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What to Do When Your Zoom Interview Goes Sideways

Frustrated man looking at his laptop after a bad Zoom interview

There are many articles about how to conduct successful Zoom video interviews. The most common advice includes:

  • Test your technology beforehand to ensure your camera, microphone, and chat software are working harmoniously.
  • Show up early for the actual meeting to ensure everything is working right and show respect for the person interviewing you.
  • Sit in front of a minimalist background, like a blank wall. 
  • Position your lighting to shine at you from the front. (A window behind you will cause you to be backlit and hard to see. A light above you may cast unflattering shadows.)
  • Be in a quiet space without traffic noises, children, or barking dogs.
  • Dress professionally; wearing business attire in muted tones is generally recommended to project professionalism and inspire trust.

These tips are great, and you should follow them. In a perfect world, it should be all the guidance you need for a flawless video interview, aside from, perhaps, some coaching on what comes out of your mouth. But, as the COVID pandemic has so painfully reminded us, unpredictable things happen, and we need to have a contingency plan.

How to Deal with Unexpected Distractions During Video Interviews

Zoom Interview Goes Sideways

When the delivery driver rings the bell at the most inopportune time, your children suddenly require your attention, or your pets decide to chime into the neighborhood chorus, what should you do?

  • If you’re not talking, mute your microphone. The interviewers don’t need to experience your distractions.
  • Excuse yourself momentarily. Ask, “Could you please excuse me for a moment?” Then, shut off your camera and microphone, and quickly deal with your distraction.
  • Use humor to get back on track. Jokes are subjective and can sometimes flop, but since remote work distractions are universal annoyances these days, most people will catch your drift. Say something like, “I’m sorry. The joys of working remotely! Where were we?”
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone has experienced distractions during video calls. What’s important is how you recover. Making a strong comeback after the distraction can help demonstrate your resilience and focus.
  • Mitigate distractions for next time. When the interview ends, take a moment to reflect on what happened and how you can prevent it next time. 

Go forth knowing that you will, most likely, get distracted from a video interview at some point. Instead of worrying about it, embrace this challenge as an opportunity to show the interviewer how quickly you can bounce back from interruptions. 

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