Online Interview Tips and Tricks

Phase 2 of the pharmacy residency match is challenging in any normal year. This year, it’s a uniquely difficult situation where no sensible person will be holding unnecessary in-person meetings. What the end result maybe is to conduct all interviews remotely and virtually. The infrastructure for this already exists online (and good for you if you already own LogMeIn stock…). But before you switch on the laptop camera and remove the little bit of colored tape, there are a few things you can do to improve how you look and perform on camera.

Get prepared

Before the interview, prepare your interview notes and have them pinned up not too far off camera.  It’s helpful to have major points printed out in a large format, rather than entire paragraphs of text. You want to be able to use these notes as reminders if you draw a blank – and to treat it like a script. 

Set up 

With Apple, can connect iPhone to computer and change camera to the phone camera while using skype/facetime, etc. There are simple instructions to do so from Apple.

With Samsung, it’s a similar process, but different applications. Generally, you may need to add additional software and apps. Before the interview is a good time to confirm with the interviewers which platform you’ll be using (Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc) so you can download the app in advance. Here again, is an opportunity to do this days in advance, and practice calling and setup with a friend or family member.

Professional YouTubers typically recommend using a DSLR camera with either a lapel microphone or another type of professional microphone. While these tools are much more expensive to use than your existing phone, they don’t offer a large improvement over these phones again. That is unless you are already familiar with customizing the setups, I would avoid the hassle of these cameras.

Lighting

Natural light is an effective and free lighting source. Many YouTubers who have instructional videos on how to set up your camera and lighting still use relatively expensive photography equipment. So if this may be a one-time video experience for you, there’s no sense in shelling out the cash. What you can do instead is use natural light.

Set up your shot with you facing a window that receives excellent consistent and indirect sunlight. A south-facing window is the best for these purposes. This indirect southern window will minimize how much the light changes throughout the day.  If it’s not a sunny day or even raining- don’t worry, there is still generally enough light to illuminate your face. You may just need to move closer to it.

Additional lighting sources can be used like extra lamps you may have around the house. If you do have some time and ability to get one, a ring light is an excellent supplementary lighting source that you can use fairly simple, easily and inexpensively. In my videos, I use a combination of ring light and natural light.

Take a look at these different lighting examples. Which one looks like a mugshot? Also, notice the difference between direct and indirect natural lighting sources.

Set

You don’t want it to look like a mug shot but you also don’t want it to look like you’re shooting from Pottery Barn. If you’re using a backdrop, make sure you’re using natural colors and tones and keep distracting decor to a minimum. Having one or two pieces that can help frame the shot can improve the look and feel of your video conference.

Dress

The simple rule here is dress as you would for any conventional interview. At least from the waist up (with a correlating camera angle, of course).  But when selecting a professional interview outfit, there are some principles to keep in mind when video conferencing. 

Keep patterns to a minimum. The camera picks up strange interference and blurriness if there are too many active patterns in the shot. So solid colors are a simple solution. Also, it’s a good time to get rid of that paisley tie anyways.

Camera angle

Try to shoot at a slightly downward angle. It’s generally more flattering for most people, and it will avoid the “up the nostril” shot. A simple thing you can do that is totally free is to have a practice run with some friends. Set each other up for success by arranging a practice interview where you are interviewing each other over a video conference. This will allow you an opportunity to beta-test many of these ideas and tweak them so you’re confident when the interview day rolls around.

If you want more advice and help setting up your set for online interviews, you can reach out to me at craig@empharmd.com. You can also find a lot of advice for your Phase 2 interviews on the EM PharmD-U website. Also, make sure to get your free copy of INTERVIEW to help prepare yourself to land that residency position.

Online Interview Tips and Tricks