One way to impress the heck out of your job interviewers these days is to get some cool gadgets for video conferencing. As a senior banker who now works as a lecturer and career coach, I’ve been using more tech during my own Zoom calls – so I know that having the right equipment (and using it well) can help you make a much bigger impact during a video meeting.
Here are my nine tips that will help you stand out from those who are just using the standard features of their laptops during online interviews.
1. Have a good camera angle and consider a laptop stand
Most people put their laptop on their study table which means your camera is much lower than your eyes, and the interviewer will be looking up your nostrils! You can trim your nostril hair…or raise the height of your camera to eye level. I also use a laptop stand, but a couple of thick books underneath your laptop will also do the job.
2. Buy a good external camera
The webcam that comes with your laptop is good for chatting with friends, but if you want to impress your interviewers, you need an external camera. I use a changeable lens digital camera. With this, I can adjust the width of the view to show what I want the interviewer to see (or not see). A good camera will focus on you while keeping the background soft to give a professional look. A cheaper option is an external webcam which will still improve your video quality significantly. Popular webcam models are running low on stocks worldwide, so buy one early and get familiar with how it operates well before any interview.
3. Never use your laptop mic
Great audio is even more important than great video. Never use the computer/laptop mic – never, never, never! It picks up background noise and you also get reverberance (or echo). If the interviewers find it hard to hear you, it will be difficult for you to even get through the interview. I use a USB condenser mic (see main image above) but the earphone that comes with your mobile phone will work well too. Apple AirPods work even better as they cut out background noise.
4. Get the lighting right
Many people use a bright window or white wall as their background on Zoom calls. But a camera sets its brightness based on the average brightness of the entire image, so your face won’t be bright enough if you use this kind of background. You should instead position yourself next to a window, so that one side of your face is slightly brighter than the other side – this gives your face some depth. If there is no window, you can use a desk lamp to bounce light off a wall to light up one side of your face. I use a window on one side and a softbox light on the other (see main picture above).
5. Showcase your backdrop
Use your backdrop to your advantage by showcasing your personality and interests. For example, I display books I’ve read, some plants to indicate my interest in gardening, and my LinkedIn Spotlight award to demonstrate my strong following on that platform. An appropriate artistic or creative arrangement in the background will make you stand out from other candidates. I also have three layers to my video (near is my face, middle is my bookcase, and far is a dimly lighted walkway in my house).
6. Don’t wear shorts
To make your face appear brighter, wear dark clothes (I wear a navy-blue suit on my Zoom calls). Avoid wearing too many accessories to reduce distractions. And don’t forget to wear your pants or a skirt, because you may need to stand up during the Zoom to find that gold medal you won in high school. Don’t made the mistake I once made by wearing shorts.
7. Have your phone by your side
Don’t use your phone as the device for a video call because the interviewer may be sending you last-minute messages or emails to change the timing. But have your phone by your side in case you want to google something quickly during the interview.
8. Share your screen and annotate
Make sure you are very familiar with the share and annotate functions (the latter lets you draw on a shared screen) in Zoom. Then during the interview, try to lead the interviewer to discuss a project you have worked on. For example, “I did a lot of financial modeling in my last job and in school, can I show you my spreadsheet?”. You could even prepare a few photos to show some of your activities outside work. And if you have created some artwork, show it off to demonstrate your creativity.
9. Smile and raise your hands
As a Zoom interviewer cannot see your full body to read your body language or gauge your interest, smile more than usual to show that you’re engaged. Show your hands on the screen a few times during the interview to win trust. You will need to raise your hands to ear level for them to be visible to the interviewer.
Lastly, be familiar with platforms such as Webex and MS Teams as well as Zoom. You never know which system interviewers might use. Hope you ace that interview! Good luck!
Eric Sim, CFA, PRM, is one of the most sought-after speakers in Asia. His recent live-streaming speech, “Brand Yourself to Attract Career Opportunities, organised by the CFA Institute, attracted more than 1,000 attendees from around the world. A successful career coach, Eric is the founder of Institute of Life (IOL) whose mission is to help young professionals become successful at work and in life. He currently guest lectures at the National University of Singapore and Queen’s University (Canada). Previously, Eric served as a managing director at UBS Investment Bank based out of Hong Kong.