There are some tricks to looking good and putting forth a positive version of yourself on camera, though, and we’ve all seen examples of people who haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. (Anyone see SNL’s latest take on the Zoom meeting? There’s a reason it was so funny!)
Luckily, having a meeting over a video chat can help ease the pressure that comes from in-person interviews. You can be in your own comfortable space, use notes your interviewer isn’t able to see, and best of all, wear your pajama bottoms as long it’s out of frame and you’re wearing a professional shirt.
That being said, there is also a whole new list of distractions you could be vulnerable to. While it might seem more informal because you’re in the comfort of your own home, you’re still expected to wear your big kid hat and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Here are five tips you can use to ensure you’re acing your virtual interview!
I’m combining these two items because they are so simple and obvious, yet one of the biggest problems with virtual interviews, even amongst adults. Well before the scheduled call, test the video link or make sure your technology is working, adjust your lighting and camera angles, test your mic and speakers, and be ready at least five minutes before your interview. Be waiting for them whenever they are ready— that shows you’re taking this seriously, and you’re prepared for the responsibilities you are interviewing for. Next, make sure your phone is off. That’s right, off. Not on vibrate, not on silent…you want that puppy powered down and on the opposite side of the room. Better yet, put it in a different room. Nothing is worse than being in the middle of telling the admissions counselor how focused and scholarly you are, only to have your phone start vibrating right next to your computer mic. Silencing it doesn’t count either. I’m over 30 years old, and even I can’t resist looking at my phone when it lights up to tell me I got another “like” on Instagram. It will throw you off, and show you’re not giving your full attention, or even worse, it will show them you aren’t respecting the time of the interviewer. Pro tip: nothing makes adults more frustrated than feeling like their time is being wasted.
You are the focus of attention here— all parties on the call are there for you. They’re not there for your adorable dog begging for attention in the background or the acid rock poster on the wall, and definitely not for your mom barging in asking if you have a load of laundry she can add to the washer.
Ensure that what you have framed in the video are things you want the interviewer to see. Then ensure you can keep it that way during the entirety of the session. Just like an Instagram notification, one distraction can throw off your groove and prevent you from properly communicating how awesome you are.
I’ll admit, I am guilty of this one. It’s so difficult, especially during something that makes us all a little self conscious, not to stare at yourself while you’re talking. The more you fixate on what you look like, the less you’re fixated on the content of your answers.
Another pro tip: despite what social media teaches us about selfie culture, people don’t put as much weight into our looks as we do to ourselves. I can guarantee that you didn’t snag this interview because of your selfie game, just as much as I can guarantee you that you won’t get rejected because you think your mouth moves really weird when you talk.* Make sure to look at your interviewer in the eyes the same way you would if it were an in-person interview.
*Actual thought I’ve had to myself during a video chat.
Everybody has their own brand. If you are interviewing for a college, special program, or scholarship, you can be peppy and preppy, quirky and dorky… whatever it is that you identify with, showcase it. Now, I’m not advocating you wear your favorite Steph Curry jersey because you’re a big jock. However, if sports are a big part of who you are and it’s a sports interview, maybe you could wear that team jersey. If you’re artistic and creative and love bright colors, don’t be scared to wear your bright purple cat eye glasses with a bright red top IF you are applying to a school that loves this kind of individuality. This is all part of the non-verbal communication during a virtual interview that tells the interviewer more about who you are.
Similarly, don’t be scared to brag about the things you nerd out on to your admissions counselor. Do you have coding parties with your friends? Nerd out on them. Do you make YouTube videos of short movies you write and direct and have your friends act in? Bring it up! Some of the things you might find most embarrassing when you’re a teenager are actually the coolest things when you’re an adult. Admissions counselors are wondering what makes you different from every other candidate, so make sure you show them every way you are!
Going back to that first pro tip, adults really hate it when they feel like their time is being wasted. Do your homework on the school or program and come prepared with questions. Don’t go on and on about how much you want to be part of a theater program if the school you’re interviewing for specializes in science and math. Think critically about what you want out of the experience and ask the admissions counselors questions during your virtual interview to see if the school can meet those expectations.
If you love project and group work, ask how the classes and assignments are structured. If you love to sing, ask what extracurricular activities are available! If you play tennis, see if they have a team, or if there are courts nearby. Once again, this shows that you’ve thought about what you want and that you’re serious about your education and future. Admissions counselors can easily spot the difference between a student who cares and wants to be there (even during a virtual interview!) and those whose parents are pushing them into something they are completely apathetic about.
Last but not least, kill it! You’ll do great. Take a deep breath. Smile. Say please and thank you. And if you really want to make an impression, follow up the interview with a hand written thank you card expressing your continued interest. Adults love stuff like that. Good luck!
By Kristina Grappo, B.A. Communications, Class of 2010, and now a professional social media guru and human resources boss! Updated during COVID-19 to reflect everyone’s new reality.