How to Radiate Professional Confidence in a Virtual Job Interview

Make lighting, perspective, gestures, and clothes work for you.

Photo: Moose Photos/Pexels

We all know the unpleasant surprise that can come with clicking “join this meeting.” Our face on the screen doesn’t meet our hopes. Instead of a suitable applicant, we look like a sleepy band groupie.

Watching your screen face feels like trying tight jeans in a bad lightened fitting room. But in a virtual job interview, the stakes are higher.

As this analysis shows, our appearance can correlate with perceived competence. The more professional we look, the higher our perceived ability.

Our self-perception plays an even larger role in our confidence. If you can’t picture yourself as a successful professional, confidence is hard to come by.

Luckily, radiating professional competence in a video interview isn’t complex. These five tweaks will teach you how to look like a professional.

1. Make the Lighting Work For You

Lighting can destroy the best wardrobe and makeup. If you’ve bright light shining from the top of the ceiling, there’s no chance for you to look good on your screen. Too much overhead light will make you look like a shiny ghost.

There are several ways of how lighting can work for you. The best option is to sit facing a window. Natural light is almost always better than artificial light. And front-facing natural light works best because it brightens your skin and features.

Alternatively, you can buy a $25 ring light that emits a soft light. If you don’t want to spend any money, you can also use a regular lamp to shine on the wall behind your screen. In that way, diffusion will soften the light before it hits your face.

2. Use a Favorable Perspective

Many people sit at a desk and put the laptop right on top of it, creating the worst perspective: a wide-angle face. You look like this when your computer camera is positioned below your chin. The more you’re looking down, the bigger your face and the more distorted you look.

The best perspective is a camera at eye-level. Give your laptop a lift with heavy books or shoeboxes. Plus, with your computer arm-width apart, you can also sit up straight instead of hunching over the camera.

How NOT to position your laptop. Artem Podrez/Pexels

3. Let Your Clothes Speak for Themselves

No great salaries were negotiated in pajama pants. Zooming in your hoody won’t increase your confidence. Even if it might feel like a little burden, dressing up for your meeting can be a great idea, as this study concludes:

“Wearing formal business attire increased abstract thinking — an important aspect of creativity and long-term strategizing. The experiments suggest the effect is related to feelings of power.”

The best way to think about your outfit is to pretend the interview would happen offline. What would you wear? That’s the choice you want to go for. The right outfit is an easy fix for better confidence.

4. You Can Use Your Body to Show Your Interest

The best way to look engaged is to be interested. But we all have these conversations that, at least to some extent, don’t interest us at all.

In real life, we can buzz an affirming “mmh” or “yes.” In virtual meetings, these sounds are misplaced. But there are two other tweaks you can use.

First, you can lean forward, which sends a strong, positive body language signal. By leaning forward, you demonstrate you’re in the conversation.

Second, you can nod whenever you want to show you’re listening. After reading Niklas Göke’s article a few weeks ago, I joined the club of nodding bobbleheads.

5. Fine Tuning

1. Make Your Voice Sound Human

Built-in laptop mics are the worst option. You’ll sound like a tinny robot. A better option is to use your AirPods (unless Bluetooth breaks your internet speed) or cable headphones.

2. Use Your Mirror Before the Call

Don’t use your screen as a mirror. Finishing touches to your hair and face while the meeting has started will make you look distracted. Instead, take two minutes to check how you look before you turn on your camera.

3. Look Into the Black Hole

Yes, we want to watch the other’s reaction while we’re speaking. But what they will see is you looking down at your screen. To radiate professional competence during your virtual interview, you want to look right into your camera while you talk.

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