the camera during the interview to give a sense of eye contact.
It's also a good idea to practice some of the same habits you would for a traditional job interview. Dress professionally, and do your research on the company prior to the interview. Review commonly asked interview questions, as well as those that require a bit of finesse to answer so that you're never tongue-tied.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.