Adapted from The Essential Digital Interview Handbook – Lights, Camera, Interview by Paul J. Bailo. Used with permission from Career Press.
Think of a digital interview as your own Flat Stanley. Don’t know what a Flat Stanley is? Flat Stanley is a children’s book written by Jeff Brown. In the book, a bulletin board falls on a young boy named Stanley when he is sleeping and flattens him. He takes advantage of this interesting condition by sliding under doors and even getting himself mailed to different friends in an envelope. In a digital interview, you are a Flat Stanley. You’re a two-dimensional image being projected through your computer, over the Web and right onto the interviewer’s monitor. Job seekers, professors, doctors, marketing executives, customer service agents can all turn themselves into Flat Stanley – all they need is a webcam.
Making the best of being a Flat Stanley:
KNOW YOUR SOFTWARE
The heart of the operation for your personalized digital interviewing studio lies in the software. Whether you are using Skype, Google Hangout, YouTube or any other video-chatting software, all I ask is that you are comfortable with it and know how to use it and use it well.
DO A DIGITAL HANDSHAKE
Nod the head. A slight shoulder bend, eyes forward, slow, confident, professional, firm nod. This is called the “Digital Handshake.” The other person should not see the top of your head. This is how you shake hands in the digital world. Welcome to the new world of digital communication.
I want you to focus your digital interview on you. The frame should be shoulder to shoulder to the top of your head with just a few inches of clearance all the way around. This is the optimal way to frame your face during your interviews. The focus of your digital interview is you – your face, your facial expressions, not the rest of your body – so you can make the emotional connection with the interviewer. Frame your face so your interviewer can feel this emotional connection and focus on you.
USE A GREAT CAMERA
The essential part of the digital job interview is the camera. A great camera takes great pictures. Get a great webcam so you can look great. I do not recommend using a built-in laptop camera due to the professional image that is required in this competitive market. It is too difficult to get the correct angle when you cannot move your camera independently of your computer. I would not recommend using a smart phone. I know the latest versions take amazing pictures, but it is not the optimal way to conduct a professional digital interview.
USE A GREAT MICROPHONE
“‘Can you hear me now?’ Testing, Testing, one-two-three.” That is exactly what you do not want to happen during your digital job interviews, or during any other meeting or conference you hold over the Web. One of the main problems is the lack of high-quality audio equipment. Basically, you are what you sound like. If you sound as though you have marbles in your mouth owing to inferior audio equipment, this is going to reflect badly on you. You need to sound as great as you look. Blue Microphones makes an outstanding product specifically for interviewing called the Snowball. Get a Blue Snowball microphone. … You are going to love it and sound fantastic!
GET THE LIGHTING RIGHT
Let there be light! Without decent light, how can you conduct a digital job interview or any interview for that matter? Lighting can make or break your digital interviews, so let’s get it right the first time. It is simply a matter of flipping the right switch. What kind of lighting do you need? Well, the one kind you don’t need is overhead lighting. This creates undesirable shadows on your face. You need front and back lighting to create a clear, professional image of yourself. For this, you are going to need three sources of light. The first light will be to the right of you at 30-degree angle, the second light will be to your left at a 20-degree angle and the third light will be behind you, pointing forward. The goal is to have soft, natural lighting that eliminates all shadows and frames your profile.
SIMPLIFY THE BACKGROUND
Now you are going to have to spend a bit of money-are you ready? Here is what you’ll need to look professional for a middle-class price. What I recommend is getting a kind of photographic paper called seamless paper. It is very popular and easy to obtain. I use a company called Savage Paper – they have a huge supply on hand. This paper will form a continuous surface behind you to cover and all distractions.
CLEAN YOUR LENS
You want to look your best during your digital interviews. Interviewers should be able to see you clearly without any distractions. A big part of this involves removing all smudges, dirt and dust from your camera lens prior to each interview.
USE A TRIPOD
What I want you to do is get a mini tripod for your webcam that will allow you to position the camera in the right area and focus directly on the upper portion of your body. I want you to be looking right at the camera sitting on a tripod right in front of your monitor when your conduct your digital job interviews.
FIND THE RIGHT ANGLE
It is extremely important that you understand the correct position of the camera and the best angle shot. This is critical to preforming well in a world-class digital interview. Your camera angle needs to be at eye level. Having a tripod makes this easy work. Not high … not low… eye level.
POST AN ON-AIR SIGN
Studios throughout Hollywood have them, radio shows have them and you need one for your digital interviews. I am talking about an On-Air sign. Post it on your office door every time you have a digital interview. It will look very unprofessional when you are on the air and your administrative assistant comes barging in to put some papers on your desk. Not professional.
DON’T BE A DIVA
Hollywood is filled with actors and actresses who think they are bigger and better than they really are. They think they are the most important part of the show – more important than the stage crew, the director and the audience. Don’t be a diva during your digital interviews. You want to be professional and humble.
Paul J. Bailo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the digital interview spokesperson for Skype and the founder of Phone Interview Pro, a service for job seekers who want to perfect their telephone job interviewing skills. He is also the author of The Essential Phone Interview Handbook.