Ask the Bitches: How Do I Prepare for a Job Interview on Zoom?

Ask the Bitches: How Do I Prepare for a Job Interview on Zoom?

Dear readers… we’re no Ask A Manager. We’re more like Ask A Bargain Bin Manager. Or Ask Someone Who Once Played a Manager on TV. Even Ask Ask A Manager’s Opinionated Knockoff.

But we do love getting questions we’re barely qualified to answer! Like this one, from an anonymous bitchling:

Hey Bitches! I just wanted to say THANK YOU for all the amazing advice! On another note, I have an interview coming up next week, and I’m STOKED that I’m being considered for this position. Only problem is… it’s on Zoom. How do I prepare for a job interview over video chat??? How can I stand out in comparison to other candidates, especially through a computer screen? Thanks!!

– A wild bitchling, rampant on a field of goldenrod

How indeed? Our first advice is, of course, to prep for a Zoom job interview just as you would for a regular job interview: take special care with your appearance, research the company, the wider industry, and the specific job opening, and practice answering some standard interview questions.

So let’s get all of that out of the way first:

Now on to the Zoom job interview-specific advice…

Avoid technical difficulties at all costs

The third circle of Hell is an average workplace Zoom call.

Someone’s kid is wailing and they can’t find the mute button. Another coworker has a shitty internet connection and their audio keeps freezing in the middle of important sentences. Bryce from HR is sitting in front of a background of the bridge on the Starship Enterprise during a very serious conversation about lay-offs. And the whole meeting could most definitely have been an email.

This meeting could have been an email.

Hell’s non-binary demon receptionist zirself could not have devised a crueler punishment. Which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure that the tortures of modern technology don’t get in the way of you showing off your skills, qualifications, and sparkling personality.

Practice using Zoom ahead of time

The fastest way to annoy your interviewer and let the technology win is to experience technical difficulties during your Zoom job interview. So make sure to TEST YOUR ZOOM SETUP BEFOREHAND.

This might mean setting up a practice Zoom call with your friend the day before your job interview. Make sure to test the mute button, the camera button, and the share screen function. Check to ensure your name is displayed correctly, and that your computer is defaulting to the right microphone, camera, and speakers. If you need to use headphones or an external microphone, test those puppies too!

During your test call, set an appropriate background. And by “appropriate” I mean blurred if you have a boring room, unblurred if your room would rate 8/10 or above on Room Rater. Those—and I cannot stress this enough—are your only options. A job interview is not the place to get cute with filters and backgrounds. You can save that wild chicanery for when you’re safely employed.

Take care of all of this well before your scheduled interview time. You don’t want to spend five minutes scrambling to get set up and handle technical difficulties at the beginning of your interview, all the while stammering “So sorry about this. Just let me try going into settings one more time…”

Choose your setting wisely

The best place to take a Zoom call is quiet and well-lit with a stable, level place on which to set your computer and a sturdy internet connection.

Aaaaaaand everyone living in a fourth-floor walkup with six roommates and a fire escape as the only source of natural lighting just left. Wait! Come back! I promise to give you options!

If such a setting doesn’t exist in your home (or you can’t bribe the other inhabitants of your crowded apartment to fuck off for an hour), you can find space by…

  • reserving a free conference room at your school or public library
  • renting a room at a WeWork or other office-sharing consortium
  • renting a hotel room
  • finding a little-used lobby at a hotel or museum (don’t knock it, I literally did this once)
  • asking a friend or relative if they have a spot that fits the bill

If none of those work for you, the important thing is that you reduce background noise as much as possible, and avoid lighting yourself like a confidential informant on a true crime documentary.

Eliminate distractions, both technological and analog

It’s not 2002, when we were all paying for ringtones of Hollaback Girl. It’s 2022, when the most anyone should hear out of your cell phone is a discreet buzz from the bottom of your purse. So put that shit on silent during your Zoom job interview!

Same goes for incoming email notifications, text messages, and any other app-based pings. Silence it all and turn off any visual pop-ups that might appear on your screen to distract you from your Zoom job interview.

Roommates? Tiny humans? Pets? Appliances? Condemn them to silence on pain of death for the duration of your interview.

Use an updated, charged computer or laptop

If you have the option to use a laptop or desktop computer over a cell phone or tablet… do so. And make sure that laptop is fully charged before your Zoom job interview begins and that you’ve taken care of any software updates well before you log in.

Imagine the sheer torture of watching your iOS update with fifteen minutes left to go… five minutes before your job interview.

Act like your interviewer is in the room with you

A golden rule of video conferences is that if you wouldn’t do it when someone is in the room with you, you shouldn’t do it on a Zoom call. Violations of this rule have made national news. Again and again.

I kind of can’t believe this needs to be said, but like… keep your clothes on??? Don’t touch your junk???? Cover your mouth if you have to cough, don’t check your text messages, don’t talk to anyone else—this feels suspiciously like kindergarten rules.

Not only will this help you avoid embarrassing social fuck-ups, but it’ll get you in the right mental space to impress your interviewer. Just because you’re not putting on a suit and walking into an office building doesn’t mean you don’t need to put on your game face!

After you get the job and you don’t need to impress them anymore? All bets are off.

Remember Some Good News?

The secret advantages of a Zoom job interview

Our lovely question-asker seems nervous about the unique challenges of a Zoom job interview. But what they may not realize is that a Zoom job interview has a few distinct advantages over a regular interview. And you should absolutely embrace those secret weapons.

Keep a cheat sheet handy

Your camera is unidirectional. No one can see what’s behind your laptop screen or immediately to the sides. So fill that space with as many notes, reminders, and scripted answers as you can!

If you tend to ramble when you’re nervous, write a list of the key points you want to cover in your interview and keep it next to your keyboard! If your eyes tend to wander, stick some googly eyes on either side of the camera lens so you have something with which to make eye contact. And if you easily forget a question halfway through answering it, write it down on a notepad next to your computer while your interviewer is still talking.

Cocoon yourself in a thick, comforting cheat sheet just off-screen!

Have multiple tabs open

Your interviewer also can’t see what else is going on on your computer (so long as you don’t share your screen). So you can have multiple tabs open to the company’s website, your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, whatever is going to keep you one step ahead of your interviewer.

If they hit you with an unfamiliar term, take a second to google that shit! Need to stall for time? Tell them you need to shut off your camera and mic for a sec because the dog’s barking at the mailman. *wink wink*

Meanwhile, let your virtual Cyrano de Bergerac feed you your lines!

How do you prepare for a Zoom job interview, Bitch Nation? Tell us all about it in a comment!

Ask the Bitches

We Bitches love answering reader questions. We love it so much we made it the entire format of our podcast. Alas, we get far more questions than we have time to answer. We only have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé, people! We’re not miracle-workers!

So the only way to guarantee we answer your question is to join our Patreon. There, you get direct-Bitch access, where we can answer your questions personally and privately, or for all the world to see (your choice). Plus, it’ll help us keep the lights on around here and pay our assistant a decent wage.

12 thoughts to “Ask the Bitches: How Do I Prepare for a Job Interview on Zoom?”

  1. A tip on backgrounds for my fellow college students: Your college probably has professional, college-branded backgrounds preloaded to your account. Interviewers (and recruiters at random meetings*) go NUTS for that.

    * Yes, they ARE watching you. Turn your camera on and act engaged, damn it!

    1. Ooo, I like this tip. My company has a professional background, but I don’t recommend using your current/old employer’s background when interviewing for a new job. College background tho? Go for it!

  2. I do about 5-6 technical interviews per month. This is different than the typical HR screen since we’re trying to make sure candidates actually have the skills that they represent on their LinkedIn Profile or Resume.

    For these, I recommend the following:
    – It’s okay to pull up Draw.Io to architect a solution on the fly, just be sure to shut down the “non-serious” tabs before screen sharing
    -Use a reasonable broser. Firefox, Chrome or DuckDuckGo are acceptable if you might share screens.
    -Feel free to say things like, “I need to look up the name of the managed service I used in my last implementation” and go ahead and Google something, even if you’re sharing screen at the time.
    -Be honest about what you did and didn’t do. Even technical work is done by teams, and being able to explain the work done by others is probably more valuable than pretending you did it all by yourself (possible exception if you’re trying to become the 1-person IT team at a small company)

  3. Great post! The key is really just to prepare, prepare, and (you guessed it) prepare! It requires a bit of a different type of preparation than in-person interviews, but make sure you still keep a professional atmosphere. Of course, make use of the fact that they can’t view your screen or surroundings. Until you get to an in-person technical interview, cheat sheets make getting through a ton of interviews much less of a pain (eg having to study different things for 5 interviews with different companies).

    1. Thank you! And you’re absolutely right. No reason not to take advantage of the format. I almost feel like Zoom interviews are the new normal. I haven’t had an in-person interview in YEARS.

  4. When screen sharing share ONLY YOUR ACTIVE WINDOW OR PROGRAM, not your entire desktop. This will prevent any unfortunate mishaps in the form of a chat notification popup appearing where your oh-so-hilarious friend says “yo bitch did you get laid on your date last night or what?” or something equally embarrassing. Most video call platforms have this option – as has been said already practice this before the interview so you know how to do it!

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