How To Ace Your Zoom Interview

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 15, 2020

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Zoom interviews share more similarities than differences with traditional in-person interviews, but not understanding these differences can easily cost you the job.

Many qualified candidates fail to prepare adequately, losing their one shot to make a good impression.

In this article, we’ll explain what a Zoom interview is, as well as give you tips for interview success before and during the call.

What Is a Zoom Interview?

Zoom is a type of video software that allows individuals and groups to call one another remotely. You can communicate with others through your computer’s webcam and mic, as well as screen share and video record.

The term “Zoom interview” also generally describes a remote call made through similar programs such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx.

More and more companies are switching to virtual interviews to screen candidates, so it’s essential to learn their specific nuances.

Companies are conducting Zoom interviews for a few key reasons:

  • It’s quick and easy. Zoom allows recruiters to speak with interviewees at any time from anywhere in the world.

    This enables a company to interview multiple applicants in a shorter amount of time.

  • To ensure applicants fit with the team. Many companies have been migrating team communications to remote platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack in recent years, even before the pandemic began.

    Candidates can certainly be trained to use these tools, but companies would prefer to hire individuals who are already familiar with working in such an environment.

    This is especially the case for software development jobs.

  • Screen a candidate’s professionalism. Many candidates familiar with in-person interviews don’t bother to prepare for Zoom interviews, resulting in unexpected mistakes.

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    Candidates can certainly be trained to use these tools, but companies would prefer to hire individuals who are already familiar with working in such an environment.

    Zoom interviews also offer recruiters the opportunity to filter applicants who are professional enough to doubly prepare from the ones that aren’t.

Preparation Tips for Zoom Interviews

Preparing for a Zoom interview introduces a few unique challenges.

Before the call, make sure you’ve:

  • Done your research. Learning more about the company takes very little time relative to its benefits.

    Take note of:

    1. Products and operations. Impress the interviewer by asking about a certain project the company is undertaking.

      It shows that you’ve come prepared and provides you an opportunity to give a targeted response. You can directly address how you can add value to that specific challenge.

      This also makes it feel as if you’re already a team member since you and the recruiter are now discussing how to tackle the company’s issues moving forward.

      The strategy works especially well when the interviewer is a direct supervisor or otherwise involved in the department.

    2. Company culture. Asking about the company’s culture shows that you value teamwork and collaboration and that you’re serious about the job.

      If the interviewer mentions their work life, this also becomes an opportunity to relate to them and build rapport.

  • Dressed professionally. Adopt the appropriate professional attire that is typical for your industry.

    Make sure to use Zoom’s selfie-camera option to ensure that you look presentable and clean beforehand. Change the camera angle so that it’s level with your face.

    You may also want to avoid wearing black or white clothing, as they often don’t show up well on camera. This is why many news anchors opt to wear blue suits.

    Beyond the joke, many individuals really don’t bother to wear pants during their Zoom interviews. Don’t even consider taking that risk.

  • Prepared notes. Make sure to print out your resume and the position’s job description.

    Your interviewer will doubtlessly refer directly to your resume during the call, and having the job description handy allows you to tailor your responses to its key contents.

    It’s considered strange to bring too many notes to an in-person interview, so take advantage of this benefit of video interviews and prepare as many as you need.

    Write-down bullet points to help you answer common interview questions such as “why are you interested in this position.”

    You can’t exactly hand over your references during a Zoom interview as you could in-person, but print them out anyway just in case they’re mentioned.

  • Done a mock interview. Communicating and delivering answers through a webcam can be somewhat awkward if you haven’t done it before.

    This is especially the case for a group interview, where job-seekers tend to accidentally talk over each other.

    Rehearse with a friend or group of friends until it feels natural.

  • Eliminated possible technical issues. Zoom call a friend at least a day in advance.

    Make sure that the video, audio quality, and internet connection are adequate. Check for any automatic updates your computer may want to perform.

    Discovering such issues too late would be disastrous.

  • Prepared for the unexpected. Even if you’re tested all the technical aspects, you can’t discount the possibility of something going wrong during the interview.

    If you have another laptop, keep it open and ready to the side during your call.

    Make sure that you understand how to use similar video chat applications such as Skype, WebEx, and Google Hangouts in case you and the interviewer need to make a switch.

  • Found a quiet and secluded place. You understand the importance of your job interview, but your kid or dog probably doesn’t.

    If possible, find an isolated room and close the door. Inform the people that you live with not to disturb you during the occasion.

    Definitely refrain from choosing a busy place such as a cafe or coffee shop to conduct the call.

    Don’t forget to silence your phone and put it away, either.

  • Cleared your background. Interviewers understand that candidates often call from their homes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about what’s visible in the background.

    A home office is often the best setting to conduct a Zoom interview.

    Make sure there aren’t any distracting posters, pieces of trash, or otherwise inappropriate materials.

    Don’t aim for the blank white wall behind you either, as that can give off a strange vibe.

    Zoom also has a background blur feature that allows you to avoid this risk entirely.

  • Cleared your screen. Especially for software development related interviews, you should anticipate being asked to perform a task via a shared screen.

    Close all your tabs or choose a neutral website such as the Google homepage, or else you may find yourself scrambling to do so during the actual interview.

  • Prepared your setup. Prop up your laptop so that the camera is level with your face. Too low an angle, and you’ll give the interviewer an unflattering shot of your nostrils.

    Position the shot and sit far away enough that the top of your head is slightly under the top of the frame, and the bottom of the frame cuts off the middle of your chest.

    You don’t need professional lighting, but try to sit in a naturally well-lit room with the light source pointing towards you.

Tips to Follow During Your Zoom Interview

Keep the following guidelines in mind when deciding how to answer and conduct yourself during the Zoom interview.

During the call, make sure you:

  • Stay professional. Video calls are often less nerve-wracking than sitting face-to-face with the interviewer, but that doesn’t mean you should act too casual.

    Remain just as professional as you would in-person and refrain from using slang.

    Pay attention to your body language and posture. Sit upright and be appropriately animated as you speak.

    Of course, none of this means that you should act cold and robotic. Be conversational and friendly.

    Speak directly to the interviewer and maintain eye-contact.

  • Manage your time. Zoom interviews are often much shorter than in-person ones, almost always taking under an hour and as quick as 15 minutes.

    Make sure to practice delivering your answers as concisely as possible. Look up the types of questions that are asked in your specific industry.

    For example, job interviews for sales positions will likely ask you to demonstrate your interpersonal skills and self-discipline.

  • Log on a bit early. Log into Zoom and sit fully prepared at least 10-15 minutes before the interview. This allows you to relax your nerves and ease into the call.

    It’s a good look if interviewers spot you online ahead of time, as it shows that you value their time and the importance of preparation.

    Recruiters sometimes send the wrong room link in their interview confirmation email, so logging on early also lets you catch this mistake and send them a notice.

  • Take notes. Taking notes allows you to ask more pertinent questions to the hiring manager during the later stages of the interview.

    It also helps you tailor your responses to questions, as well as provides a resource for you to refer back to after the call.

    Letting the interviewer know that you’ll be taking notes tells them that you’re engaged and focused. They won’t be left wondering if you’re distracted if your eyes wander off.

  • Ask the interviewer questions. This is just as important to do as during a traditional in-person interview.

    Take physical or mental notes of what questions you want to ask near the end of the interview.

    Not only will you learn useful information by asking questions, but you’ll demonstrate to the interviewer that you’re focused, interested, and professional.

  • Record the interview. Despite it being a slightly uncommon practice, recording your interviews is a powerful tool for securing a job.

    Most individuals interview with several companies before nailing a position, so it’s important to catch your weaknesses and fix them early on.

    Just be sure to ask the interviewer at the beginning of the call if they mind being recorded.

  • Remember to send a follow-up email. Not all interviewers care if candidates send a follow-up email, but don’t risk being the only applicant who doesn’t do so.

    Send a short but polite email that thanks the recruiter for their time, reiterates your interest in the company, and lets them know you’re available should they require anything else from you.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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