Due to COVID-19, your next job interview will likely be on Zoom. Here's everything you need to know.

By now, you've probably heard of Zoom; the video-conferencing software has exploded in popularity since the start of the COVID-19  pandemic. People around the world are using it to stay connected with loved ones, host happy hours with friends, and, yes, even interview for jobs.

If you have a job interview coming up on Zoom, you might feel intimidated — especially if you're not super familiar with the platform. But you're already taking the right steps. One of the keys to nailing a video job interview is to make sure you're familiar with the video software. This guide covers everything you need to know before your Zoom interview.

What is Zoom? Is it safe?

Zoom is an online platform for video- and audio-conferencing, much like Skype, Google Hangouts, or even FaceTime. However, Zoom offers a lot more features, and many companies use it to host online meetings, training sessions, seminars, and now video interviews.

You may have heard of Zoom in the news. Since its explosion in popularity, its privacy and safety has been questioned, with technology and security experts digging into the software in recent months and finding some lapses in security. However, Zoom continues to address these issues and release new features to help protect your privacy.

Wired recently reported that Zoom's security is just fine for most people. If you're interviewing for a job, you shouldn't be too concerned. Chances are, the hiring manager you're interviewing with has taken the proper steps needed to make sure your meeting is private.

How to get started with Zoom

If you've never used Zoom, getting started is simple. Here's what you'll want to do:

  1. Install Zoom on your computer. This takes less than a minute, but you'll want to do this with plenty of time before your interview, just in case something goes wrong.

  2. Open Zoom (this should happen automatically after you've installed it), and click “Join Meeting.” There's no need to create an account unless you want to.

  3. Enter the meeting ID or personal link name, which the company you're interviewing with will provide. It'll likely be an 11-digit number. The company may also send a link over via email, which will bring you directly to the meeting. 

It's best to practice this a few times before your interview, just so you feel comfortable. It won't hurt to ask a friend or family member to hop in a Zoom meeting with you so you can test everything out.

On the day of your interview, join the meeting a couple of minutes before it officially begins. If the meeting host has not yet started the meeting, don't fret. As soon as the host joins, you'll be able to enter the meeting.

Preparing for your Zoom video interview

Now that you're feeling good about using Zoom, it's important to prepare for your video interview. In many ways, this will be easier than an in-person interview: You don't have to worry about traffic, and, if you're already employed, you won't have to worry about missing a huge amount of work. But there are still things to keep in mind. 

Dress to impress

Just like an in-person interview, carefully plan what attire and colors you wear to an interview. Wear something polished and professional, but don't fret as much about what you wear from the chest down — you'll be on a video after all.

Location is key

You'll also need to scout out the perfect interviewing location in your home. Because we're all social distancing right now, companies will be more understanding and forgiving if you're interrupted by a partner, roommate, child, or pet; this situation is obviously not the norm. 

Even so, you'll want to put your best foot forward. Find a bright and quiet space in your house, make sure your face is well-lit with good lighting, and that the background is tidy.

Have a tech backup plan

Since you're relying on technology — which can be finicky just when you need it most — have your computer plugged in and charging. 

You'll also need a back-up plan, in case you have issues with your Wi-Fi internet connection. If you have an unlimited plan on your phone, you can connect your computer to its hotspot. Or you can download the Zoom app on your phone and have the meeting there. While this isn't ideal, it should work.

Make sure you can be seen and heard — and emote

Just like you would for an in-person interview, it's necessary to practice and prepare questions you want to ask — but there are a couple additional things to keep in mind. First, make sure your audio works and your video camera is clear. If it's not, check out your Zoom settings by clicking the arrow next to “Stop Video.” You'll find the audio settings there and can adjust accordingly.

Second, make sure your excitement and personality shows through the computer. This can be more difficult than it would be with an in-person interview, so focus on your body language, eye contact, tone and energy while you practice. If you want feedback, you can always record yourself and watch it over, or connect with a professional interview coach, who will set up a mock video interview and provide feedback.

6 simple Zoom interview tips

Zoom has a lot of features, but you won't need to know all of them for your job interview. Instead, focus on these simple hacks to ensure your interview goes as smoothly as possible:

1. Use the video preview to your advantage

The nice thing about Zoom is it doesn't throw you into the video conference when you first join. Instead, it will show you a video preview. Use this as an opportunity to make sure your camera is smudge-free and perfectly positioned.

2. Touch yourself up

Not many people love staring at themselves in a camera, but Zoom has a feature that'll make you feel a little bit more polished. When you're in the video, click the arrow next to “Start Video” and go to settings. There, under the video tab, check the box that reads “Touch up my appearance.” 

This adds a subtle filter to your screen that smooths out your appearance, toning down any splotches or blemishes you might be worried about.

3. Resist adding a virtual background

By now, you've probably seen all the creative backgrounds people have added to their Zoom meetings — from the set of “The Office” to Disney World to even outer space. Zoom basically turns your background into a green screen and lays an image over it.

Although you might be tempted, it's best to not use this feature during a video interviews. You'll want to stay as professional as possible, and the focus should be on you and the interviewer — not whatever's in the background. If your background is incredibly cluttered and you have no other option, look for a simple Zoom background, like a classic bookcase or a tidy office.

If you plan to use this feature, make sure you create a Zoom account and enable the virtual background set-up on your profile. Practice with it so you know it'll look good.

4. Utilize full-screen mode

Eliminate any potential distractions on your computer by closing any other tabs and making your Zoom window full screen with the “maximize” button on the top right side of your screen. This is a super simple move, but it'll help you stay focused throughout your interview.

5. Choose your favorite layout

There are a few options for how you view your screen when using Zoom. Determine which layout you prefer from the following:

  • Active speaker: This will enlarge the video window of the person who is talking. So, if the interviewer is speaking, their video will take up the majority of your screen. If a second attendee is also on the video, then their screen will stay smaller until they begin speaking.

  • Gallery view: If you want everyone to be the same size, including yourself, choose gallery view. This will show all the meeting participants in a grid view. This makes it easy to view everyone at the same time.

To change your layout, select the option you want in the top right corner of your screen.

6. Know where your “mute” button is — just in case

In case of an emergency, you will want to know that your “mute” button is located in the bottom left corner of your Zoom window. Because you're interviewing at home, keep the mute button handy just in case the dog starts barking, the kids start screaming, or the fire alarm starts ringing.

The mute button is also a great way to help eliminate any background noise on your end while the interviewer is talking, especially if you live in a big city or on a busy street where sirens are commonplace.

Of course, in an ideal world, your Zoom job interviews will go flawlessly and be distraction free, but while everyone is at home during COVID-19, there are no guarantees. Just make sure you know how to properly use Zoom and do your best — hiring managers understand this is an unusual time for everyone.

Feeling nervous about your upcoming Zoom interview? Practice your virtual-interviewing skills with one of our professional interview coaches.

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