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As if the CaRMs weren't stressful enough — this year, the interview process is being done during a global pandemic. Instead of travelling for in-person interviews, you'll need to sell yourself through a computer screen during a virtual interview. But don't worry — these expert tips will give you an edge.

There are things you can do to make sure your expertise and enthusiasm come through the computer screen. Shirin Khamisa, the Practice Leader at career coaching company, Careers by Design, shares her advice on performing your best during a virtual interview.

1. Prep Your Space

When you do an interview virtually, you need to make sure whatever is in the camera’s view comes across as professional, says Khamisa. This means personal effects and furniture, like your bed, shouldn’t be visible, and there should be minimal household distractions. For example, don’t have a dishwasher running in the background and make sure you’ve given your family or roommates a heads-up so they can either be out of the house or apartment or in a separate area of the house.

Think about your clothing, too, and avoid busy patterns and large pieces of jewelry. “Whether it’s your dress, your environment, your jewelry—it’s all about minimizing distraction,” says Khamisa.

2. Get the Lighting Right

There’s nothing worse than a grainy face or an intense glare on the screen when chatting over a computer. Test out your lighting in advance, taking care to make sure your space isn’t too bright or too dark, and there aren’t any shadows on your face. “People get tripped up on this because they’ll practice in advance with the lighting, but then on the day of the interview, it’s super sunny or too dark,” says Khamisa. To avoid this, practice with the windows or blinds closed and replicate that for the interview.

3. Adjust Your Camera Angle

Most of us have our cameras in a different place than we need to see the person we’re speaking with,” says Khamisa. Because of this, if you are making eye contact with their screen image, it might appear you’re looking down or off to the side. Khamisa recommends practicing with a friend or family member who can give you feedback on your camera angle and eye contact. “It can be difficult because sometimes you have to look into the camera, and then down to the screen to see their facial expression.”

When it comes to positioning your camera, Khamisa suggests playing to your strengths. “If you have a very expressive face and everything comes across on your face, then you want to make sure you’re sitting close enough that the person can read that. However, if you talk a lot with your hands, and express yourself through upper body movement, then you want to make sure your distance from the camera is such that your interviewer can pick up on that.”

4. Know Your Technology

Familiarize yourself with the video calling platform you’re using, whether it’s Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or something else.

Make sure you know where the audio and camera buttons are, as well as the chat function.

Look to see if there’s a way to hide your camera view (so that the other person can see you, but you don’t see yourself), making you more comfortable.

“We’re not used to seeing ourselves when we’re communicating,” Khamisa points out. She also recommends having a plan B for connecting to the internet — like a hotspot from your phone — just in case your first way of connecting doesn’t work on the day of the interview.

5. Get Your Head in the Game

“When people think about a virtual interview, sometimes they may approach it in a casual way,” says Khamisa. Visiting a program in person may help you focus. To replicate that feeling in an online interview, do things on the day to help calm and sharpen your mind. “Oftentimes people aren’t aware of the power of doing some deep breathing because it regulates your whole nervous system,” says Khamisa. Dedicate some time to getting prepared and pumped up in the way that works best for you.

Read related story: Residents Share Their Secrets for Getting Through CaRMS