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I have a video interview in a few days. I know that my headset provides great audio to me and the mic quality is decent, but I'm not sure if wearing the headset would look professional during the interview. I don't think my webcam's audio quality is as good as the mic on my headset, but I don't know if it's poor enough to warrant a change.

Is this something that's even that important? I was considering borrowing a friend's more professional stand-alone mic if need be, but I wanted to know if it would be odd to wear a headset. I'm interviewing for a programming position at an agricultural company which, on first thought, presents a bit of a culture clash. First impressions are important and, while it shouldn't matter that I wear a large pair of headphones with attached mic, I can't shake the thought that I'd look like a doofus.

For what it's worth, I know I'm probably being a little irrational in placing so much thought and importance to this, but this is my first video interview and I'm very keen on it going well. I also apologize for me applying a smidge of prejudice in assuming that non-tech people, especially at an ag company, would make snap judgments over something so silly. If I'm being ridiculous, please let me know. I suppose this question is part recommendation-focused and part assuage-my-fears-focused.

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Is this something that's even that important?

No

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    Hahahaha. I appreciate you being so straight forward! I figured I was overthinking it and letting my nervousness get in the way. Thank you for your answer, Kilisi! – goat_fab Jan 27 at 4:54
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    @goat_fab That's what Kilisi is known for, straight and to-the-point answers! – Sourav Ghosh Jan 27 at 5:31
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    Nevertheless, backing up answers in some way is nice.. – Luke Sawczak Jan 27 at 11:48
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    @BobJarvis-ReinstateMonica As much as this is funny (and correct!), we do generally need some reasoning for why. – Graham Jan 27 at 13:17
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    It took me a bit of thought to mentally ask myself why a yes/no answer is not ideal. It suffers from two problems: 1) Anyone who doesn't know the answer already will find a one-word answer incredibly unhelpful. 2) The only thing a yes/no answer actually accomplishes is to function as an informal opinion poll. – Brian Jan 27 at 14:06
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I have interviewed a dozen or more candidates last year and I have been 100% remote in all meetings in my job, just as most of my team's members.

The first and absolute topmost priority is quality. Sound and Picture quality. I cannot stand to be in a meeting with 2 Darth Vaders, a person with a cat, two people who's lunch is ready, one where the trash is collected outside Thursdays at eleven and one guy eating. Seriously, I would not have any of that information if they bought quality headsets.

My experience is that a gaming headset for 50$ from Amazon will be great. It will have good sound, it will be able to auto-filter all sound except your voice, it will have a hardware button to mute yourself, so you don't have to rely on the software to be decent (looking at you MS Teams and no Push-To-Talk function).

Having to constantly listen to people on open mics, echoing voices in rooms, or those so-called "business headsets", that are horrible quality and expensive as hell, but are sold to the supply departments of faceless corporate entities that don't have to suffer through using them themselves or paying for them with their own money is painful.

So to summarize: yes, please get a good headset. One that is sold to private people, who are harsh judges of whether their money was well spent, not a business headset that is sold in bulk to people who are not judging at all. I don't care if it is pink and has a dancing clown on it, as long as it works well. I'm not in that meeting for fashion choices. And test it with a friend, even good headsets can be misconfigured or be delivered defective.

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    Also a great answer, +1. We actually have a column in interview notes for sound and audio quality, and nothing hampers an interview like having to spend 5 minutes dealing with echo because they don't have a headset, or at least well configured onboard speakers. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 27 at 9:15
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    Would you also agree that sound quality is more important than picture quality? – Polygnome Jan 27 at 9:44
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    @Polygnome Yes. Video is optional. For interviews it's nice because I've never seen the person before, but with people I know, I don't need live video. I surely do not need peoples computers to crash with 10 simultaneous video streams of people sitting in chairs doing nothing. Video is only useful if it actually shows something important and then it should be good. Audio is the whole point of a meeting and should be good always. – nvoigt Jan 27 at 10:30
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    I think, this answer pretty much summarizes also my experiences with countless one-to-one and one-to-many calls during the last months. Maybe it makes sense to really emphasize that a good headset is vastly better than speakers and a microphone (standalone or integrated doesn't matter), because using headphones prevents echo reliably and a microphone with fixed distance and position relative to your mouth ensures constant audio quality even when moving your head, etc. I'd even say, that not using headphones during such a call seems pretty unprofessional to me. – dasmy Jan 27 at 13:02
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    Headsets are the gold standard for audio quality, and doing an interview with new-to-you equipment is asking for trouble. – CCTO Jan 27 at 14:10
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Wearing the headset, you already possess, is totally appropriate. Wearing a headset is actually a very considerate and professional thing to do.

And borrowing the mic from your friend wouldn't help you if the interviewer on the other side has a muffled voice (or if there are multiple interviewers sharing the same mic). But if you do borrow your friend's mic, do a test run and see which one gives you the better sound quality, and keep your headset as a backup in case you can't hear the other person clearly.

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Is this something that's even that important?

  • If by saying "this" you mean whether wearing a headset or using some external microphone, then the answer is no.
  • If you mean to ask whether ensuring a good audio quality is important, then yes, very much.

Bottom line, you need to ensure that both the parties can hear (and see) and communicate properly. If you feel that existing setup (internal webcam / mic/ speakers) are doing a decent job - no problem. If you feel using an external setup would help to boost the quality of the communication, go for it. You can test the setup you have with a friend / family member to check the quality and make the decision.

The only unprofessional thing would be to stick to some setup which actually hinders the communication (after all, too much background noise, distorted voices cause poor communication experience). If a headset provides better comm (which is usually the case), just go for it.

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I have interviewed quite some candidates during these months of smart working. In most of the case with a video on.

As an interviewer my interest is more in mutual understanding of what we are saying. That it happens via a headset or via the laptop integrated system is less of a concern.

I personally started using a headset after a couple of meetings spent more on "I don't hear you" "say that again?" than on the actual agenda.

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Your interviewers will surely be used to people using headsets on video calls at this point, almost a year (where did the time go?!) into the pandemic. As such, if they even notice, it will be perceived as a normal piece of business equipment at this point. Even if they don't do many video calls themselves, surely they will have seen footage of people doing video calls on the news, or just general cultural awareness. Don't they have video calls with their suppliers / distributors at this point? They must do, and those people will have had the same issues with 'remote working' tech.

I do a lot of video calls with people who are WFH, and probably about 70% of them are visibly using a headset. An interview is really just (from a tech point of view) a 'meeting' in which you are making use of technology.

Personally, if it was a 'standard' headset I wouldn't mention it at all or feel conscious about it. If it's a bulky, all-singing-all-dancing headset with a bunch of cascading LEDs and all that that is primarily intended for gaming, you could perhaps make light of it if it comes up in conversation but that's unlikely.

Since you are going for a tech position, even if it is at an agricultural company... don't assume they are 'backward' about technology or understanding this sort of stuff. I don't know a great deal about agriculture but I expect there's a lot of technology involved these days even if it doesn't look like 'conventional IT as portrayed in movies'. Don't underestimate your interviewers, and don't (if/when you get the job) talk 'down' to people as some kind of tech-impaired hillbillies!

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Just mention your doubts and be open about the reason you wear it. Clears the air in most of the times!

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