Do Not “Zoom” In On That!

As we all know, the onset of COVID-19 has created a whole new “World of Work” with workers quickly moving to remote workspaces and video chat as our main method of communication.

Without fair warning, we have all had to pivot pretty quickly to this new norm. Seemingly overnight we went from a schedule full of outside meetings to lockdown in our homes. As it relates to our business, interviews via video on Zoom, Teams, RingCentral, and the like have become our new norm. Surprisingly, we have had countless people hired who have never met face to face. A strange new reality for everyone to get accustomed to for sure.

So, let’s chat about that. I have to say, in this business I thought I had seen it all. But this whole new world of video also creates a new set of “interview standards” we probably should discuss. Better yet, let me share a few do’s and don’ts for video chats.

You can see yourself in your camera. Camera quality and angle are key! I don’t want to look up your nose, at your lap or anywhere in between other than your face. Trust me, I have seen some really interesting angles! Make sure you are centered in your screen, you are not too close to the camera, and the angle of the camera is flattering!

Check out your surroundings! I have had some great laughs on this one. In this past week alone, I had a gal with the most glorious turkey feather mount “haloing” her head and a guy who was literally sprouting deer horns (we are after all, in Wisconsin). Please, put the naughty magazine out of sight (true story) and clean up your space. Look into your camera… is your background pleasant and makes your interviewer feel you have a sense of organization and creates a pleasing environment to view? I personally added greenery and pictures of my family simply to create a quick connection beyond the professional relationship.

For those who don’t like cleaning, many use the “Green Screen” feature available with all kinds of images. NO! Ok, backdrops can be cool. I have had employers who use them to promote their new office building or their products. But here is the challenge… unless you never move, at any given point you have half a head, your arm goes missing, or any number of body parts are hidden by the green screen. It makes it super distracting to have a serious business conversation when your spending all your time wondering where the other half went! Skip the green screen and save it for Zoom happy hour.

Proper lighting is so important! I have a window directly behind my chair and I didn’t realize for the first month that every time a car went by the headlights sent a blinding flash of light to my teammates. Same for the other end of the spectrum… I’ve video chatted with folks whose room was so dark that they looked like they belonged in a horror film waiting for the villain to show! So be aware… good lighting is appropriate and close your blinds if needed!

What to wear and personal appearance. Oh, I hate to even open this can of worms. I’ll just share my take on a few “don’ts” I have viewed in the past few months. I’ll take the high road here and keep it clean. Dress like you would for any other business meeting. And yes, if I’m interviewing you at some point you will probably stand up, so that includes all your body, not half. And I understand it’s a lot of work to actually brush your hair, but it is appreciated. And again, camera angles people! I am certain you love that cute, low cut blouse. But let’s save it for date night… some things can never be “unseen”.

Where to conduct your video interview? One fabulous part of technology is you can jump on a video call anywhere. So, if talking to a friend, phones work great! But if interviewing, I strongly suggest you do this from a stationery computer if at all possible. Sitting in your car interviewing while the employer stares at what appears to be three chins is not necessarily the best of first impressions. I get it… sometimes it can’t be avoided. But if you do need to conduct the meeting via phone, same rules apply… prop the phone a bit above you or hold it at an angle that shows you at your best. Make sure it doesn’t drop and sends flashes of “who knows what”! And please… again, unless it’s your “buddy happy hour”, do not video chat while driving. Seems like a bad idea on so many levels.

Finally, I know it’s tempting to have a casual snack or drink while video chatting – I know, most of you are at your homes. A drink of water, of course, but I’ve had folks bring out what appeared to be a small picnic lunch during the call. If you wouldn’t do it in person, I wouldn’t do it via video.

And all the rest. Same rules apply here as is true for all interviews. If multiple participants, give eye contact and address all parties at some point. Smile and be yourself. Ask great questions and ask about follow-up.

The way we conduct business may have changed forever – we just don’t know. But one thing remains the same and that is this, humans are social by nature. We need human interaction to not only survive but to thrive. Connect as if you were directly across the room (social distanced of course) and engaged with the intent to build a relationship as you would face to face. The rules have changed but the playbook remains the same.


About Sharon Hulce

Sharon Hulce is President/CEO of Employment Resource Group, Inc. (ERG) and a 24-year veteran of the Executive Search industry. Sharon is known in her industry as an innovation leader and works tirelessly on not only finding the right talent for her clients; she also works diligently on the empowerment and retention of that talent. Sharon clearly understands the emotional intelligence, competencies, knowledge and social interaction necessary to integrate new hires into a corporate culture for success.  She recently was honored for her innovation as Management Recruiters International Person of the Year.

Sharon has served on numerous boards including: Fox Valley Technical College, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Theda Clark Medical Foundation, YMCA of the Fox Valley and United Way. She also has been involved in many national boards throughout the staffing industry and is a proud member of the Pinnacle Society, a consortium of the top 80 recruiters in the country.

Sharon is a frequent speaker at national conferences. She has received many awards for her work but is most excited about being a recently Forbes published author of “A Well Done Professional Midlife Crisis”. Learn more at SharonHulce.com.