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I wrote a job application and the next step would be a video interview. Is it safe to do it at my home or should I go for example to a library or other public place to conduct the interview? I mean, why should anyone expose their home and privacy to a potential employer?

Some people recommend putting a piece of tape over the web camera of a laptop to cover it. Should a potential employer just hear the voice of an applicant but not see her or his face?

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    Skype offers a way to blur background. Possibly other tools offer this too. – Captain Emacs Sep 24 at 20:26
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    A clean white sheet makes a good background too. Don't forget to check the lighting. – pjc50 Sep 25 at 9:25
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    "...video interview" "...putting a piece of tape over the web camera..." That would not be a video interview anymore. – Based Sep 25 at 9:55
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    You don't have a single blank wall you can sit in front of? – daisy Sep 25 at 12:54
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    Current versions of Teams (and I believe Skype as well) have the option to blur the background and only show your face. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 25 at 19:43

10 Answers 10

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The point isn't to see your home, it's to see you. It's about as close as you can get to an in-person interview without actually meeting face to face. As long as you can find a spot with a background that isn't dirty or messy, it shouldn't matter very much. If you feel more comfortable doing it somewhere other than your house, by all means do so. Just make sure there isn't too much activity or noise going on in the background. If they specifically requested a video interview, you shouldn't put tape over the webcam as that defeats the whole purpose.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Sep 26 at 16:18
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    Also, interviewing in a library is a bad idea, unless they explicitly have a small conference room or "phone booth" room you can reserve where talking in a normal voice is acceptable. When interviewing you need to speak freely and clearly -- something that is generally not appreciated (if tolerated at all) in a library. – Doktor J Sep 27 at 20:52
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There's a couple things to consider in this scenario. It's not an uncommon practice, I've been on both sides of it (interviewer/interviewee). The purpose of the video chat is there are a lot of things that come through a face to face (even virtual ones) that don't come through over the phone. If you're concerned about what your home looks like, or just want to protect your privacy, it is completely acceptable to go somewhere else for the interview. With a couple things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your internet is flawless. You don't want to be interrupted by technical difficulties!
  • Make sure you can hear them, and they can hear you clearly. Headphones are a must if you're going somewhere public.
  • Try to avoid busy locations like Starbucks, or anywhere that may have random loud noises in the background.

The best case scenario, is find a blank wall in your home and setup in front of that. Make sure you have decent lighting and you're not backlit, as that defeats the purpose when they can't see your face.

Good luck!

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    The wall need not be blank, but is should be neat. Having a rack of spices visible is no problem, showing your liquor cabinet should be avoided. In the same way, a poster with landscape is fine, a poster with a religious message (especially of a religion other than the 'primary' one in your country) is best hidden – ThisIsMe Sep 25 at 10:08
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    @ThisIsMe I just realized my liquor cabinet would be visible from my computer's webcam. I suspect it'll be years before it matters, so I'll forget no matter what I do. – JollyJoker Sep 25 at 11:48
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    I make a number of calls from home for work, and hang a single-colored bedsheet behind my computer space using curtain rings and a few small hooks in the ceiling. It's helpful when you're using a desktop and don't want to keep the background clean. – Itinerati Sep 25 at 15:56
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I've been through interviews like this.

The point is they won't care about where you live. They are looking to put a face with the voice.

I had this happen three years ago during an interview for a six-month contact position. The position was fully remote (loved the commute to my man-cave). They would do a video interview and if that went OK then fly you to their headquarters for the in-person interview.

Just find a quiet room in your house without distractions.

And, good luck!

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We've had a couple of interviews like this lately and I can tell you that as long as there're not to much movement or noise around you can have it anywhere. We've seen white walls, teaddy bears or even a curtain behind them and it wasn't a problem.

One thing that I haven't seen mentioned in any of the other answers is that the video part is usually both ways, we see you and you see us.

I'm not gonna mention how to protect your privacy because the other answers seem to be doing a pretty good job. What I'm going to do is give you a list of reasons why someone might wanna use video and why you might not have to worry about it in first place.

  • Depending on the country you're in, the company might have to pay for your hotel and travel arrangements so this might saving a couple the company a lot of money especially for first time interviews
  • Company policy makes me take notes and with video you can see that I'm writing something and not falling asleep
  • You don't need to ask "Hey are you still there?". When video drops or freezes it's obvious for both parties, but without video you might end up talking for sometime before you realize there's no one on the other side
  • I get a chance to see your face, I see if you're nervous, agitated or confused and at least for me this is pretty important when deciding if you would be a good fit for the team or the position
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    Good points, but I'd add to your last point: it's not just about catching candidates out: seeing natural reactions aids communication both ways. It helps avoid misunderstandings, and lets you can see what makes the other appear more or less interested, surprised, confused, amused or serious, impressed, skeptical, etc. You can then clarify where appropriate and steer towards points of most interest. The interviewer will do the same, e.g. if you look pleased, surprised, or puzzled when they mention a particular duty or expectation. – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 26 at 10:35
  • Without video, people often tend to try to achieve this conversational feedback by punctuating each other's speech with vocalisations like "Uh huh", "Oh?", "Hmm", "Yes!", "Right", "Ahhh...!", "Ha!", "Huh" etc, which isn't as effective (especially for getting across that a topic is not so interesting), and can get annoying, especially if the connection has a small time delay. – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 26 at 10:40
  • "gonna...wanna" detracts a lot from this answer. – FreeMan Sep 27 at 19:26
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Do not go to a coffee shop or library; there is a lot of potential for distraction.

You want to convey the impression of a professional home office. Set up your camera to provide a pleasing, professional image.

Carefully check the camera angles. Look very carefully what is in frame.

Video

  1. Have the camera at eye level. Don't make the mistake of having your laptop on your lap and looking down, or you will give your interviewer will have a nice view up your nostrils.
  2. Set up a professional background. Maybe a plant, motivational poster, your framed degrees, etc.
  3. Close any doors in the background. Open doors leading to dark hallways can be distracting
  4. Check your lighting. You want the frame to look nice and bright; no dark shadows. Indirect sunlight is best; some nice warm lamps also work. Google photography lighting tips. Even consider lighting a few candles in front of you (out of frame, of course). They provide a nice warm light.
  5. Get pets OUT. The last thing you need is Fluffy meowing and jumping onto your lap, or Fido barking when you're trying to win the job.

Audio

  1. Don't skimp on audio; make sure your audio is clear and crisp.
  2. Get a decent headset. I don't work for Arctis, but their SteelSeries headsets are great.

Dress

  1. Solid colors look best on camera
  2. Look at some newscasters and see what they wear.

Be sure to test with a friend or two before the interview.

If the opportunity exists to work from home/remotely, they will be looking at your home office setup. If it looks sketchy, it will cost you.

I learned a lot of this the hard way. It resulted in a job offer, based on the online interview.

Hope this helps. --Miklas

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Unless your neighborhood / apartment building is too noisy, it is fine to do it at home. If you are concerned about privacy concerns, you can set the computer (and camera) so there's a empty wall behind you, or purchase a sheet of neutral color plastic and hang it behind you. Check with the camera to see if it is not reflecting too much light and flaring the camera lens.

If for some reason you don't want the company to know your home IP (since the question is about privacy, let's cover all angles), then go to a quiet net cafe or use a VPN.

Dress up just as if you were going to a face-to-face interview (including the pants - you never know if you will have to stand up during the interview). Make sure the connection is good and no massive downloads are happening.

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Some public/university libraries provide study rooms. Reserve one, close the door and off you go. Of course that assumes decent internet connection.

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When using Skype there is the possibility to blur the background and it works really well.

I do not know if any other software offers this functionality.

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    I think this would be pretty weird for the interviewer. – espindolaa Sep 26 at 12:58
  • Yeah probably. Still better than putting tape on the camera. Honestly I would see this whole problem as an opportunity to show off how nice and tidy your room is. Or use very good lighting. Makes a huge difference as well. – felixmp Sep 26 at 13:04
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    @espindolaa Not really. We do a lot video conferencing with outsource programmers, and the blurred background looks very natural - it just looks like the camera has a very shallow depth of field, so the face is in focus but the background isn't. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Sep 26 at 14:24
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Instead of worrying about what they might see by accident, control the experience. You have complete control over where the camera points.

Ensure nothing private is in the area where you will be doing the interview, problem solved.

If the job is remote, they are judging your home office and video conferencing skills. Consider showing your closed door in the background. Make sure that nothing interrupts you. Doing the interview somewhere else or hiding the background is going to send the wrong impression for a remote job... that you have no dedicated work space.

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I have my current position thanks to a Skype interview where I was in my van (there was a school bus in the background, which apparently was highly memorable).

I was in the van, because I had a young child who I couldn’t otherwise guarantee would not cause problems. I had had privacy concerns, I would have addressed them by restricting the background, not by turning off the camera — I was asking them to take a chance on someone that was thousands of miles away, and wanted to make them as comfortable with me as possible.

If privacy had been my concern, I would have solved the issue by putting my back to a door and then adjusting the picture so that nothing outside the door was visible.

But realistically, until interviews by video conference are more common, accommodations will have to be made.

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