By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Are you ready for your close-up? With companies like Skype and Google+ Hangouts increasingly turning to video-chat software (WSJ article) to screen prospective engineering contractors, you need to shine when it’s time to turn on the webcam.
Here’s how to make the most of your moment in the spotlight.
Set the stage
There’s no need to rent space in a video conferencing center as long as you have a quiet, professional-looking spot to interview, and a computer outfitted with a reliable high speed Internet connection and video equipment.
Although smartphones and tablets are great for chatting with friends, experts say the technology may not be robust enough for a live interview. Consider investing in a high-definition webcam (around $50), and a good microphone or wireless headset, so you don’t underwhelm the interviewer with the grainy image from the camera in your aging laptop.
Don’t sit in front of a window or a stark white wall because the glare will darken your face. Use a professional backdrop like a bookcase, plant or artwork, slightly dim the overhead lights, and place a halogen desk lamp beside you to illuminate your face.
Remove sticky notes and piles of files from your desk that may distract the interviewer. Sit at a slight angle, if it’s more flattering, and don’t lean into the camera when you speak. The interviewer should see your upper body – and your hands when you gesture – not just a talking head.
Avoid patterned blouses and loud ties that distract from your face or plain white shirts which make you look washed out. Instead, wear a solid colored, collared shirt or blouse and a jacket. When in doubt, consult your recruiter to make sure you select a flattering outfit that matches the company’s culture.
Finally, avoid interruptions by hanging a “do not disturb” sign on the door, closing the windows and turning off your email and phone. Keep barking dogs, quarreling kids and noisy roommates at bay until the interview is over.
Of course, you need to test your equipment and connection well beforehand to make sure they are working. Download the software and do a dry run with a friend to assess the volume and quality of your voice, your facial expressions and the timing of your responses. You may need to speak more slowly, or pause between sentences, to compensate for a slight transmission delay.
Maintain eye contact with the interviewer by looking directly into the camera when you speak. This takes a bit of practice, since your eyes will be drawn to their image on the screen. Try inserting your webcam into a photo of a friend or relative as a subtle reminder of where you should focus. Be sure to adjust the position of your webcam and your chair so you’re not looking up or down, but straight into the lens.
Have a glass of water and a copy of your resume handy, but don’t get too comfortable. Research the company, anticipate the interviewer’s questions and practice your answers, because this is a real interview and the dress rehearsal is over the second you turn on the webcam.