When a big job is on the line and you’re interviewing remotely via video conferencing, every little thing matters.
Some people prefer to interview for a job via video conferencing for several reasons. First off, you don’t have to physically leave the comfort of your own home. Secondly, it’s less personal—people on the other side are staring at a computer projecting an image of you, not you yourself. Thirdly, it’s easily possible to have nearby cheat sheets or notes off-screen. For all the interviewers know, you’re just reading off a teleprompter! Fourthly, the high grooming standards that come with face-to-face interviews can be thrown out the window. Some interviewees aren’t even wearing pants; they just throw on a nice shirt and call it a day. Don’t have time to brush your teeth? No one will notice!
But with the comforts of video conferencing come the all-too-often neglected subtleties of the background. Whether your computer is set up in an office, your living room, or the crapper, you’ll want to make sure embarrassing or unsightly things are out of the way. Likewise, you might even spruce up the background with fake decor!
Tony’s interview went well until things in the background went haywire
Tony set up his Macbook, tightened his tie, and cleared his throat. One minute til showtime! Tony was about to undergo his second interview with northern Nevada’s second largest diaper distribution firm, and everything had to go perfectly. Tony set up his laptop on a desk and positioned it so the sunlight would hit his face just right. Tony’s Russian roommate Igor was locked away in his room, promising to stay out of sight until 2:30 when the interview was over.
“Good afternoon, Tony!” said a manager once the video conference began. Tony saw a table of six gentlemen on his screen. “Whoa, six!” Tony thought. This job really is important. “Hi guys, great to be able to see you all this time! How’s the weather up there in Winnemucca?” Tony asked. As he spoke those words, he noticed it getting rather toasty in the room. He quick wiped sweat off his brow. Igor most likely had cranked up the thermostat.
The interview continued on. Despite the furnace running full-blast on a 78º day, Tony was nailing question after question. “So, Tony, it says here on your resume that you have actually have past experience in the adult diaper industry?” “Yeah, it’s true. My first real desk job out of college was as a foreman at a diaper warehouse in Gillette, Wyoming. In fact, it’s kinda funny, when I think back, I seem to remember–”
But as Tony spoke, something in the background caught the eye of the interviewers. “I–I’m gonna have to cut you off for a second there, Tony,” said a manager. “Could you please reposition that mirror in the background? It’s been reflecting the image of a large, naked man who, uhh… appears to be pleasuring himself.”
Tony spun around. What on earth was the manager talking about?! And then he saw it. “Igor! Igor, close your door!” But it was too late. Tony’s roommate had ruined everything. Tony was so flustered, his face turned red and he was unable to answer any additional questions without trailing off. He did not get the job, and the lack of proper video conferencing positioning was to blame. Well, that and the fact that he had lied about having previous diaper experience. Quick research showed there was no such warehouse in Wyoming.
How can you ensure your room is interview-ready?
- Run a test of your system to verify exactly what area of your home will appear in the background. This also helps plan for lighting and sound issues that could arise.
- Clean that area. Dust, vacuum, wipe down surfaces, etc.
- Make sure that nothing embarrassing appears in your background, including dirty clothes, drugs, beer cans, firearms, or posters of women in bikinis or boy bands.
- Remove highly reflective objects that could create a distraction, including mirrors. Anything that could reflect direct sunlight should also be relocated.
- If a window can be seen in the background, consider closing the blinds, and ensure nothing out-of-the-ordinary or distracting will take place through the window, such as two wild boars fighting.
- Consider adding some important looking decor in the background, such as diplomas, trophies, or photographs of you with past presidents. Even well-maintained plants and/or flowers are a nice touch.
- Lock away any pets that could interfere with the interview, and make sure that they are far enough away that their barking or chirping won’t become a distraction.
- Silence anything that could make unwanted noise, such as alarms, phones, security systems, or home automation equipment.
- Consider posting a sign on the front door that tells visitors to not disturb. Unwanted solicitors and visitors will have to wait for you.
- Make sure the temperature in the room will be comfortable, and err on the cooler side. Being a little chilly is far better than “pitting out” in a warm, humid room.
If you can follow these simple steps, you can focus squarely on the interview and not worry about things in the background misfiring or causing distractions.
My Hot Take
I have never had a video interview, though I was supposed to once. Not sure if the problem was on my end or theirs, but somehow it didn’t work and we were forced to talk over the phone instead. I did participate on the interviewing end of an interview once, and the hopeful employee chose a nice, quiet, well-lit background that led to us being able to focus on his answers.