You’re currently reading Chapter 3 of The Ultimate Guide to Video Interviews
So, you’ve just been asked to do a video interview. Or perhaps your preparing for one.
Either way, you might be asking yourself, “Where should I do it?”, “What should I have or not have in my background”, “How close should I sit from the camera?”, “What equipment should I use?”
I’m going to address all of those questions right now. In this chapter, I’m going to teach you how to make professional looking interview videos from home.
In order to look good in your video interviews, there are a lot more factors to consider than your in-person interviews. The question becomes not only “Do I look and sound good in person”, but, “Do I look and sound good through the camera and on their computer.”
Let me show you an example.
A lot of people see people like this on a video chat commercial and think, “that’s how I’m going to look!” And then they open up their laptops 15 minutes before their interview and, to their surprise, they look like this:
An improper setup can make you look or sound bad, and that can easily come across as a lack of competence for the position.
It’s common for people to think from TV commercials and advertisements that were going to look like the 4 professionals above. But what many don’t realize is that there’s probably hundreds if not thousands of dollars in video production equipment around each of those 4 individuals.
But don’t think you need to spend a bunch of money on equipment, rent a studio, or be a reality TV star to make a professional looking video interview. I’ll teach you how. But you can’t just press record or open your laptop and expect to look as good as you do in person.
In this chapter I cover 5 elements of setting up your video interview set. Follow these 5 elements to look prepared, professional and competent to your interviewer.
Do you need to do everything in this chapter? Of course not. Every location and environment will be different. But by learning these 5 elements, you will have the knowledge to prepare for and fix any problem with your video interview set-up.
The 5 elements of a professional video interview set are:
- Depth of Field
Lighting is the life-blood of a great looking video interview
There is a big different in how our eyes perceive light compared to how a camera lens perceives light.
When you walk into an interview, lighting is something you never have to worry about. But in your video interview, it’s one of the MOST important factors to looking good.
That’s because cameras need WAY more light than you think to produce a high quality image on screen.
Sure, you can just open your laptop 5 minutes before the interview, but you’re probably going to look like you live in a cave or in a tanning bed – too dark, washed out, with raccoon eyes, or a combination of all.
So, what can you do to prevent that from happening and look your best?
I’m first going to teach you how professional photographers and videographers use lighting. I’m not suggesting you go buy a bunch of lighting equipment. But it IS important to know the science behind lighting so you can be creative with lights that you already have at home or purchase lights as needed.
You will learn that it doesn’t take much effort at all to improve how you look on camera with proper lighting.
How To Use 3-Point Lighting For Your Video Interview
Alright. So, what do the professionals do? Know that every YouTuber, every newscaster, every person trying to make a somewhat quality video for their blog or business is probably using the 3-point lighting principle.
The 3-point lighting set-up is composed of placing lights at 3 different locations around the subject being filmed. I’ll briefly cover what each of the 3 lights does to make you look good for your video interview.
The first light is called the Key Light, or main light. With the camera at 6-o’clock relative to the subject, it is typically positioned at 4-o’clock. The key light provides most of the illumination on you and can be on your left or right side.
The second light is called the fill light. This light is typically less powerful than your Key light (some say 50% less power), and it helps fill in the shadows on your face so they’re not so harsh.
Know that your fill light doesn’t have to be a light at all. Some people like using reflectors instead, which reflect the Key light back on to the other side of your face.
The third light is called the backlight, or the accent light, or the hair light. It is used to kick in a little bit of accent lighting from behind you. Here is a good example showing you the affects that each of the 3 lights has on a person. Notice how each light incrementally makes the person look brighter and better?
With 3-Point Lighting, your Key and Fill lights should be in-front of the camera (but out of the frame), and slightly above the height of the camera and shining down on you.
Your Backlight should be on the ground pointing up at you.
Do you need all of these lights? Of course not. Every location is different. But now you have a better idea where to place lights around you to correct any unwanted shadows. But before you’re ready to set up your lighting, you still need to know about lighting positions to stay away from and common lighting issues.
2 Lighting Positioning To Stay Away From
You can use other lights in your environment that aren’t positioned exactly where the 3-Point Lighting framework conveys. Although there are 2 lighting positions to be cautious of because they can easily make you look bad in your video interview.
1. Lights directly above your head can create a “raccoon eye” shadowing effect that isn’t flattering at all. Since this is typically the type of lights we have in our homes, the “raccoon eye” shadowing effect is especially important to pay attention to.
2. Lights directly below and in front of you can create a “horror story” shadowing effects that is equally as terrible. Therefore, look out for any lights in your environments creating this “horror story” shadowing effect on you.
3 Common Lighting Issues
Even with properly placed lights there are still 3 common lighting issues you want to avoid.
1. You can look too washed out (over-exposed)
This can happen when your lights are too hard and not soft enough.
Many professionals use soft light for a video interview shot because it decreases the contrast and flattens the texture of the person. This is opposed to hard light, which shows more texture and increases the contrast. Also, hard lights blind you when they are in front of your face.
2. You can look too dark
This can happen when you don’t have enough light in your 3-point areas. Most likely in your Key and Fill locations.
3. You can have a mix of light temperatures
It’s very important to use the same type of light bulbs when making a video. Light temperatures range from “cool/daylight” to more “warm/tungsten.” A good rule of thumb for your video interviews is to only use daylight light bulbs for your shoot so you look clear and visible for your video interviews.
4 Ways to Turn Hard Light Into Soft Light
If you’re attempting to use lights in your home then most likely they will produce hard light. If so, there are a few tricks to softening hard light sources to produce a softer look for a video interview.
1. Use a Bigger Light
The main way to soften light is to get a bigger light source. For example, comparing a regular desk lamp to a chandelier, the chandelier is always going to produce a softer light than the desk lamp.
2. Diffusion Paper/Fabric
You can clip on diffusion paper to any light source in order to lessen the hard effects that light has on you. The same goes with diffusion fabric, which you can drape over the light source or clip it to a frame and move that frame around.
Although sometimes photographers use white t-shirts, bed sheets, thin towels, etc to get their desired softness. Therefore, you can first play around with diffusion mediums that you already have in your home.
3. Bounce/Reflect Hard Light
If you’re able to aim the hard-light source and you have a reflector available, then you can soften the hard-light source just by reflecting it on you – opposed to directly shining the hard-light source on you.
You can use any kind of surface to reflect light. Whiteboards and white foam-core boards are things you may already have in your home. The key is to use a white surface so it doesn’t introduce additional color into the light.
You can even bounce light off the ceiling or walls of your home. Of course, you can also buy a reflector, which I talk about in the Lighting Equipment section of this chapter. But you want to stay away from shiny surfaces like mirrors and aluminum foil which will blind you.
4. Soft Boxes
A soft box is a fabric box that mounts on your light. It’s designed to have the light only come out of one side of the box (which is usually covered with diffusion fabric), while the remaining sides are all opaque.
A soft box is a way to not only soften a light, but control its direction as well. Soft boxes are the most expensive way to soften light, but they work extremely well. Photographers regularly use them for their Key light when using 3-point lighting.
Now that you know what good lighting and bad lighting looks like, what lights can you use in your home or buy that will make you look your best for your video interview? How can you use natural light to your advantage? What lights can you buy if you’re on a budget? What lights can you buy if you’re willing to spend a little bit of money? I’ll answer all of these questions here.
Leveraging Natural Daylight
Probably the easiest and best thing you can do is leverage natural daylight as your Key light. The best part about Natural Daylight is, well, that its free, but also that it’s incredibly bright and cool.
Find a location in your home where a lot of natural light comes through.
Then, play around with your camera and yourself sitting in different positions to see how you look at different angles compared to the natural light source.
Once you’ve found the best angle, mark with a piece of tape where you and the camera were. And take note at what time of the day it was.
A small warning. Know that Natural lighting can change in an instant if the sun decides to hide behind clouds. This is the precise reason why some professionals do not want to use daylight as a reliable source.
Therefore, if you’re planning on using natural light, note the time of the day where natural daylight is the strongest and try to schedule your video interviews during that time.
A reflector is not a light at all, but a piece of reflective material that allows you to manipulate light. Of all the gear a photographer could possibly own, a simple reflector can be one of the most useful and versatile.
You can pick up a set of 5×43” reflectors from Amazon for only around $20. Like previously discussed, you can also use various other surfaces to reflect light like a whiteboard or a white foam-core board.
Reflectors can be used in several different ways:
- You can use it for fill light by reflecting your main light source back on to the other side of your face.
- You can place the reflector below your face and bounce light up on your face – removing any dark shadows under your eyes and chin.
- You can even use it as your main light source by positioning the natural light behind you, and reflecting that light back on your face.
There are several other uses which make this piece of lighting equipment the most versatile for the cost.
These lights are useful because you can clip them anywhere and control the direction of light. They are also relatively inexpensive. The drawbacks to these lights are that they produce hard light and may need to be diffused or reflected.
Softboxes like previously discussed are one of the best ways to get the desired soft-light look you want for your video interview. They range from around $40 to hundreds of dollars. But strictly for the purposes of your video interview, you don’t need to go high end.
Here is an example of what a softbox looks like. They typically come on stands so that you can point the light downwards on you which is desirable. Notice how large they are. That’s because, as previously discussed, the larger the light source the softer the light will be.
There are two types of umbrellas: reflective umbrellas and shoot-through umbrellas. Reflective umbrellas are designed to reflect the light source back on the subject, but expanding and widening the light as well. Reflective umbrellas have an opaque covering and a reflective interior.
Shoot-through umbrellas broaden and soften the light source and create a more pleasing overall quality of light than bare light itself. These umbrellas are constructed from a translucent white fabric through which the light passes through. They act like a soft box does, although the light shines multi-directionally.
Here’s an example of a basic shoot-through umbrella.
You can buy lighting kits on Amazon.com for a couple hundred dollars and they will come with everything you need for your video interview lighting setup: Softboxes, umbrellas, reflectors, backdrop stands, bulbs, and clamps.
This example set was going for only around $140 at the time I’m writing this guide. As you can see, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a lot of entry-level lighting equipment for your video interview. You also don’t have to waste that much storage space in your home for your lighting equipment, as everything folds up easily into 2 camping tent sized bags.
You should now have the knowledge needed to drastically improve how you look to your interviewer with the right amount of lighting. Spend some time getting this right as it’s going to go a long way to looking prepared, professional and competent to your interviewer.
Audio is just as important as Lighting. Trust me, having worked from home for years, I’ve heard the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some days, it’s as if your microphone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and hasn’t had its coffee yet.
What you don’t want is to sound like you’re in the bathroom, sound like you’re in the car, or worse, sound like you’re rubbing sand paper over the microphone when you move.
You know you’re in trouble when they keep saying, “I didn’t quite get that” or “Could you repeat that part about…” But at that point it’s too late for you to do anything about it.
Even thinking your audio is “good enough” can be a problem. It might sound 90% clear, but 10% annoying. And that 10% can ruin your message. Especially in a video interview, it’s important to sound clear and loud enough that they can focus on what you’re saying – your message, and nothing else.
Understand that there is a big difference in how our ears pick up sound in-person compared to how the microphone picks up sound.
In this chapter, I’m going to first cover the common audio issues and how to prevent them. Then I’ll cover the equipment you can use to make your audio crystal clear for your video interviews.
3 Common Audio Issues
There are 3 common audio issues that all microphones can have. Therefore, it’s important to understand what they are before you can make an educated decision on what audio device to use for your video interview.
1. There are unwanted background noises in your environment. This can be anything from fans, to HEPA-filters, to dishwashers, to barking dogs, to nearby traffic to screaming children.
You want it dead-quiet in the room as much as possible to not have background interference. So turn those fans off, don’t run any appliances, give the dog a bone, and get your kids out of the house to remove all background noises from your video interview.
2. There are unwanted echoes in your environment. This can occur when you’re in a large or small space without a lot of furniture. Ever called someone in the bathroom? Sorry to break it to you but they can tell you are in there. Life Pro Tip: Don’t take your video interviews in the bathroom.
The more sound can bounce around in a room, the more echoes your audio will have. That’s why professionals use acoustic foam panels in their studios, which helps to stop or slow sound waves down. Carpet floors and furniture can provide the same noise absorbing affects as acoustic foam, while hardwood or tile floors won’t as much.
3. You are too far away from your microphone. This can happen when you use the microphone built in to your computer or mobile device which picks up sound best when you’re very close to it. This can be problematic as you need to sit a few feet away from the camera in a video interview. You weren’t planning to just show them your head, right? I go into detail about setting up your frame in the next section of this chapter: Framing.
The 4 Types of Microphones and their Pros/Cons
By choosing the correct environment and using the right equipment, you can significantly improve your audio even in the presence of the issues mentioned above.
The first and obvious option is to use your built-in microphone to your laptop, digital camera, or mobile device. Hey its free, which is great, but your sound quality is not going to be as good compared to using an external microphone.
You are more likely to have all of the common audio issues mentioned above when using your built-in microphone. Therefore, I would recommend against using it.
If you want your voice to sound natural, as if you were in the same room as your interviewer, then consider using one of the 3 types of external microphones for your video interview.
Probably the most commonly used audio device for online meetings and phone calls is using a Bluetooth ear-piece or headset.
Bluetooth microphones will do a much better job than your laptop’s built-in microphone from a few feet away.
The sound quality that they produce is mediocre compared to the other 2 options, but for their main purpose (online meetings and phone calls), they are the best fit.
Although for the purposes of a video interview, they’re a giant eye sore. You want to look your best in a video interview and you want your voice to sound natural.
Would you walk into an in-person interview with your Bluetooth ear piece on? Of course not! Therefore, I would not use an ear-mounted Bluetooth device for your video interview.
The next best option is using a Lavalier microphone. Also known as a tie-clip microphone, they clip on to your clothes.
These microphones are really good at capturing dialogue as you can easily hide it beneath the collar of a shirt or on the underside of a jacket.
One main advantage they have is that they allow the mic to move with you. Although this doesn’t really matter for the purposes of a video interview where you’re sitting in one spot.
Where to put a Lavalier microphone for the best sound quality is the center of your chest with the end pointing up towards your mouth.
There are two types of Lavalier mics: wireless and wired. Wired mics connect to your camera, computer, or mobile device (iPhone/iPad/Android) with a cable.
Wireless mics are more expensive than wired mics, but they are really useful if your moving around.
But since you’re going to be sitting or standing in the same position for your video interview, you can easily get away with using the less expensive cable-attached (wired) mics.
If you plan on using a wired Lavalier microphone, be sure to buy one with enough slack so there isn’t any tension in the wire which may move your camera, computer, or mobile device out of position.
You also need to know about the three common issues you can have with Lavalier microphones.
3 common issues you can have with Lavalier microphones
1. Awful scraping noises.
Since Lavalier mics are mounted to your clothing, you run the risk of your clothing rubbing against the mic which will produce a scraping noise. This can be avoided by putting the microphone on the outside of your clothing (instead of under it), but then of course it’s visible which isn’t ideal in a video interview.
2. Wireless Interferences
Wireless lavalier microphones have the possibility of picking up interferences that might interrupt your video interview. This is more of a risk if you’re located in a dense city environment.
3. Unwanted background noises
Since most lavalier microphones are omnidirectional (polar pattern), there is increased risk that you will pick up unwanted sounds in your environment like white noise or your clothes rustling.
Shotgun mics are cylindrical in shape. They capture sound in only one direction (supercardioid/hypercardioid polar pattern), which can be incredibly useful in an interview to block out ambient noises.
A shotgun mic will need to be mounted directly onto your recording device (camera, computer, or phone), on a stand, or on a boom pole (which requires someone else to hold).
You will want to point your shotgun microphone directly where your mouth will be in your video interview. Also, position the shotgun microphone as close to you as possible while keeping it out of the shot.
There are several different shotgun microphone options to choose from. You will first need to determine what recording device you’re using (computer, digital camera, mobile device). They make shotgun mics for each of these devices. Yes, they even make shotgun mics that can mount to your smart phone.
3 Benefits of Using a Shotgun Microphone
The following are a few benefits of using a Shotgun microphone vs. a Lavalier microphone
- Shotgun mics don’t need to be hidden on you. Because of their extended range, they can sound great many feet away. That’s why they are so commonly used on movie sets.
- Shotgun mics don’t need batteries to operate. (There are exceptions). Most shotgun mics will draw power directly from your digital camera, computer, or mobile device. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about your wireless lavalier microphone crapping out mid interview.
- Shotgun mics tend to have better sound quality compared to Lavaliers.
Therefore, the shotgun microphone may be a better option for a seated video interview compared to a lavalier microphone. Although, there are still some factors to consider if you want to use a shotgun microphone:
- They are more expensive.
- They are less forgiving than lavalier microphones when it comes to improper mic placement.
Testing Your Audio
Whatever you end up choosing, it’s critical that you test how your audio sounds well in advance of your video interview. Here are 5 tips for testing your audio:
1. If you’re using your computer’s microphone, make sure to test your audio from the same distance you’ll be at in your live video interview.
2. Record yourself talking like you would in your video interview. Don’t just do the quick “Test, Test, Test” and judge your audio quality from that test. You want to hear how your natural voice and rhythm sound – exactly what your interviewer will hear in your video interview.
One way to do this is by recording yourself calling a friend or family member on your cell phone. Talk about something non-stressful. Try to modulate your voice like you would in your video interview. This will allow you to hear how you sound in a conversation, not just how you sound in a few words.
3. When you play back your recordings, try to listen very carefully for any background noises that might have been picked up. Do you sound too quiet or too loud? Do you hear white noises or echoes? It’s common to not even know you have audio issues until you play back your recordings.
4. With each audio test, keep making small adjustments to your environment or equipment until you determine that your audio is clear and crisp.
5. Also, test your audio before each video interview. Don’t assume your audio will sound the same as it did the other day.
Let’s talk about framing. I’m going to cover questions like: How close should I be to the camera? Should I stand or sit? Where should my head be in the frame of the camera?
What Is Framing?
Framing is basically everything that is in your shot. If something is in-focus, it’s said to be “in frame”. If it’s out of focus, it’s said to be “out of frame”.
But framing isn’t only about WHAT is in your shot, it’s also HOW it’s in your shot. In order to look your best in a video interview, you need to know how to position the camera relative to yourself and to your background.
The good news is that most professional cameramen and videographers follow the same set of framing rules when shooting a single subject up close, like in a video interview setting.
To understand these rules, you need to first learn about the Rule Of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is a composition guideline that photographers use to determine how to frame their image or video.
The guideline divides the frame into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. If that was confusing to you, then think of what a tic-tac-toe game looks like. That’s the same grid lines that the Rule of Thirds follows.
Proponents of this technique claim that placing your subject along the 4 intersecting points or along the 4 lines of the grid makes the composition of your shot more balanced and interesting.
Here is an example of the Rule of Thirds being used. Notice how the dog’s head is along one of the intersecting points and the dog’s body is placed along the right vertical line of the grid.
Studies have even shown that when viewing an image, people’s eyes usually go to one of the 4 intersecting points more naturally rather than the center of the shot. Most digital cameras and smart phones allow you to toggle these grid lines so you can use them when taking photos/videos – or for your video interview!
Now that you understand the basics behind the Rule of Thirds, I will walk you through how to set up your frame like a professional would.
How to Set-Up Your Frame Like A Professional in 7 Steps
1. The first thing to consider is where to place yourself in the frame: centered or off-centered (on one of the vertical grid lines). Some professionals like the cinematic aspect of their subject being off center and you might see this if you YouTube video interview. Although, shooting a video interview testimonial for your business is different than shooting one for your job interview. We’re not making movies here, we’re trying to get hired.
For Two-Way & One-Way Video Interviews:
Although The Rule Of Thirds commonly places subjects on either the left or right vertical line, I would recommend that you position yourself in the center of your frame for your video interview. Centered is safe. Centered is where your interviewer will most likely be and it’s where they will most likely expect you to be.
For Making Your Own Video Interview:
If you are making your own video interview, I would recommend that you attempt to place yourself off-center in your frame – along either the left or the right vertical grid-line (like the dog picture above). This can stand you apart from the competition and makes the composition of your shot more balanced and interesting.
2. Place the camera at eye level. A little below or above is ok, but not too much. What you don’t want is to appear like you’re looking down on your interviewer because you could come across as being arrogant or authoritative. You also don’t want to position the camera too high like your interviewer is looking down on you, because that may make you look uncertain or incompetent.
Using cardboard boxes, books, or anything else in your environment is a trick you can use to elevate your laptop or mobile device’s camera to eye level. If you don’t have a stand for your mobile device, you can stabilize it in-between two books. If you’re using a camera, then you should use a tripod.
3. Using the Rule of Thirds, you want your eyes to be on the upper horizontal line of your frame. You don’t want your eyes to be in the middle of the frame. This makes your composition seem more balanced and is naturally where people’s eyes are drawn to.
Here’s a good example of a man whose eyes are “close to” the upper horizontal line in the frame of this shot. Close to the line is ok. You don’t have to be spot on. Notice how balanced the subject looks in this shot.
4. Be an arms distance from the camera. You can start with that distance and adjust from there. Depending on your camera, this should be far enough away that your hands and upper torso are in the frame. Some people may not be comfortable with showing their upper-torso, and would rather prefer to show themselves from the shoulder up. I would recommend against this for a couple reasons.
A) Showing your entire upper-torso allows them to see your hand gestures while you talk, which increases the non-verbal communication factor of your message. I cover this topic extensively in Chapter 6 – Competence Triggers: How to Look, Sound and Feel More Confident On Video.
B) You’re going to appear more natural to your interviewer. Meaning, when you’re in an in-person interview they see the whole you. It’s more natural when you’re interviewing someone that you can see most of their body (at least what’s above the table). You want to reproduce that natural feel in your video interview as much as possible. Talking to someone where you only see them from the shoulder up isn’t as natural.
5. Sit or Stand. Your choice. Some people like sitting because it’s easier to keep still for the length of the video interview. Others like to stand because it’s easier to breath and modulate your voice. When you’re standing it’s also easier for some to use hand gestures. Pick whatever you’re comfortable with and realize you won’t be able to change your mind mid-interview.
6. Look at the camera. This goes for all 3 video interview types. Making eye contact with your interviewer by looking at the camera is 10X more engaging than looking off-camera. The more eye contact with the camera the better. If you’re making your own video interview, you may be tempted to look off camera continuously as you talk, as if you’re talking to someone in that same room. While this style is easier for those who find looking at the camera awkward, it’s very disengaging to your interviewer. I share detailed eye-contact (camera-contact) techniques in Chapter 6 – Competence Triggers: How to Look, Sound and Feel More Confident On Video.
7. Remove any clutter from your environment that will be shown on camera. I talk more about this in the Location section of this chapter. Even if your background is going to be blurred out using a shallow depth of field (using a digital camera), you still want to be mindful of what’s behind you in your frame.
Now that you know how to set-up your frame like a professional, you can learn about depth of field.
Depth of Field
What is Depth of Field?
In simple terms, depth of field is how much of your picture will appear in focus and how much will be blurred out. It allows you to enhance the quality and professional look of your video interview by 10 fold.
Altering the depth of field for your video interview is an advanced filming technique that can only be achieved with a digital camera. Therefore, this section is most helpful for making your own video interview, which allows you to use a digital camera vs. your laptop or mobile device.
Examples of Different Depths of Field
A picture can have a shallow or a deep depth of field (or somewhere in-between).
Here’s an example of a shallow depth of field:
In a shallow depth of field, only a small part of the picture is in focus (typically what is closest to the camera)
Here’s an example of a deep depth of field:
When you increase the depth of field, more of the picture is in focus.
Now here is an example of a person filmed with a shallow depth of field.
Notice how only the man is in focus and not anything else in the background.
How to Achieve a Shallow Depth of Field for Your Video Interviews
By using a shallow depth of field, you can blur out your background, making your own video interview to look a hell of a lot better than you could with a computer camera. Also, to your advantage, the person watching your video interview will be forced to focus on you instead of anything distracting in the background.
There are three factors that affect your depth of field. They are: Aperture, Focus Distance, and Focal Length. Explaining how to tweak these variables to achieve a shallow depth of field is out of the scope for this guide, but there are several online resources for you to learn how.
Although if you have a point and shoot digital camera and you don’t want to spend the time learning about the three factors, scenes mode may do the trick. On your digital camera look for a symbol of a human head, which is going to be the setting for portraits. This setting will give you a shallow depth of field.
Your digital camera also may have a mountain symbol, which is a setting for landscapes. This setting will give you a deeper depth of field.
You can also control your depth of field and still use an Automatic shooting mode. With a basic DSLR camera, you can choose Aperture Priority Mode to set your aperture to get the depth of field that you want, and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed.
Now that you know the essentials of Depth of Field, we’ll talk about where is the ideal location to have a video interview.
Choosing where to shoot your video interview is the most important decision you can make. That’s because your location can affect all of the previous elements I’ve covered so far that are key to making yourself look and sound good: Lighting, Audio, Framing and Depth Of Field.
Now you can take what you’ve already learned in this chapter and make a more educated decision about where to have your video interview. I’ve summarized the 6 key elements of the ideal video interview location below.
6 Elements of the Ideal Video Interview Location
1. Enough light in your Key, Fill, and Backlight locations to illuminate your face without looking dark or washed out.
2. Minimal audio interferences like echoes or white noise.
3. No threats of physical or auditory distractions like people, pets, alarms, or phone calls.
4. Enough space between you and your background to create the depth of field composition you desire.
5. No visual distractions in the background of your frame.
6. A reliable internet connection
Most of these elements have already been covered in this chapter. You’re probably already thinking about of a place to have your video interview that has all of these elements. For most of us that location is somewhere in your own home. If so, then you may have additional questions about video interviewing from home.
4 Additional Tips For Video Interviewing From Home
If you’re planning on shooting your video interview from home there are a couple more questions you may still have, like:
- “What should I have or not have in my background?”
- “What if there’s shit everywhere in my small apartment?” There is no where I can think of that would look professional.”
- “What do I do with the kids/roommates?”
- “How do I ensure a reliable internet connection?”
I’ll go through these questions one by one.
1) “What should I have or not have in my background?”
A professional looking background to your video interview is one that minimizes distractions.
You want them to focus on YOU and only you. So your background should be free of distractions that will continue to pull their eyes away from you or their minds away from your message. Distractions in your background can also cause your interviewer to form a negative bias towards you – something you don’t want to worry about.
You may need to take personal items out of the frame or rearrange some furniture temporarily for a cleaner look.
The less clutter the better. Although contrary to what some might believe, I think it’s better to have some background than no background. Shooting yourself against a blank wall can be visually boring to your interviewer’s eyes. Adding some depth of field will go a long way to making your shot more pleasing to your interviewer’s eyes.
Think about it, when do you ever talk to someone in real life and only see them against a plain background? Almost never. Think about how they would see you in an in-person interview.
The question then becomes, “what items do you take out of the frame and what items do you keep?”
Try to think of what a typical office setting looks like.
- It looks clean, tidy, and wouldn’t have personal items that aren’t office appropriate.
- Plants, furniture, books, artwork, paintings and office equipment are all safe items to have in your background.
- Things like non-appropriate pictures/paintings, liquor cabinets, clothing, video game consoles, or weapons should be avoided.
Do not put anything in your background that your interviewer could judge you by or form a negative bias towards you with. For example, you shouldn’t shoot your video interview in front of your grand piano, your expensive car, your inappropriate poster, your bitchin’ backyard, your unmade bed, your newly renovated kitchen or any religious items – to be safe.
You also need to be careful of windows and mirrors as they could reflect weird lighting onto the camera lens or even worse, allow for unwanted cameos in your video interview.
2) “What if there’s shit everywhere in my small apartment?”
Face it, we all don’t have grand pianos and 10,000 square foot homes where we can pick and choose where to shoot our video interview. You may be in a small living space and be thinking to yourself, “There is no where I can think of that would look professional.”
Don’t fear! There is a solution.
If you can’t find a good spot in your home that provides a professional and visually appealing background, then I would recommend buying a Seamless Backdrop Screen and using that as your background.
Seamless Backdrop Screens aren’t that expensive. You can pick up a 10ft by 12ft roll off Amazon for under $50 (including the stand). They’re essentially just a large piece of single-colored muslin cloth that will help you cover up any area in your home that would not look professional otherwise. Here’s an example:
Compared to using a blank wall in your home, the Seamless Backdrop Screen will cover up dirty walls, nail holes, outlets, wallpaper and weird textures with a smooth, seamless, wrinkle free look.
You can also buy them in a variety of colors, which gives you the ability to personalize your video interview with the color you like without having to paint your walls! You can also pick a color that will pair visually with what you plan to wear. Fancy!
Your background isn’t going to have an office looking feel like I discussed earlier, but it’s going to look a lot more professional than what you’re trying to cover up.
3) “What do I do with the kids/roommates?”
I’ve been working from home for years, and kids happen. Even if your significant other says they’re going to watch them and keep them out of your space, kids still happen. Take for example this man being interviewed on live television from his home office:
Don’t let this be you. Even being able to hear other people talking in your home can interrupt your thought process in a video interview.
You will find it far less stressful when you know that you have a 0% chance of interruption, which will allow you to better relax and concentrate.
For this exact reason, I do all of my phone interviews in my parked car outside of my house. Why? Because there is a very small chance of interruptions or distractions. It allows me to have my computer open with my notes. I still have a good Wi-Fi connection. I can control the temperature so I’m perfectly comfortable. No one else can hear me, and I can’t hear them. For all of these reasons, I’m able to relax, listen and say what I need to say to get the job.
So whether it’s kids, pets, or other people, set your home environment up to have a 0% chance of interruption for a stress-free video interview.
4) “How do I ensure a reliable internet connection?”
The last thing you want is a choppy internet connection which will destroy your video interview. When it comes to your internet connection, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success:
1. Use a wired connection vs. a wireless connection. A wired connection will always provide you with the fastest internet speed without the possibility of signal, frequency, or physical obstructions. You may have to run a long cable from your router to where you’re filming, but it can be well worth it to ensure a good internet connection.
2. Stop all other active traffic on your network. That includes stopping your roommates or your family members from activities like streaming Netflix, online gaming, or downloading files while your video interviewing. Depending on the speed of your network, these additional network activities can easily cause your video interview to be choppy as it fights for bandwidth.
3. Close all other programs on your computer. Even though your internet connection is good, your video interview can still be affected by other programs on your computer fighting for CPU or memory resources. Therefore, it’s best to reboot your computer before your video interview, then close any programs that automatically open upon startup or processes that run in the background (backups, drop-box, etc.) If you’re using a mobile device, then close all your apps except for your video interviewing app.
You should now be able to pick a location in your home to shoot your video interview.
But if after reading this chapter you are still thinking about shooting your video interview in a public location, like a coffee shop, then understand that’s probably the worst place you could be. A coffee shop may have:
- A spotty internet connection
- Two friends talking loudly about how wasted they got last night
- Loud music in your background
- The inability to hear your interviewer
- Visual distractions and interruptions
- Bad lighting
Yes, your interviewer may be at a coffee shop. But don’t think you can be at one just because they are. Remember, you are the one on stage performing and your interviewer is the audience. So pick a location that’s going to set you up for success.
Your Turn. How has this chapter helped you prepare for your next video interview? Share it with us in the comments below!
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