6 key things that you can do to help optimize your video interview setup up, so that you can show up and showcase your very best when interviewing remotely.

(Watch the video version of this article here: YouTube Link)

Man talking on headset
Video Interviews are now the new norm

This is now the new norm — not only connecting with work colleagues over video conference but now friends and family as well. This pandemic has caused an interesting shift in the way we connect with each other — for the first time, we’re all forced to be almost 100% remote — not only in the corporate world but also in our social lives.

And if you happen to be a job seeker during this crazy period — it also presents some unique challenges that you wouldn’t have otherwise had to think about, under any other circumstances. Almost all interviews are done online now — and suddenly WHERE in your home you have your conferences, as well as how you SOUND and many other video/audio aspects of this process, are becoming more and more important.

So today, in this article — we’ll cover 6 key things that you can do to help optimize your interview setup up — so that you can show up and showcase your very best when interviewing remotely.

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Daniel’s Brew

Welcome to Daniel’s Brew — where I cover personal finance, investing, and career development topics.


The first key thing you’ll want to pay attention to when setting up for your video interview is Location.

In addition to selecting a quiet place to take this conference, you’ll also want to make sure your location has a backdrop that is professional and non-distracting but will leave an interesting impression in your interviewer. You see — just like how your dress code and your personal hygiene can leave subtle impressions when you are interviewing in person, your location and backdrop could now have that same slight effect in a video interview.

As you can imagine, when interviewing many candidates for a role via video conference, it can be a bit exhausting for the interviewer. If you have a boring background or one that is similar to everyone else — in the mind of the interviewer, you could just end up blending in with the rest of the candidates. One way to stand out is to make sure you have good video quality during your session — and the first step in doing that is picking the right location.

So try to pick a spot that isn’t too cluttered or that isn’t too plain — with maybe one or two small accent elements to stand out in the back without them drawing too much attention. Here is a quick contrast between a bad spot and a better spot.

Daniel on a plain white background
Bad Spot
Daniel on couch
Better Spot (location was good, although lighting wasn’t the best here)

Having a well-chosen location may also give the interviewer a subtle impression of the effort that you took in preparing for this interview as well — it makes it seem like you put some thought into where you decided to situate, as opposed to just picking anywhere to have your meeting.


The second thing you’ll want to do when preparing for a video interview is to make sure you’ve downloaded and tested the video conferencing app you will use. Whether it is Microsoft teams, Bluejeans, Cisco Webex or Amazon chime, Zoom, etc — you’ll want to make sure that it’s set up on your phone or PC and that you’ve successfully logged in at least once. Most of these apps will require you to create a profile when you first log in, so you’ll want to make sure you knock that out beforehand. And even if it doesn’t, it’s still worth testing the experience once, so you don’t have any glitches to deal with by the time you get to the interview. If you’ve been given a specific link to access a particular conference number for your interview — make sure you pick an off-time to test it — like late at night around 10pm or 11pm. That way, in case this is not a unique conference bridge, and it’s someone’s normal conference ID that they access throughout the day, you don’t accidentally join in, while it is in use.


The next thing you’ll want to make sure you pay attention to is the lighting of your location.

The one thing that makes or breaks a video conferencing — is the lighting. Take a look at how drastically the lighting can impact the video:

Daniel sitting in room with dark lighting
Poor Lighting (ceiling light only)
Daniel sitting in room with good lighting
Better Lighting (Key, Fill lights)

So, how do you achieve the latter?

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a location that has some ambient lighting but is not super bright. The reason for that is that for lighting the subject you’ll want to apply a separate light source to achieve a focalized professional look by utilizing a cinematic film lighting technique called Rembrandt Lighting.

Rembrandt Lighting explained 1
Rembrandt Lighting: 45 degree key light

In this lighting set up, you have one key light that comes towards the subject at a 45 deg angle that provides a nice highlight to one side of the face and then bleeds over into the other side to create a soft gradient drop off the look. It gives a professional, portrait feels to the video and highlights the attention on your face — while at the same time, giving you a soft yet confident look.

Rembrandt Lighting explained 2
Fill light added to soften the dark gradient on the other side of the face

The other thing that you’ll want to do — is add a fill light to the opposite side of your face, so that the shadow produced from gradient drop off here, isn’t so dramatic. Adding a little bit of a fill light can help you look a bit more natural and not TOO cinematic — since this is an interview and not an audition for a Marvel movie.

The other thing that a lot of filmmakers use — is a backlight that helps you separate from your background. They often call this a Rim light or a Hair light and when you place it behind the subject, at a slight angle, it creates a subtle outlining effect on your head and your body so that you stand out a bit more from your background. Now for interview purposes — I don’t think this is 100% necessary, but if you wanted to over-achieve and add this additional light, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Rembrandt Lighting explained 3
3 Point Lighting System

Altogether, this lighting scheme is called the 3-point lighting system — and it’s a popular method used on TV and motion picture studios when they film interview type scenarios.

Daniel in room making a youtube video
You don’t need to have fancy lights to accomplish this

Now I use semi-professional equipment for lighting — because I happen to have them for my YouTube channel — but if you don’t have these, then for the key and fill lights, just about any lamp or light source will do. But if you’d like to use the same lighting solutions I’m using, then you can check out the video here and simply scroll down to the description section.

So to sum up this section, having a strategically lit environment for your interview can significantly improve the viewing quality for your interviewer — which may make the difference if you and another candidate go neck and neck to the finish line for your particular role.


Now the sound is often touted as the most important thing when it comes to video conferencing. You can somewhat tolerate bad video quality but when you have bad sound, that just makes for a really poor experience, especially when interviewing. Luckily, this can be one of the easiest things to account for.

Daniel holding earbuds
Simple headphones (with mic) can solve most audio issues

My recommendation on having decent sound is to make sure that you use a separate microphone, as opposed to your onboard phone or PC mic. Something as simple as these headphones (pictured above) where the mic is closer in proximity to your vocal area should do just fine — you don’t need to go out and buy any fancy or expensive audio equipment.


Now with dress code, it’s important to match what your new prospective company’s culture is like — or the specific directions they’ve given you as part of the interview process. But one thing I’d would recommend is that if there is any grey area, or if you are not 100% certain on how you should dress for this interview — I would index on the side of being slightly more formal than not.

And the reason I say this — is that doing a video conference from home already provides a subconscious perception of being a little more comfortable than being in an office — so you’ll want to counteract that by being a little bit more formal to show that you really take this interview process seriously.

Man in suit putting on watch
That extra touch to your outfit helps you represent your very best

Just as putting that extra thought into the location of your conference gives a slight nod to the preparation efforts you put into this meeting — by the same token, a little bit of extra attention to your dress code may provide that same effect and give you a slight perception edge over the other candidates.

Also as a side note — whatever you wear, make sure there is enough contrast between what you are wearing and what your background color is — so that you don’t blend in or fade into the back.


The last tip I have for you guys — in how to optimize your video interview sessions, is to make sure you’ll want to make sure that you situate your camera, to give you the best camera angle suitable for your session. It would be a shame to put so much work into the first 5 steps — only conduct your interview like this:

Daniel upclose face
Some first time video interviewers will get too close to the PC/phone

So what you’d want to do — is be close, but have your camera distance far enough back to where your torso and upper body fully show, as well as some parts of your background. One side tip — if you’re using your smartphone, for the interview, one easy solution to making sure you get the right angle, is to use something like this — a car windshield mount. You simply seal it onto your desk and then you can manipulate the position you want the phone to be in.

Cellphone mount sitting on stool
Car windshield smartphone mount

And at this point, one of the best things that you can do utilizes another filming technique called — the Rule of Thirds.This rule states that when you are filming an interview type of scenario — draw 2 evenly spaced horizontal lines and 2 evenly spaced vertical lines within the frame of the shot and make sure that important subjects and composition elements are placed on the lines or within the intersections of the lines.

Rule of thirds pic 1
Rule of Thirds

For the purposes of video interviews — I find that one of these 2 intersection points is where you’d want to center your head.This gives enough focus on yourself and your face — while at the same time displaying a bit of your background.

Rule of thirds pic 2
These 2 intersections are good points to align your head/body to

It also makes for a more interesting angle than if you were just to have the camera face you straight on.

Since this is supposed to replace an in-person interview, you’ll want to make sure that you can give as much of a feeling of being in the same room as the interviewer — and this framing method helps to do that.


And there you go — those are the 6 tips that you can utilize to enhance your virtual or video interview session — to hopefully give you an edge over your competition.

But just remember one thing, these are optimization tips to heighten your interview performance but it’s not a substitute for poor subject matter preparation on your part. No amount of fancy lighting or interesting camera angles will save you if you aren’t well versed in what you’ll be discussing in your interview. But I trust that if your going this far as to read my article to prepare for the logistics of the virtual interview — you’ve probably already done the studying portion of your interview prep by now.

These are unique and challenging times — and with so much unemployment out there due to the effects of the pandemic, I can only imagine that the job market will become even more and more competitive within the next few months. So I hope these tips give you that extra boost to your interview performance that makes the difference between whether or not you land that new job offer.

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**** Disclaimer *****

The content here is strictly the opinion of Daniel’s Brew and is for entertainment purposes only. It should not be considered professional financial investment or career advice. Investing and career decisions are personal choices that each individual must make for themselves in accordance with their situation and long term plans. Daniel’s Brew will not be held liable for any outcome as a result of anyone following the opinions provided in this content.

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