At HG, video conference has become an essential way of communicating with all our candidates, clients and internally.  Conducting business, be it by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx Skype, although not new, has become as endemic as the Covid-19 response.

With restrictions in place, video conference has become an essential part of the business toolkit, and in the search for executive talent, it is no different.  Clients now elect to conduct interviews, often in the first instance, by video conference as this offers an early screening opportunity that assists in selection without additional cost.

The convenience of not leaving your office or in some cases house to attend an initial interview is a positive for most.  The cost efficiencies saved on travel have made it a natural choice.

Savvy clients and candidates have realised the value of this technology and it is not simply a stop-gap but here to stay and while there remains, when safe to do so, a preference for face to face, a need to make sure both the technology and their use of it is optimised.

Tips and tricks to make meetings and communication by video more enjoyable, seamless and professional should be in everyone’s personal and professional kitbag.

TIP 1: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

If you know you have an important video interview coming always try to get a test run in with the specific type of video call you will be using and with the equipment you plan to use on the day. Getting over initial roadblocks of sound quality and internet connection to support the conference is the first hurdle.   Often government organisations, hospitals and large corporates have secure firewalls for security reasons that may not allow some types of video calls.

If you are attending a personal interview best to attend out of the office and on a personal device. Your personal phone connection, hot spotted to a laptop, can often get round most internet connection issues.  At HG we offer test calls for candidates and are happy to assist you in testing prior to interview.

TIP 2: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Position, profile, and props are critical when thinking about your location and what it can do to support your experience and the image you wish to project.  Visual surroundings, interruption proofing and lighting are all important and serious considerations.  Head on over to YouTube for a litany of viral videos of pets, children, or unexpected background failures if you want to understand the value of taking a few minutes to think this through.

Essentially find a quiet room where you will not be interrupted by others or your phone. Put a note on the door if necessary.

Regarding visual surroundings, it is best to have a plain static background behind you, this will not distract from you as the presenter.  If you have a nice piece of art or plant on a table behind you, this can add some personality rather than a white wall.  Essentially think about what is in the background and how that will portray in an interview or meeting. Located in a bedroom or hotel may be out of necessity. Although best not to show everyone in an interview your bed or clothes hanging up behind you. Thankfully background filters can help with this situation or hide the fact you could be in a car. (Not recommended) Although for an interview I would recommend a simple blur filter rather than being too creative with a background.  Remember the focus is on you, not a scenic tropical fake moving beach scene for example.

TIP 3: LIGHT, CAMERA, ANGLE

Camera angle and position are important and make a very big difference to the quality of the experience both for the candidate and the interviewer.  Have the camera positioned at eye level or just above.  Making a connection with the panel through eye contact is just as important as if you are in the room. If you are directly looking to the dot on your laptop or camera eye this will look like you are making eye contact on the screen.

A key tip is to raise the camera (your laptop or phone) up on your desk on top of a stable box or few books so that your camera is level with your eyes.  You do not want the panel looking up at you under your chin /nose – not a flattering angle, although conversely if the camera is too high it can be harder to look like you are talking directly to the viewers.

Lighting can make a very big difference to pictures and your video conference.  This is an interview after all, and you want to portray yourself in the best light both literally and metaphorically.  Placing a lighting source above you and pointing down can remove shadows, improve visibility and create warmth through the scene that can assist in developing a positive rapport with the panel.  It’s very easy to find inexpensive stands and lighting solutions for video calls in most office supplies or homeware shops.

Issues to avoid are having a window or lighting source behind you that can make you look like a shadow or a dark grey unflattering image that mask or shadow your face.

Audio quality is essential for a good interview. Make sure you have practised where the mute button is for the format of the video call you are attending.  Etiquette is important here in that if you are part of a panel or group attending a video call, when not speaking it is best to go on mute to avoid your background noise being an unnecessary part of the call.

Large rooms echo more and if you are attending an interview with a panel in a board room at one end of the call it can be hard to hear questions clearly and especially if there is a delay.  Ask for questions to be repeated if you miss a word. If you are part of a panel, it is important to consider if it is easier for all panel members to attend the interview separately or best to be framed as a group. This will depend on the nature of the environment and you may be able to discuss your preference.

In the current Covid-19 situation, it is also important for those participating to understand the latest government directions.  If masks must be worn, it is preferable to have panel members separately, as it creates an increasingly challenging environment with the situation not ideal for positive communication when unable to read facial cues wearing masks.

To avoid concerns with audio, investment in professional microphones and speakers can be helpful. Some people prefer to wear noise-cancelling headphones that eliminate background noise.  The small ear bud ones are less distracting to your overall look.

 

QUICK CHECKLIST

  • Location – quiet, no distractions- phone off or on silent, and remove potential noises i.e., pets
  • Internet capacity – is it sufficient to support the video call?
  • Background – is it reflecting the image you wish to create?
  • Lighting – is it adequate and flattering?
  • Camera Angle – are your eyes in line with camera?
  • Audio – do you need headphones, to adjust volume or check functionality?
  • Preferences – Practice the format for interview especially if presenting and sharing your screen and check what will be available on the day?
  • Format – Is the size of the room or number of people in the room going to impact on the experience for the panel or candidate?
  • Directive – make sure you check what the current COVID-19 directives are and that you meet them in setting up the interview, consider panel members dialling in separately rather than gathering in a boardroom that necessitates the need to wear masks – as this makes it extremely difficult for the candidate to read panel’s body language and facial expressions.