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Tips for Job Interviewing Online - Get the Right Look

Are you looking for a job right now? So many people are in the same boat. Get a leg up on the competition by tweaking a few things about how you interview on-screen. What is the difference between on-screen and in-person interviewing? The questions are the same. Your answers are the same. The interviewer is the same. You are the same. Would you go into an in-person interview without preparing? Well this also applies to interviewing from home. You would dress the same (at least the top part of you!), groom yourself the same, practice answering interview questions the same, research the company the same, and review the job opportunity the same. The difference? No harried commute to the interview. You should actually be more relaxed BUT there is something about on-screen interviewing that is nerve racking. You will need to get those butterflies under control. This article focuses on your on-screen look.

Have you been on zoom calls:

  • Where you see only the top part of a head of another participant?
  • Or they are looking away uninterested (perhaps at their text messages)?
  • Or you can see up their noses?
  • Or they are in a dark room and you can’t see their faces?
  • Or they have something odd in the background.

Let’s think about this from the viewpoint of an interviewer.


The looking away photo: Not making eye contact is an interview faux pas – it indicates to the interviewer that you are uninterested, too nervous, or not confident in yourself. You do not need to stare at the interviewer for the entire time but make sure you connect. And exactly where are their eyes? On screen it is hard to tell and actually hard to make eye contact. If you are staring off to the side of the screen then it looks like you are more interested in something outside your window. However, it is perfectly normal to look away for a brief time – for example, when you are formulating an answer.


The up the nose photo: This often comes with the computer on your lap or on a low table. “But this is my best angle” said nobody ever! If you are looking down at the screen then your eyes will be half closed    and
your neck and chin exposed – that is not a good look. Raise up your computer or phone so that it is in front of you. Set it on a pile of books if necessary. Make sure your eyes are about two-thirds of the way  up the screen and looking directly at it.



online interviewing, top of head showingThe top of head photo: What is this? I see it all the time. Who only shows themselves from the nose up? As an interviewer, I see a lack of confidence. Not a straight sitting, self-assured person who can contribute  to my organization.




The dark room photo: The best lighting for your on-screen look comes directly from the front. A window to the side lights up only half of your face and leaves the other half in darkness. Put a lamp on the table next to the computer in front of you or make sure the overhead lighting is in front (definitely not behind as the glare can be very intense for the interviewer).


online interviewing, bad backgroundThe odd background photo: Have you seen some of the online or television personalities with their backgrounds? Most of them have it so that there are things of interest but nothing to make you think twice. There is one person I have seen who has some empty beer cans and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar – this is not what you would chose for an interview!!!  You may have no option but to interview in a bedroom and that is ok. However, it is better to have a wall behind you than a bed. If this is not possible, then at least make sure the bed is made, tidy and not loaded with a lot of extra, distracting items such as a multitude of pillows – and don’t be sitting on the bed – it is too soft and you will end up slouching. An untidy background indicates that you are not organized and prepared – qualities wanted by employers.


The slouch photo: Because you are at home, you can get pretty comfortable (avoid sitting on the bed and the big, comfy couch). At an in-person interview, you would be sitting up straight on an office chair and leaning in toward the interviewer – this shows interest in what the interviewer is saying and displays an eagerness in you. That is what the interviewer wants to see and hire – someone who is truly interested in the job as well as capable of performing the role.


Computer versus phone: Computer - all the way! However, if you can’t get it to work on your computer then your phone is an alternative. Don’t hold it in your hand though as it will be continually moving - you are not chatting with your best friend here, so it matters. Make sure the phone is placed somewhere so that your face is two thirds of the way up and you are looking directly at it not down or up.


Hint: Go to your Facetime app check out what you look like before the interview. Check out your surroundings. The lighting (are you overexposed? underexposed?). The background (is there any weird thing that will cause the interviewer to give pause). The computer positioning (are your eyes two-thirds of the way up the screen). I used Facetime to take these screenshots. Once you have perfected the look and the environment, you are ready for your closeup. Remember to smile!


A nice part about interviewing on-screen is that you can have cheat notes on the table beside you to help remind you of some of the things you want to bring to light. But don’t read them obviously – just glance at them.


A difference in interviewing from home rather than in person is that there may be others in your home with you – little people, dogs, cats, big people – all can distract you (and the interviewer). Make sure everyone in the household realizes how important this interview is to you and feed the dogs and cats beforehand!


Have a pen and paper handy so that you can jot down any questions that you might have or any information that you feel is important.


The thing about Covid-19 and the new “Zoom” culture, is that on-screen calls have become a necessity in working situations. For example, if you teach at our college, you need to be able to use Zoom. If you struggle with this during an interview, this is an indication that you are not computer savvy, and these days, that is not an option.


Use these tips plus your well thought out answers to the interview questions to blow away your interviewer and get that ideal job!


A note to our graduates: As you know, ACA is always here to help you find work. If you want to practice your on-screen interview skills, contact Roxanne in Mississauga (roxanne@algonquinacademy) or Jan in Ottawa (