Ten years ago, I was asked to fly from St. Louis to Philadelphia to interview for a job that would relocate me to Chicago. The whole expedition seemed like a major pain in the ass. I asked the hiring manager in HR to look into something called a 'Web cam' to see if we could make the process more efficient, cut the amount of time I would spend in an airport, and reduce travel expenses.
She laughed at me like I was a crazy dreamer. The Internet? For a job interview? You've got to be joking.
So I put on my best suit from the mall, flew to Philly, and I wasn't asked back for a second interview.
A decade later, and in the midst of the worst recession since the '80s, companies (and even a few ambitious daters
) are finally using technologies such as Skype and Oovoo to see candidates for first- and second-round interviews. It's about time.
There's a reason why pornography flourishes on the Internet. It's all about staging, makeup, camouflage and body language. I want you to take a lesson from those XXX sites and look your best so an employer focuses on your knowledge, skills and abilities and not the goofy shadows under your eyes or lipstick on your teeth.
I want you to put your best foot forward on the Internet, so here are a few tips to make sure that you look OK during your Web interview.
The light in the room should be as natural as possible. Sunlight is best, but if you use a lamp, place the light source behind the web cam and monitor. Your background should be neutral, the room should be quiet, and the potential employer shouldn't be able to see your unmade bed in the background of the frame. Stay away from fluorescent lamps that make you look like a reanimated corpse. Zombies don't get hired.
Focus on simple makeup. Stay away from heavy, under-the-rim eyeliner and focus on brightening your eyes since the computer camera adds dark circles anyway. Concealer, light shadow, groomed brows, curled eyelashes, mascara. Lipstick or gloss should enhance your natural color and not make your lips look sticky.
Make (Fake) Eye Contact
Position the Web cam slightly above your eyes. Your head should be tilted up, ever so slightly, to show your interest to the potential employer. Avoid watching yourself (or gazing into the "eyes" of the person you're talking to) on the monitor during your interview. If you're so beautiful and you can't help staring at yourself, tape a piece of paper to the screen with an arrow that points directly to the camera.
Don't get too busy with your wardrobe choices; simple is best. Wear solid colors and keep the jewelry to a minimum. Pick solid and thick fabrics and stay away from anything with a sheen. Keep your clothing choices sturdy, not sultry. This isn't a guest spot on the new "Melrose Place." You want the interviewer to focus on your delivery and presentation, not your sparkly earrings or retro '80s blouse.
I know you think that's a dumb piece of advice, but it's not. You might be tempted to shift in your chair. You may have to interrupt your interview because the doorbell rings. Your cat might jump in your lap. Believe me, you don't want to be caught without pants. That's an automatic deal-breaker for most companies.
The combination of pornography and social media has skewed our brains to the point where everything on the Internet is judged in a superficial way. Rightly or not, human resources departments are now operating as amateur marketing departments, and recruiters expect your personal appearance to match the professional brand you've created on your résumé. You cannot be a superstar employee if you look like a schlub.
Laurie Ruettimann is a writer, speaker and HR exec with Fortune 500 experience. She blogs at Punk Rock Human Resources.