As the times change, the interview process is changing as well. In this case we are talking about video conferencing. Although video conference interviews have not completely replaced face to face interviewing, they are often done at a very important point in the interview process; the first impression. This first impression will help to determine if candidates are an initial good fit for the position or not. As important as it is for the candidate to make a good first impression, it is also very important for you and your organization to come across in a positive and professional manner.

Video interviews can be as effective as an in-person interview but it is very important to understand how the process works so you can conduct these conversations as productively as possible. Here are 10 tips for conducting a high quality video interview.

1. Set Expectations: At the beginning of the interview make sure the interviewee understands the goal of the call and what you would like to get accomplished. Understanding what will take place right from the start will help to ease any jitters the candidate might have with this form of interview.

2. Make interviewee comfortable: In addition to setting expectations up front, do your best to make them feel welcome and comfortable. In most cases the interviewee will become more comfortable as the interview goes on so allow plenty of time. This will also help to avoid any rushing in case of technology issues.

3. Shut off all other technologies: Make sure you turn off all other technology to ensure you are not distracted while interviewing the participant. Hearing email or instant message notifications is not only distracting to you but can be very distracting for the interviewee.

4. Talk Slowly: Video calls can speed up the pace of your words so make sure you take your time when speaking to the interviewee. Sometimes connections can get choppy as well so if that starts to occur make sure to speak slower and repeat when necessary if you are having connection problems.

5. Have high quality equipment: During a video interview, the interviewee should have a high quality picture of you and your team. Try to avoid connecting via wireless for quality purposes and make sure you have a high quality microphone to ensure good audio quality.

6. Keep a clean presentation area: Have a clutter free, well lit area to conduct the interview, just as you would expect the participant to have. Make sure you are facing the camera at an appropriate angle, as this will create a more engaging experience for the participant.

7. Maintain good personal presentation: Along the lines of a clean presentation area, you should also have good personal presentation and conduct. Dress as if you were conducting a face to face interview and present yourself over video in a natural way.

8. Provide instructions ahead of time: Send both interview materials as well as any technology best practices or log-in information in advance to make the interviewee more comfortable and to help avoid any issues ahead of time.

9. Be patient: Understand that not all people are comfortable with technology and some candidates may stumble at first when participating in a video interview. Along the same lines, it is important to realize that technical glitches do happen so try to make the interviewee comfortable if they do.

10. Deliver a virtual handshake: Due to the inability to give a real handshake in a video interview, it is important to deliver a thought out sign off statement indicating that the interview is over. This can be as simple as a “thank you, we will speak soon.”

5 Best Practices for Conducting a Video Call

Video conferencing has proven to be a great way to enhance collaboration and increase productivity. In the last few years, video has gained popularity due to technology advancements and ease of use improvements. That said, there are important user elements to keep in mind to ensure a successful video call.

Here are five best practices to keep in mind:

1. Lighting: Lighting is one of the most important aspects of a video call and bad lighting can take a good quality to poor quality very quickly. First, make sure there is enough light in the room. If dimly lit, turn more lights on or add a lamp to your workstation. Second, look at the direction of the light. If your lighting is coming from directly behind you, particularly from a window, then you are going to appear as a very dark shadow to the person you are speaking with. It would be best to move to where the window is not directly behind you, close the blinds, or try and counter the light with a lamp on you desk.. Lastly, overhead lighting can create a lot of shadows. Having a lamp pointing at you on your desk can help with creating the ideal lighting that is pointing towards you and illuminating the face.

2. Camera Angle: testing and adjusting your camera angle prior to the call is important in ensuring proper set-up. Using the self-view mode can help to give you a good idea of how you will appear to the participant on the other end of the call. If on a laptop, positioning your web cam at eye level is a good way to avoid awkward angles. If conducting a video call on a mobile device, keeping the device as steady as possible while also holding it out in front of you at eye level are very important. When using a room based system, zoom the camera to focus on the participants in the room while making sure that everyone on the call is in the frame.

3. Speaker/Volume: There are a few important aspects you want to pay attention to when it comes to speakers and volume while on a video call. First, test your speakers and audio prior to the call to ensure they are working properly. Second, using a headset can help with reducing outside noise, echo, and improving overall audio quality when using a laptop or mobile device for your video call. Lastly, if on a larger multiparty call, mute yourself when not speaking so as to avoid any added noise.

4. Eye contact/Multitasking: Often on video calls, people will look down to take notes or work on their computer. Try to look in to the camera while speaking and avoid looking down for long periods of time. Also, when sharing content, place the content on the same level as the camera so as to not appear you are looking away while presenting. Because eye contact is so important in a video call, try to avoid multi-tasking including checking email, looking at your phone, or even getting up. This can be very distracting for other parties on the call, and it can create the appearance that you are not actively participating in the call. Eliminating distractions in your environment can help with keeping you focused on the call at hand.

5. Bandwidth: Having adequate bandwidth is one of the most important elements when conducting a video call. Testing your video prior to a meeting helps to ensure you have adequate bandwidth for the call. Required network speeds for video conferencing vary depending on the solution. For example, consumer applications tend to require less bandwidth, whereas enterprise options can require more. Likewise, depending on the solution, multiparty calls can increase requirements as well.

I had to work from home yesterday because the baby-sitter called in sick and my wife had an important meeting. I figured it was no big deal because the kids could just play with their toys and then during my back-to-back meetings I could put a movie in to keep them settled.

First meeting of the day was a weekly status with my sales manager. We were discussing how to proceed with an important account when my cat Ziggy jumped up and knocked into my camera. I put Ziggy back on the floor, fixed the camera and continued my meeting; but, Ziggy jumped right back up and started hissing and clawing at my computer screen.

He really isn’t a fan of new people, I’m not sure why but he gets defensive. My friends told me I should apply to get on some cat whisperer show but that seems a bit excessive. At any rate, I grabbed Ziggy, put him outside the room and then closed the door so he couldn’t get back in and the rest of the meeting went smoothly.

Note to self: make sure Ziggy is secured before my next meeting because I’d really like to keep the door cracked in case the kids need me.

Later that day I had a call with two of our engineers about a client’s project and. I made sure Ziggy was secured and things seemed to be going well except every now and then I kept seeing them smile a little. I didn’t think much of it; maybe someone in the office just said something funny. About fifteen minutes later, Anne starts laughing. Now I know something is going on so I finally asked what was so funny.

Apparently my children had infiltrated the room and were making funny faces behind me. Fish faces, crazy eyes, the whole works. Wonderful.

As I turned around I could hear them scampering off. I apologized for the distraction and both Jason and Anne laughed it off saying how adorable my kids were. It worked out okay but thank goodness this was just an internal call. I can’t even imagine the level of embarrassment if I had been on a call with an important client or, even worse, a potential new client.

That’s when I learned the importance of self-view. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what’s going on behind you. Perhaps it’s your children having fun, an errant pet or an angry co-worker thrashing around. You just never know.

Video has become a staple in both my professional and personal lives. I find it so much easier to have a conversation face-to-face and simply get annoyed when I have to pick up the phone. Unfortunately, I still meet a lot of people who just don’t seem to love video as much as I do. We’ve already discussed a few excuses in a previous post; including people can spy on me, I cannot multitask and video is creepy. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Video is too difficult to use
Half of the time I can hear the other person but not see them and the other half I can see them but not hear them. That’s assuming I connect of course which is maybe only about quarter of the time. On the off chance that I can connect smoothly, the video image keeps breaking up and I can barely hear my colleague let alone see them. Yes, we’ve all heard the woes of unfamiliar video users and if video equipment and networks are not set up properly these inconveniences are probably true.

However, in most instances video is as easy to use as the telephone. UC solutions such as Microsoft Lync and Cisco Jabber make video conferencing as easy as typing in a name and clicking connect. There is no need to look up or remember a phone number, let alone an IP address. Similarly, cloud based bridging services not only remove most interoperability barriers but allow enterprise video solutions to connect with consumer desktop and mobile solutions such as Skype and iPads.

I sit in a public area and have little privacy
Conversations over video can be quite public if you are using computer speakers. Not only can people hear what you’re saying, they can hear what your counterpart is saying removing every ounce of privacy. Not to mention we all have that one coworker who’s a little loud or a little nosy and can be rather distracting when on a video call.

Try substituting a headset or pair of headphones for your computer speakers. Not only will this keep the conversation slightly more private, it will reduce some of the background noise allowing your colleague to hear you better.

I don’t like the way I look on camera
I look too fat, too pale, too old, too young for that matter – the list goes on and on. Newsflash: no one likes the way they look on camera because we are overly critical of ourselves. I mean everyone hates how they sound over audio but that doesn’t keep them from making telephone calls does it? So why then does it keep them from video conferencing?

Besides, there are few little things you can do to enhance your appearance – starting with the position of the camera. Make sure it is not right in front of you or zoomed up all the way; the closer the camera is, the bigger your face looks. You don’t need to prepare for the nightly news but a little foundation and bronzer goes a long way. Finally, make sure the area around you is tidy, although if you want people looking at your mess rather than your face, this is the way to go.

Getting over the hurdle of being afraid or making excuses not to be on video can be challenging. But do it, because in the end the advantages of using it far outweigh any negative feelings you may have!

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Stop Being A Video-Phobe Part One

Norm Goes to Japan

July 27th, 2012 | Posted by Lisa Avvocato in Tips & Tricks - (0 Comments)

Guess what? We finally closed the Japanese bank deal! It’s been a bumpy ride the past few months but on the bright side I’ve learned how to distinguish between about sixteen different types of hmmms.

Let me back up a little.

Prior to my first meeting with the bank’s executive team I sat down with my sales manager Tom to discuss our strategy. He explained that business was conducted differently in Eastern cultures than it was in Western cultures. In the first meeting, the initial focus is on establishing a relationship by understanding each other’s needs rather than simply discussing different products and services.

He also told me that when we exchanged business cards to make sure I took each business card with two hands and looked at it for a couple seconds before putting it away. Simply taking it and putting it away is considered disrespectful.

I felt pretty confident going into the first meeting but left feeling extremely frustrated because we barely got anything accomplished and I was sure they were not interested. But a few days later they set up an additional meeting so I guess they were.

Anyway, at one point during the second meeting, the CEO asked if our software could perform a specific function. I was getting ready to say no when Tom interjected saying that it would be very difficult but he would look into it. The rest of the meeting went this way and I was so confused. Every time a question was asked, the answer was either that is something we can accommodate or that will be very difficult.

What happened to a simple yes or no?

After the meeting, I asked Tom what was going on and he shed some light on the situation. Apparently, Japan is a very high context culture; answers are situational instead of explicit. Saving face in front of peers is extremely important and the word “no” is almost never used. It is better to use phrases like that will be difficult or we will have to think about it. Basically, how things were said was more important than what was said so I needed to pay more attention to how they were saying things.

It took a few more meetings but I finally was able to distinguish when my points were received favorably, when they were not interested (fyi “we’re considering it” means we’re not so move on), and when they simply needed a few moments for personal reflection. It was completely exhausting but we were finally able to tailor our offering to their needs and close the deal!