Lessons from the Field: Are You Ready For Your Zoom Interview? Ten Tips for Success

Rev. Dr. Jim Martin
Senior Consultant
The Registry


The Covid-19 pandemic is changing almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives, and The Registry is aware that various Members have asked Senior Consultants for advice regarding Zoom interviews and how to conduct them smoothly and successfully.  For this entry in our continuing series of Chronicles articles on “Lessons from the Field” by Senior Consultants, we offer some tips and recommendations to succeed in your upcoming Zoom interviews.

Zoom, rather than Skype, is now our preferred video platform, and The Registry team typically hosts all candidate interviews, thus simplifying that step for Members.  If you have any questions about Zoom, we encourage you to review Zoom’s responses to frequently asked questions. 

The following ten tips are offered as a basic reference and guide:  

1) Be patient—with the technology.  By this, we mean, begin your meeting prep earlier than usual, check the effectiveness of your own Zoom interface, and plan to allow for longer conversations on even basic points as everyone becomes familiar with a mediated, video discussion format.   Do not feel a need to rush, wait for the best moment to speak, and prepare for inevitable interruptions.

2) Do not seek body cues.  We suggest simply focusing on the faces of the speakers and the natural rhythms of the conversation.   It will generally not be useful to seek, much less depend on, the body cues we are accustomed to with in-person interchanges.  There will be few, if any, visible, so best to eliminate this hope and distraction.

3) Avoid overwhelming each conversation.  There can sometimes occur a tendency to keep talking longer than necessary because the natural point-counterpoint of in-person conversations is obscured by lack of the above-mentioned cues.  Instead, listen and wait for the right moments, and trust that they will emerge.

4) Design the background behind you carefully.  Clutter in a home office or workspace may be comfortable and familiar, but it is still clutter.  Busy, jam-packed bulletin boards above tables piled with papers are distracting and could negatively impact the clarity of your responses.

5) Make any side, rear, and overhead lighting work for, not against, you.  This does not mean one has to hire a home lighting expert; rather, it requires practice sessions in your Zoom space at different times of day and with different lighting arrangements.   The aim is not to look ‘natural’; it is to be clearly seen.

6) Avoid sitting in front of a window. No explanation needed.

7) Sit at the right distance from the camera.  The ‘right’ distance depends on Member preference and is variable.   However, what should be avoided are two traps, i.e., leaning into the camera too far, as if to be heard, or sitting so close to your camera that only your head and face are visible.  Even a busy bulletin board might be preferable. . . .

8) Coordinate your chair with your camera height and angle.  Many interviewees simply take what’s given, so to speak, regarding the height of their camera and the height of their chair.   This is often an overlooked element in successful Zoom calls.  Plan to match the height and angles of both objects so that you are at a natural distance and without a noticeable ‘up’ or ‘down’ angle.

9) Dress professionally—high and low.  Just because the lower half of one’s body is not visible does not mean ignoring professional dress overall.  As noted recently in an article on video interviews in The Wall Street Journal:  “How you are dressed overall is how you see yourself in the Office.   Our feelings project.  With less of you visible, you want to project confidence.”

10) Call on both your Senior Consultant and members of the Registry team for help and advice.  They are invested in your success and part of your team.  Reach out and feel free to use them to prep before and/or to assess after.

As always, we welcome suggestions for additional tips from all Members.  Please direct any responses—especially valuable lessons learned in Zoom calls that somehow went awry—to [email protected].

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