By now, you’re probably familiar with the basics of video interviewing: Find a quiet, clean place to have it, make sure your mic’s turned on, and—seriously—put on some pants.
But with more and more employers using Skype or Google Hangout for their first round interviews—and more and more job seekers knowing the basics—it’s a good idea to take your digital interviewing skills to the next level. From enhancing your sound quality to making sure your body language sends the right message on that small screen, there’s a lot you can do to make sure your digital presence is as professional and polished as your IRL persona.
To learn more, we sat down with experts who specialize in looking and sounding great on screen. Here are their (seriously) pro tips.
Dress to Impress (Not Distract)
While you want to dress professionally (again, from head to toe, not head to waist), don’t just pull out any old interview outfit—take care to make sure what you’re wearing works for video. “Certain colors, like many shades of blue—royal, navy, sky blue—look great on video, while others like reds and hot colors like magenta can be too bright,” says job search expert Alison Doyle.
For the ladies: Pay particular attention to anything that might be a distraction, like jewelry (anything too bright will come off “sparkly like a disco ball” on screen, says Paul Bailo, a digital marketing technology executive and author of The Essential Digital Interview Handbook). Same with showing too much skin—a lower-cut top may look fine in person, but when you’re only visible from the chest up, it can seem like way too much.
Also, as any makeup artist will tell you, what looks great in person can be quite different than what looks great on screen. “It’s OK to use a little more than usual, as makeup tends to not show up as well on camera,” says Hasti Kashfia of DotComplicated. “For those with oily skin, go for a matte primer—for dry skin, try a radiant primer or tinted moisturizer,” recommends celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff. Then, “brighten under the eyes and spot conceal where needed.” She also recommends a good dose of (professional) eye makeup: “Use a deep colored eye pencil [black or brown] and smudge at lashline, then curl lashes and apply multiple coats of mascara.”
Master the Digital Handshake
Just like your in-person interviews, first impressions really matter. “The first five seconds will make or break your digital interview,” says Bailo. “It is those few seconds, when the hiring manager sees you and you see the hiring manager that the digital chemistry is created. That is when this person hopefully thinks, ‘I like what I see, I want to engage in this digital conversation.’”
The first step to creating that digital chemistry? What Bailo calls a “digital handshake.” Think a “slow, confident, professional, firm nod” with “a slight shoulder bend and eyes forward—the other person should not see the top of your head.” When you can’t physically greet the hiring manager, this simple gesture shows that you’re excited to be there and ready to get down to business.
From then on, focus on keeping your eyes on the camera—not on the view from your screen. “Your eyes need to look straight into the camera, so it appears on the other end you are looking right at the other person,” says Bailo. His tip? “Try downloading a photo of the hiring manager, printing it, and making a hole in the photo to allow the camera lens to see through. Now you can look at the photo, which makes it more human to conduct your digital interviews.” (Just keep it small—you still want to be able to see your screen!)
Don’t Forget Body Language
“Someone I was Skype-interviewing with was so motionless, I thought for a while the screen was frozen,” a colleague recently shared with me. Lesson learned: Make sure your body language expresses that you’re engaged and, well, alive. “As you’re communicating, lean forward,” suggests Bailo. “This will show interest and concern and will engage your audience. It will also convey eagerness and willingness to listen.”
Just be careful not to overdo it. “Even more so than in an in-person interview, avoid excessive physical movements,” says Dubroff (think making large hand gestures and wildly nodding or shaking your head). “You'll appear blurry to your interviewer, and none of your facial expressions will be visible.”
Create a “Skype Studio”
If you’re going to be doing a lot of interviewing—or really want to make an impression at a high-stakes meeting—consider creating a mini-studio at your place. Find a quiet corner, buy a roll of seamless paper (Bailo suggests “professional background paper in a nice neutral color that does not compete with your wardrobe”), and hang it from the ceiling. Having a clean, simple backdrop not only looks professional, it makes sure that the interviewer focuses on you and only you.
To perfect the look, add lighting. “Soft, natural lighting is the way to go,” says Bailo. Try having “three lights, one to your right, one to your left… and the third shining up at your background. This creates a wonderful, inviting, caring environment.”
Finally, consider investing in high-quality sound equipment. “The essential part of the digital job interview is the camera—get a name brand HD web camera,” says Bailo. He also recommends upgrading your mic, which will make sure that every word you say is heard loud and clear. “Blue makes an outstanding product specifically for interviewing called the Snowball—you are going to love it and sound fantastic!”
Check out more of our tips for impressing on screen:
- 7 Ways to Nail Your Phone or Skype Interview
- Skype Hype: The Key to Acing Your Virtual Interview
- 7 Steps to a Killer Video Application