Video calls. These past few months, we’ve all been participating in more of them than ever. The pandemic has made it nearly inevitable between our work and personal lives being upended. Like it or not, for the foreseeable future video calls will be more abundant.

In particular, the use of video calls for interviewing and hiring is expected to increase. We’ve certainly seen an increase in the use of video interviews in the past few years and have offered advice on the topic before. Often, they are used in initial screening interviews, or in cases where distance is an issue. What’s expected now is the increased wholesale use of video for interviews for every stage except a final in-person interview. Again, this is just one example of how video calls are replacing in-person meetings in the business world.

This ups the ante as far as getting it right and, if the past few months of Zoom-fail memes are any example, we’re not all on our A-game with video calls. One way that we can make them not just more bearable but actually successful for everyone is to make them as technically sound as possible. This means doing what you can to “master” the technology and avoid common pitfalls that drag down the experience for everyone.

Here are a few tips to improve the technical quality of your video calls, from easy to a bit more effort, and from free to a bit of money:

  1. Internet Connection
    1. Free: Close all other programs unless you need them for use during the call. The fewer things your computer and internet are trying to do at one time, the better it will be. If you’re not having problems, go ahead and leave things open, but if you are, then this can help alleviate some issues.
    2. Free: Move your computer closer to your router. It can make a big difference; distance matters! A stronger internet connection will improve both audio and video, helping with lag time and frozen screens.
    3. $$: Use an ethernet cable to connect. If you’ve moved closer and are still having issues, find or invest in an ethernet cable instead of using wifi. It usually delivers a more reliable, consistent connection. They’re only around $15-20, depending on length.
    4. $$: Upgrade internet speed. Check your plan and consider upgrading with your provider. In our new WFH world, your company might even cover the cost.
    5. $$: Buy a wifi booster. It will extend the reach of your router so connections will be strong throughout your house. Boosters run anywhere from $50 to $100+.
  2. Audio
    1. Free: Sit close to your computer mic if you are using a laptop for audio. The mic on your laptop is not necessarily the best quality and, more importantly, it is located farther away from your mouth than other options. Limit your movement. Turning or walking away from the mic will distort your voice and make it hard for others to hear you.
    2. Free: Use your phone, either for the whole call or for the audio only. Most phones have a better mic than laptops. There are some differences between how Zoom and other programs work on a phone app vs. a laptop, so be sure and check that out. Hosting a meeting on a phone is not recommended.
    3. Free: Be in a quiet environment. Background noise is a huge problem. The mute button is our friend here, but beyond that, you should try and control background noise as well. Shut the door and turn off extraneous noise makers. Try not to be in a cavernous, high-ceilinged, or sparsely furnished room. Your voice will echo and sound more tinny or hollow in these conditions.
    4. Free/$$: Use headphones/earbuds/a headset/an external microphone depending on your needs. Headphones work better in part simply because they are closer to your mouth than the computer mic. You probably have a set hanging around but if not, now may be a good time to invest in one. You can get good ones for as little as $50 or spend hundreds of dollars. A full headset with ear cups, etc. may look too much for many people, but others swear by the sound. Alternatively, an external mic can be a good option, but isn’t free.
  3. Video
    1. Free: Put your camera at eye-level so that it captures a more natural angle. Most computers are on a table or desktop. When you sit in front of them, you are looking down at the camera. You are ensuring a more natural, comfortable view by raising the level of the camera. You’ll probably need to raise it about 12”-20” inches depending on how tall you are. Put it on top of a stack of books, a sturdy box, or whatever you have on hand. This applies for phones and tablets too. Whatever the device, the goal is the camera at eye-level.
    2. Free: Sit back from the camera so you’re visible from at least the shoulders up on screen and possibly even far enough back to be visible from the waist up. This approximates the view we would have of each other if we were meeting at a table in person. Note: You can see how using a headset really helps since it’s hard to be both close to your computer’s microphone and far enough away from the camera.
    3. Free: Make sure you are properly lit. You want light to come from in front of you so that it lights your face. Lights that are behind you will create awkward shadows or glare. Don’t sit in front of a window, day or night, unless the shades or curtains are drawn.
    4. $$: Invest in a “selfie ring light” designed specifically to light your face. They come in small sizes that clip on to your phone or computer, as well as larger versions. They’ll run you from $15 for the smaller ones to $50 for larger ones that feature a tripod and a place to hold your phone or tablet (which can help with that all-important camera angle!).

As with so many other things in our world these days, this may seem like a lot, and in some ways it is. How much time and effort you need to invest will largely depend on how often you’re making these kinds of calls. Given the current circumstances, it certainly seems like many of us will be using video calls enough to make it worth our while to improve the experience. If you’ll be interviewing, either as the hiring manager or the job seeker, we think it’s definitely worth it.

Want to discuss more Zoom meeting best practices? Reach out to us and let’s chat about your unique environment!

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