We have been coaching clients for decades on the importance of your visual appearance during an interview. A visual distraction during an in-person or virtual interview can ruin your attempt to deliver key messages.

Poor lighting is often the culprit. In a virtual interview, you don’t want the lighting too hot or too dark. Both will interfere with your ability to communicate to the audience. That’s what happened to Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld during an appearance on CNN. He was asked a question about corporate political donations by host Michael Smerconish. Unfortunately, it was difficult to pay attention to Sonnenfeld’s answer because his lighting was over-the-top hot.

Smerconish may have hit a home run with his lead-in, but Sonnenfeld surely struck out with his on-camera appearance. Sonnenfeld was apparently using artificial light but it was so bright, and so distracting, that it “threw shade” on his messaging. Don’t let this happen to you. Snap a quick iphone photo of your screen to check the lighting. In a virtual setting, make sure your natural or artificial lighting is appropriate. If you fail, your message may wind up in the dark.