Video interviews for PhD, postdoc, and faculty positions are now pretty common, especially for international candidates. There are a few practical things to keep in mind when preparing for an online interview.
Agree on a date and time for the interview that is convenient in both time zones. Don’t forget to tell the interviewer your username for whatever type of video calling system you will be using so the interview can start on time.
Now it’s time to choose your interview location. Your home is the ideal choice because you can have more control over the setup. If you decide to you your interview at home, make sure that anyone who lives with you knows when your interview is scheduled for and ask if they can go out during that time so you aren’t disturbed.
You want to talk in front of a tidy, neutral background. Try to avoid having reflective surfaces like mirrors or picture frames behind you since they can create a glare. Don’t sit with a window at your back either because the backlight will make it nearly impossible to see your face. Try out a few possible backgrounds.
If possible, schedule your call during the day so you can use natural daylight. A window is the best source of natural light, so position yourself in front of one. If you live somewhere especially sunny (lucky you), close your blinds a bit so you’re not squinting into the direct sunlight. Natural light may not always be possible, in which case try to face a lamp. Just make sure you are not directly under an overhead light, as it will be very unflattering and make it difficult for the interviewers to actually see you.
Once you have found the optimal background and lighting, it’s time to set up your computer. You want the camera angle to be as natural as possible-- no one wants to look up your nose. Sit at a table and place your computer on top of a box or pile of books so that the camera is at eye level. As weird as it may feel, try and look at the camera and not the interviewer when you speak so that you make “eye contact” with the interviewer.
The Final Steps
Although most of your outfit will be off screen, you should still wear a complete interview outfit. If you have to stand up for some reason or move locations you will continue to look professional. Before your interview, do a test run of your entire set up, sound, video connection.
The interview is your time to shine, and being prepared will allow you to do just that.