This Remote Interview Mistake Could Cost You a Job — Even If It Feels Unnatural

African american business woman, sits in front of a computer screen, talks via video link with international colleagues, employees, discusses a future project, perspective, business strategy, plan.
Kateryna Onyshchuk / Getty Images/iStockphoto

With the rise of remote work (and ultra fast Wi-Fi), virtual job interviews have become par for the course. But there’s an art to mastering them, and unfortunately, what works in an in-person interview doesn’t always work in one held on Zoom. Even the seemingly slightest mistake could cost a perfectly qualified candidate the gig at hand.

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And they may not even realize that they’re making a mistake.

According to new research from resume-writing service TopResume, job candidates are blowing their virtual interviews by making the following flubs.

  • Avoiding eye contact or staring into space. This was actually rated as the most costly mistake to make, and despite how unnatural it may feel to look into the camera while speaking, it is highly recommended over the alternative.
  • Sitting in a messy room.
  • Leaving inappropriate tabs or apps open when screen-sharing.
  • Using an unprofessional background.
  • Being interrupted by the candidate’s family members.
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TopResume compiled the list by asking employers to cite the worst possible offenses a job candidate can commit.

Note that aside from the first botch on the list, none of these mistakes are of the sort that one could make during an in-person interview, which just goes to show how important it is that one refines their online etiquette for these Zoom-heavy times.

“Although virtual interviews have become a ubiquitous part of the hiring process, even as more companies are requiring employees to return to the office, our data shows many job candidates have yet to master the art of the virtual interview — and it’s sabotaging their candidacy,” said Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. “Fortunately, these mistakes can be easily avoided with modest preparation, while helping job seekers focus on connecting with the on-screen interviewer, demonstrate their qualifications, and better determine if it’s the right opportunity.”

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In addition to being mindful to not make the five critical mistakes highlighted, job candidates partaking in Zoom interviews should also do the following, according to LinkedIn:

  • Be in a brightly lit room.
  • Use a fully charged or plugged in laptop that has all its software updates.
  • Let everyone in your home know that you’re in an interview.
  • Practice using Zoom or whatever software the interview will take place on before you hope into the interview. 
  • Test your audio and microphone beforehand. 
  • Silence your phone and desktop notifications.
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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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