Halloween is just around the corner, and unfortunately, due to the pandemic traditional door-to-door trick or treating may be canceled in some places.  What a shame!  Halloween is an excellent opportunity for kids to dress up in superheroes and other goodies from their willing neighbors.  Of course, amid this ongoing pandemic, keeping distance is all for the best; however, all is not lost; there are other things to do other than trick or treating.  How about a virtual Zoom Halloween party or a Halloween candy hunt around the house?  People are creative when it comes to celebration and will make the best of the situation in a safe, responsible way. 

In honor of Halloween this year, I thought I would contribute by providing scary online interview stories.   

In the midst of this pandemic, the new scary for many candidates is not Halloween; it’s the dreaded Zoom, Skype, or Facetime interview.  But it doesn’t need to be that way.  Here are a few tips and real-life scenarios that I would like to share with you to eliminate the fear of doing online interviews.  These are things to avoid, which will help lead to a successful online interview.  While these tips may seem obvious to some, I have, as an interviewer, experienced them all to some degree, so this may help those who haven’t had much experience with interviewing for a job online. 

Scary campfire stories: 

If like me, you were one of those kids who were sent away to summer camp, much to the joy of our parents, this will be something you can relate to.  As night fell around the campfire, Bob, the camp counselor, began to tell scary ghost stories, which for the most part, were lame and unimaginative. However, when he put the flashlight under his chin for effect, it would light up his face, which became distorted in a strange, frightening, and psychotic way.  This was when things got scary, and you began to hear strange noises in the woods, getting closer and closer. 

Now switch to the 2020 mid-pandemic online interview.  The slightly nervous candidate looks down (or up) at his laptop with the lighting above or below his face.  As with the camp counselor, this is not the candidate’s best look and is kind of creepy, leading me to online interview tip number one. 

Online Interview – Tip 1: Don’t look like Bob, the scary camp counselor.   

  • Lighting is crucial: have the light directly across from your face, not too close, but it should be enough that it illuminates your face evenly, not from below or above, or on either side.   The best light is direct natural daylight, so sitting across from a window is ideal; however, a ring light or another similar light can be used to light your face evenly.  Also, make sure the lighting overall is not dim, and you are in a well-lit space.   Before the interview, try a few places in your home where the light may be best.  
  • Camera positioning:  First of all, don’t use your phone or iPad.  Use your computer or laptop and position the camera at eye level. Ideally, put it on a stand or, if you don’t have a laptop stand a few thick books, so the camera is at the correct level.  Do your best to simulate how it would look if you were sitting across from someone at a restaurant or coffee shop.  You don’t look down on them, and you don’t look up at them. Keep your laptop or computer at an even level.  Test it out with your family member or friend well before the interview so ensure it looks right and ask them for feedback.

Werewolves and Vampires lurking in the house: 

Pets. Many of us have pets in our homes these days, and it’s great to have these little (and sometimes big) companions in our lives, particularly during the pandemic, when things can get a little lonely in isolation. Pets are great to have around but not in our formal interviews.   

Online interview – Tip 2:  Keep the scary animals from interrupting the interviews

  • If you suspect that your dog may start barking or your cat may jump up on your desk or lap for a nap in the middle of your interview, keep them out of the room. If possible, ask your spouse or significant other to keep an eye on your pets or take the dog out for a walk during your interview.  There is nothing worse than a dog barking loudly in the middle of your interview because someone may have come to your door.  Yes, of course, we need to be tolerant given the fact we are interviewing from home, so if you have no other means of 100% silencing your pet, at the very least, let the Interviewer know you have a pet in the house. 

Hoarders Buried Alive:   

One of the most disturbing shows on TV is hoarders, particularly Season 8, Buried Alive.  It’s basically about people who have buried themselves in personal items and cannot bear to get rid of anything regardless of its actual value.  I can’t watch any episode for more than a few minutes, making me feel anxious myself.   You may be asking yourself; how does this remotely relate to online interviews?  Well, I was getting to that.  How much do you consider your background when doing a video interview?  

While I am not suggesting you are in any way a hoarder with a bit of a messy room in view, however, your background is critical.  If your environment is cluttered and disorganized, this will distract the Interviewer and may be misinterpreted as an inability for you to stay organized.   Keep your background well-ordered and uncluttered.   Equally strange, however, is an empty background, and you are in front of a blank wall.  Again, practice your set up with a friend or family member and ask them what they think of your overall background. 

Online interview – Tip 3: Keep your background uncluttered but not empty

Perhaps a lovely organized bookshelf, plants, something minimalistic and relatively neutral.  I am not a big fan of a virtual background because, well, it looks fake, and as an interviewer, I would like to understand the environment you would be working in, mainly if the job offered is remote or partially work from home.   

Finally, I’ve mentioned this a few times, but I really can’t emphasize it enough, you must do a dress rehearsal before the interview with a family member or friend.  Ask them about sound, lighting, background. How is your eye contact?  How do you look? Ask them to be brutally honest.  As Ben Franklin said, ‘If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ and that’s very scary, but it doesn’t have to be; with some consideration, you could ace the interview if you take the time to test the medium of online interviewing first.   



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