The Times reported recently on research that found people were more likely to be judged as trustworthy and competent when they appeared on Zoom with an array of healthy house plants or a well-stocked bookcase in the background.

If you are being interviewed on Zoom this is obviously important. That said, how you present yourself when teleconferencing is something you should consider. Images of blank walls and blurred-out living rooms create a less positive impression. If you ever want to torpedo your chances at interview you should consider appearing in front of a “novelty image”. The one tested in the study was of a walrus perched on an iceberg and it ranked bottom.

The research was overseen by Dr Paddy Ross, of Durham University, who thought many people were not aware of how the snap judgments of others could affect their prospects.

Present and correct

It’s hard to build rapport in a virtual meeting. You need a quiet space and neutral background, if you have teenage children make sure that backgrounds and filters have not been changed. Remember the lawyer who presented as a somewhat bewildered kitten in an online meeting. The judge was inclined to be faintly amused when assured the lawyer was not a cat, the other participants, remained admirably poker faced.

You know how to dress for interview and you should practice your pitch and have prepared questions.

After you have ensured your background is appropriate, check again, be aware that mirrors and pictures behind you may show reflections to the camera that you may prefer to edit out. Ensure occupants who share your space don’t intrude and that they can’t be overheard while you are online. It might be smart to do a practice run with a friend or colleague in advance of an interview.

10Eighty top tips

Practical and psychological things to consider:

  • Set camera slightly above eye line so you are just tilting your head up a little.
  • Wear business clothes, including shoes, it will mean you feel more prepared and in business mode.
  • On a telephone interview, smile, it comes across in your voice and if you have confidence in yourself so will the interviewer.
  • Prepare in advance, do research on the company and the interviewer. Think about your talents, strengths, skills and values, perhaps ask friends for help. Review this information so you can speak confidently and fluently about yourself.
  • Practice by videoing yourself on Zoom.
  • Be positive and even if things don’t go to plan, the cat walks across your desk, your son starts playing the drums, don’t be rattled, we’re all in this together and most interviewers will be supportive.
  • Let your talent shine through.

Finally, the research found that respondents tended to perceive happy faces as more trustworthy and competent than neutral faces. Smile, you’re on camera!

Michael Moran

Michael is CEO and Founder of 10Eighty. He is passionate about helping people maximise their potential and believes everyone should have job satisfaction and a successful career. He helps organisations design jobs and career paths that maximise employee engagement. As an avid reader/commentator on the world of work and sport, he regularly draws parallels between the two. You could describe Michael as a budding author with “The Guide to Everlasting Employability” already under his belt, and technophile who’s created 2 career management apps to help people manage their careers.

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