The Zoom Interview Is Here to Stay

When the pandemic shut down the world in March 2020, everyone turned to Zoom — communications, internal and external, became exclusively digital. In the media world, reporters had no choice but to interview people virtually. While following conventional interview tips was still helpful, new rules for acing these dialogs began to emerge.

In recent weeks, even as COVID-19-related restrictions are relaxing, reporters, at least in our experience, are still conducting interviews largely on Zoom. Yes, even for crises, where access to immediate information is critical. As a result, reaching out to media beyond your geographic area — as if you were getting coffee together in town — is now both possible and strategic.

Thus, there’s a new level of intimacy and connection, even with reporters halfway around the world. But there are also new risks, and while the old tips surrounding interviews still apply, here are four key notes to remember when preparing for a virtual interview:

  1. Prepare your webcam frame. Just as you wouldn’t want to show up to an interview in your pajamas or invite a reporter to a grimy location, you should make sure your onscreen appearance is neat and presentable. Your background should be tidy and your face properly lit, with your camera at about forehead level.
  2. Test, test, test. Nothing unsettles the beginning of an interview like technical glitches. Have your webcam and microphone connected ahead of time and conduct a test call with a colleague to make sure everything is working properly. Triple check your internet connection. You’ll also need to find somewhere to take the call where you can avoid unwanted interruptions from background noise.
  3. Don’t read from a script — but feel free to check your notes. That’s one advantage to Zoom interviews: In person, it’s hard to subtly refer to paper notes, but in a video call you can pull up your notes on the same screen. You can check talking points without looking away from the screen. A reporter will still be able to tell if you’re reading something word for word, so stay loose and natural even if you rely on written prompts.
  4. Take advantage of the added features of video calls. You can’t send instant messages or share your screen when you’re meeting a reporter for coffee, but you can use these features to your benefit in a virtual interview. If you reference articles, facts or figures, link them in the chat box to back up your claims in real time. Or, if you’re expressing something that could be more clearly explained visually — a chart, for example — offer to share your screen with the reporter. (Just make sure not to accidentally share anything private!)

We certainly missed the advantages of in-person interviews during the pandemic. But virtual interviews open up technological and geographic possibilities we hadn’t considered before — and, like videoconference meetings themselves, they’re here to stay.

Photo Credit: insta_photos/Shutterstock

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