How to blow a virtual interview before the first question

Interviews for jobs, like so much else in our society, have become virtual. Too many candidates are making poor first impressions due to poor technical choices. Your brilliant conversation during the rest of the interview will not overcome these issues.

Let’s look at all the components of your technology and your environment that will ensure or interfere with making that excellent first impression. Here’s what to do about deficiencies.


Low lighting makes you look like a ghost. Too much backlighting, typically caused by the sun shining through a window, creates an uncomfortable glare for the interviewer.
Position your lights in front of you so that they illuminate your face well with no shadows. Basic room lighting is usually not enough and typically comes from behind you. Too much light intensity makes you look pale and creates strange reflections from your glasses. If you can’t avoid a window behind you, at least close the curtains day or night.


A messy background of files, toys, dying plants, exercise equipment, and unusual posters imply a messy future employee. Clean up messes behind you in the room.
Avoid using a virtual background even if you have a green screen. The software sometimes leaves a strange, amoeba-like, moving band between your head and the virtual background. A blank wall or tasteful decoration is best.


Never wear a headset. It makes you look geeky and demolishes your carefully styled hair.

Use a separate microphone or the one on your laptop. Use speakers to hear others.


The video camera on your laptop monitor is usually positioned too low. That angle makes your face disappear behind an enormous chin. It also means part of the background will be your ceiling.

Mount a separate camera on your monitor or raise your laptop so that the camera is at eye level or a little higher. Make sure the lens is clean. Dust or a fingerprint reduces image quality.

Internet connectivity

If you experience image flickers when playing a YouTube video, your interviewer will not like the experience. Confirm that your Internet bandwidth is sufficient using a website like Speedtest.

If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection use the 5 GHz access point, not the 2.4 GHz access point. If you can move your workstation closer to Wi-Fi router, that will be best. If you’re using a tablet, don’t move around during the interview.


Don’t slouch. Don’t position your chin at the bottom edge of the video image. Never sit leaning back on a couch. Leaning back makes you look so relaxed that the interviewer wonders if you ever work.

Position your body close to the camera so that your hair almost touches the top edge of the video image. Lean forward a little even though that feels awkward.
Look directly at the camera. That usually means that the video image of others participating in the interview must be directly below the camera even if you use multiple monitors.


Locate yourself in a room where you can position all the components properly and can close the door to minimize the risk of interruptions. Make sure no one starts any appliances that can add a disturbance to your interview.


Assemble all the components on a solid piece of furniture such as a desk. If you accidentally bump against it, the video camera won’t jiggle and deliver a jumpy image to the interviewer.

Interview tips

The web is awash with advice on how to make a lasting positive impression during a virtual interview. Read some of this material and practice the behaviours before your actual interview.

What ideas can you contribute to help job interviewees create an excellent first impression? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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