originally written by Kristina Grappo and updated for 2020
Okay real talk. The Zoom (or other video chat feature) interview is great. You don’t have to leave your house, you don’t have to wear pants, the possibilities are really endless. Technology– ammiright?! Don’t get too excited yet though. There are many of elements of a video appointment that you still need to be very conscious of… things that you don’t have to worry about when you’re meeting in person. Here’s how to ace the boarding school interview or college admissions Zoom interview.
It’s easy to not pay as much regard to something that is online because you don’t have the accountability of having to face-to-face interview, so it’s easy to think it’s NBD. But it really is. We all have smart phones, so make sure you put that in your phone and set alarms. Typically, being the aloof ADD person that I am, I will set an alarm for one day prior– to remind me that I need to be thinking about it– and several the next day. Normally, when I wake up, then about an hour before. The biggest part of being an adult is ensuring that people know you take your life seriously– being on time to appointments is one way to show that.
I like to think of a video chat interview or appointment as an opportunity to be in the spot light on a stage. Think about it– you’re on someone’s screen, which means 100% of their focus is on you. If this were a boy or girl you were interested in, you’d ensure you had the best hair, makeup, background, etc. So carry that into your professional life– make sure the lighting is proper, you both can hear each other easily (neither of you want to decode what the quiet person said, nor do either of you want your speakers breaking because the person sounds like a fog horn on the other side).
That means setting your speakers and microphone to appropriate levels, ensuring you’re showing up bright enough, your computer is in a position that frames your face (not just your forehead), and you have an appropriate setting behind you (helpful tip: colleges don’t take well to Zoom with dudes who have posters of girls in bikinis behind them….). Do a trial run with your BFF – do you show up so dark against a dimly lit background that one can’t see you? Or with light coming from behind that are you just silhouetted against the background?
If it is hard for you to find privacy in your house because of nagging parents (I know, RIGHT?!) or annoying siblings, stay late after school, and ask teachers, professors, etc. if you can use a study room for an important interview. People tend to have a big pet peeve with interruptions during a Zoom interview. While it may seem informal due to cutting edge technology you’re using, someone is still giving up their time to talk to you, so you need to be respectful of that.
This is a big one… hands can make or break an interview. Whether you are interviewing or simply meeting with someone, nothing is more distracting than a fidgety person. Many of us tend to wiggle pens, twirl our hair, shuffle papers, touch our faces, text, tap, etc. when we are nervous. It happens! Feel free to express yourself and talk using your hands, but make sure they aren’t taking away from the real show– YOU. Just know that on Zoom– again– you are on stage in a spotlight. Someone’s FULL focus is on you. Be hyper-conscious of your body language, because people notice. Better yet, why not put those hands to good use and take notes during the interview! People notice that too.
We all love the “only waist-up” look. Any opportunity I have to wear pants with an elastic waistband, I really like to take advantage of. So when someone offers me the opportunity to not only stay at home, but to not have to worry about what going on on the southern hemisphere of my body as well, I’m all in. This can get dangerous, however.
While we’d all love to wear pajama bottoms during interviews, be conscious of the fact that you COULD have to get up during an interview. “Oh why, yes, I do have an art portfolio– let me share it with you!”– then the second you get up, your appointment sees that below your perfectly done make up, curled hair, and argyle sweater, you’re wearing some old, pilled yoga pants. Believe me, it happens, and people notice. Again, you’re on a stage, so make sure you’re fitting your part and dressed for your role!
Appearance makes a difference. No matter what industry you’re in, people notice what you’re wearing. I work in a creative industry– so what I wear is expected to say a lot about me. Don’t feel like you need to compromise your personal style for the sake of an interview– just make sure it is appropriate for the situation. If you have long flowing gorgeous dark locks, that’s rad– show them off. But make sure they stand out in a way that is appropriate– this means, wear a lighter colored shirt so they stand out, perhaps pull them into a tasteful side pony-tail to prevent you from flipping and twirling, and keep a simple style (up-do’s and ringlet curls are for prom, not interviews).
We are all old enough to know the value of pleases and thank you’s. However, sometimes people forget basic etiquette when it comes to technology. This is an interview, just like any other interview. That means, you need to prepare for it, take it seriously, and be courteous of the person on the other side. So, hello’s, how are you’s, smiles, eye contact, pleasant personalities, and engagement are all things you want to strive for.
Try to pretend like you are in the same room and relax. Don’t be afraid to be animated and engaging in during the interview. Keep eye contact and remember to smile! Interviews are held to allow for people to get to know you better. Find a nice compromise in fitting the profile (of college student, intern, new hire, etc.), while maintaining what makes you YOU.
Gah, if this isn’t the best saying there is. Prepare, prepare, prepare!! I can’t tell you how annoying it is when I take the time to give an interview and I ask if they have any questions and I get the answer “Umm, like, I don’t know! I don’t think so!”. That automatically tells me someone is not interested. Prepare yourself with good questions. What do you want to know about this person, boarding school, college, internship or job? What do you want to get out of it? In which ways will this benefit you?! Interviews are a two-way street– this is also your opportunity to see if this will be a good fit for you, so come in with questions for yourself- what is important to you? Does that boarding school/college have the kind of classes you see yourself taking? majors? extracurricular activities? school community? networks? experience? If it’s an internship or job interview, can you see yourself growing within the position? Take ownership of that future, kid!
Similarly, you want to be prepared for the questions they might ask you. It is typical for people to ask you what your strength and weaknesses are. Have some bullet points ready. Weaknesses need to be honest, but obviously have a positive note. Everyone will call bull**** if you say your weakness is that “you care too much”. Let them know that you like to take on a lot of things but find yourself spread thin– and then let them know how you fix this. “I take on a lot of projects, so I have had to develop a system for myself where I have an active to-do list where I write everything down and prioritize”. Everyone has weaknesses– it’s how you deal with them that counts.
Whether it’s an interview for a school, college, internship, or job, know something about them first and know what questions to ask. I once went into an informational interview– I was hoping to talk to someone I admired to learn more about the industry I wanted to go into. When we sat down, he asked me why we were meeting. I was able to say– “Well, I saw that you have done A. B. and C., and am very interested in how you did it. What is the road that led you onto project A. and how did that help with project B.?” He was so impressed that I already had that basis of knowledge, and our meeting was able to be so much more productive because he didn’t have to spend the time talking to me about those basics. I got a job offer at the end of this informational interview.
The internet is a beautiful thing, so take advantage of it. Do your research. Have your questions before you do your research so you can see if you can answer them yourself, and find if there are any follow up questions.
More often than not, people have busy schedules– so be respectful and courteous of people’s time. That means, again, have those questions prepared, be conscious of how much time that person has already spent with you, and ensure that you have expressed WHO you are and WHY they want you. And most importantly, go back to those manners. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you (send an email a few hours later as well– it will go a long way), and thank them for their consideration.
Go into every interview asking yourself– what do they want? and what do I want? How do I show them that we have a shared goal and I’m the right person for this school, college, or the part? No one wants to admit or hire someone who makes them wait, is quiet, and not prepared. So ask yourself– “If I were the admissions officer or boss, what would I be looking for in a student or candidate?”. Answer that yourself and go from there. You got this!!
Not sure what job is the right fit for you? RNG now offers career assessment help, click here!