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Jobs in the Time of Corona: Acing the Video Interview

June 18, 2020

by Devra Sigle Hermosilla, Assistant Dean of Career and Professional Development

Even as the world starts to slowly reopen, it seems pretty clear that most job interviews in these times will continue to be held via telephone or video-conference for the foreseeable future. The good news is that, unlike three months ago, most legal professionals are getting pretty used to video tools and will not be turned off by this format.

Here are some tips to help you ace your video interview:

  • Create good lighting. I have found it very difficult to find the right lighting balance during my zoom calls - fighting against my transition glasses if I face the window or the shadowy blob if the window is behind me. Neither of these looks would be ideal for a job interview. To avoid looking shadowy or unfocused, test well ahead of the interview to find a spot that shows your face clearly. You can employ some additional lighting industry tips to make you look even better, such as using a special light for this purpose, placing a lamp behind and to the side of your computer, or even placing a white piece of paper on the desk to reflect light up toward your face.
  • Simulate sitting across the table. Set your camera slightly above eye-level and at an appropriate distance so that the top one third of your torso (chest up) is showing. This most closely looks like you are literally sitting across the table from the interviewer. Placing the camera too low is not very attractive, too close is sort of creepy, and looking down or sideways or at the ceiling looks sloppy. Nobody can tell that you’ve stacked your text books and cereal boxes under your laptop to bring it to the right height and you will come across to the interviewer as comfortable and put together.
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds. Once you find your good light and angle (see bullets above), then clear out the line of vision from any distractions or inappropriate items. Your future employer will judge you based on what they see in the background. Make sure the space is tidy, clean, and as simple and free of items as possible. Close the bathroom door. If you really have an awful space for this, then consider using a very simple zoom background that is not cheesy or ridiculous. Lewis & Clark Law School has some campus backgrounds if all else fails.
  • Test your audio. Make sure your audio is working. Do a test call. If you don’t have anyone to test with, Career Services will be more than happy to do a test run with you to make sure you look and sound great.
  • Prepare for technical glitches. Make sure you have a good number to call if the video plan goes haywire. Also, add your name and a professional, interview-like photograph to your Zoom, Meets, or other video profile so that the interviewers can still see your confident, smiling face on their screen even if technical issues require you to go voice only. 
  • Clear the bandwidth. Turn off all other Internet usage items, especially if you’ve been experiencing technical problems with video conferencing.
  • Look at the camera, not your face. This is the hardest thing ever but it is really important to make “eye contact” with your interviewer. Try to look straight into your camera rather than over at your own video. Drag your own image as close to the camera as possible so that your focus appears to be on the camera regardless and, if you must put a sticky note over your own face to stop yourself from staring, then do so.
  • Be enthusiastic. It is harder to convey confidence and enthusiasm over the phone or video, so make sure to keep your face pleasant and interested. One way to convey interest is to lean in slightly toward the speaker with straight posture. Also, speak clearly and succinctly because any slight garble may be exaggerated on this platform.
  • Traditional interview protocol applies. Be prepared. Dress like a lawyer for the interview (top and bottom, thank you). Practice your answers and bring your own list of questions. Be on time. Do not eat or drink anything during the interview - but have a cup of water nearby in case you start coughing or something. The virtual twist is that you will additionally need to banish all distractions. Turn off your phone’s ringer and send your dog and roommates outside. 
  • Don’t freak out. If, during the interview, your significant other walks across the room in their undies, just ride it out. Have a little humor. We’re all in the same boat!

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