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12/18/2020

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Alex Grzankowski

A good rule of thumb that won't cost you a dime. If you can see your ceiling, people are probably looking up your nose.

Another thing I've noticed: My laptop cam, it turns out, is really bad. The cam on my iPad is much better. I swear it also "touches up" images (and I have some recollection of reading that that is so.) I use an iPad and AirPods now for most zoom-like things and often people note how clear the video and audio are. I was going to buy a light, a mic, and better camera for teaching and for meetings, but I now don't think I need to bother. In short, it's worth trying different options is your have them (but don't point them up your nose). I got a "goose neck" holder for my iPad (a long bendy arm) and I hook that to a table on one end the iPad on the other (it can hold a phone too). This lets me get the perfect height on my iPad. This has been a good, inexpensive addition.

Assistant Professor

I was on the market last year - before the abundance of web articles about how to look and sound amazing in online meetings that we have this year - but the things I learned in my pre-COVID interviews were: Make sure you camera is at or above eye level (stack your computer on books if needed), keep you background uncluttered and as neutral as possible (I personally like the blurring feature but not virtual backdrops, which have glitches), and headphones and a mic are essential to avoid echo or distortion (I use wired Panasonic earbuds with a mic that are inexpensive but work great). These are pretty obvious, and do not require one to have a set up like a YouTube influencer.

Also: keep back up modes of communication easily accessible. In one interview the connection was just really bad (audio did not come through or would drop, etc.) and a committee member called me on my cell while we kept the video running. I got the sense the committee treated me as though I did something wrong to make the tech fail (and I got no second interview). But I had another interview in which we couldn't get the video conference software to work for us and we ended up talking only by phone. It was my favorite interview, resulted in a great conversation, and continued interest by the committee. Arguably that interview went so well precisely because we were not burdened by all the ancillary technology.

Good luck out there to all those interviewing!

Call me on the line

For committees: as someone who did 30+ first-round interviews, I greatly preferred phone interviews compared to video interviews. Please consider switching from Zoom/Skype to phone calls, especially if the committee is small.

Anon UK Grad

Just to follow on some of the advice from Alex Grzankowski and Assistant Professor above, another thing I learned from a friend in psychology: humans, like all primates, like to look at themselves.

If you can, you should either disable the self-view feature, or cover it up with a sticky note during the interview. That makes it easier to look at the camera to impersonate making eye contact.

R2 Committee Member

As a committee member, I think this falls under the category of things that get a lot of attention because they're something the candidate can control, but don't play a huge role in who advances to the next stage. So do put some thought into it, though I would not recommend putting any financial strain on yourself in this regard.

Some more specifics:

* As a committee member, I can't say that video quality or audio quality ever registered on a conscious level (perhaps it could have on a subconscious level, but I'm not in a great position to say...) One consideration to keep in mind is that the committee is often seeing/hearing you on a less-than-ideal video and audio setup on their end, so that might limit how much of a difference the input quality can make.

* What did register was how prepared candidates seemed to be, both from the content side and from the setup side. When a candidate obviously had not even done a practice call and had no idea how to use the platform we were using, that was a clear strike against the candidate. On the flip side, I can remember a candidate who used airpods as standing out for being very well prepared for the interview overall (and headphones really did seem to help with any feedback issues).

* With that in mind, I'd recommend non-obtrusive bluetooth headphones with a built in microphone (something like airpods that aren't too distracting visually, though there are cheaper versions out there). The mic will be a step up from your computer mic -- I'm not convinced, though, that the extra quality from a professional microphone is needed. If you do use a professional microphone, I would recommend keeping it out of the video since, for better or worse, it might make you look like you take yourself a little TOO seriously (I know, it's unfair and as a committee member I wouldn't purposefully hold it against someone, but that's my honest assessment)

* Let me second the point about looking at yourself. We had one candidate who was obviously looking at themselves in the corner of the screen and smiling every few seconds -- that really didn't go over well. Another pro tip: you can put a sticky note right by your camera with notes (say, books you'll use for course X w/ author and title). That way you can read your notes while still seeming as if you're looking at the camera.

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