Back in July, our very own Aziz Smailagic, Director of Client Services, hosted a session on “Tips for Video Interviewing & Networking” at the TorontoJobs.ca’s Virtual Career Conference. Check out Aziz’s session below to learn more about his tips and tricks to having a successful, well-set up video interview or call.

Top tips for video interviewing and networking:

Prep all your technical elements

  • Ensure your battery life is good
  • Test your audio and video technology
  • Close other tabs, browsers, software, or applications that may slow down your connection
  • Log onto the call or interview earlier to ensure all technical aspects are running smoothly

Evaluate what others will be able to see from your video feed

  • Avoid anything too distracting in your background
  • Ensure your space is quiet
  • Let people who live with you know you’re having a video meeting
  • Dress professionally

Show you engagement in the conversation

  • Elevate your webcam to its at eye level
  • Keep good posture
  • Try to maintain eye contact
  • Enunciate and project your voice
  • Pause to allow others to speak and account for audio lags
  • Take notes on a pen and pad and not on your computer or phone

Missed the TorontoJobs.ca’s July Virtual Career Conference? You can join us for the August edition! Click here to register now for the TorontoJobs.ca Virtual Career Conference held on August 26, from 1-4 pm.

Video Transcription

Hey there! Welcome! And maybe to some people, welcome back if you’re part of the session that just ran from 3 to 3:30 on ‘Getting Your foot Through the Door in Career Edge’ and Career Edge paid internship program that we offer. Welcome back! Two sessions – hopefully, you’re not too tired of my face and my voice, back-to-back.

Can everyone hear me? Are we good? I know there’s some people in here, I assume.

Okay, hi again!

We’re back! Yes, nice! Awesome!

Alright so, in this session, the first one obviously if you’re part of it, we talked about internships and getting your foot in the door, and kind of an overall, you know, a general sense.

So, with the second one I’d like to offer maybe some more tangible advice that is part of something that is – seems to be very much part of our new lives and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and that’s video interviewing and networking.

The topic that I chose, I called it “Video Interviewing and Networking” but these are all topics that even if you’re having a zoom call with your grandmother, they’re all good topics to keep in mind, just in this new form of communication because, you know, even if we can’t have these conferences and things like that, I can’t even talk to colleagues face to face now. So, I’m using these tips and these tricks everyday when I’m having conversations with people.

The video interview and video networking is something obviously that existed for quite a while. We’ve been familiar with FaceTime, with Skype, with Zoom calls – that’s been around, but not at this level.

So, as it becomes part of your day-to-day life and you’re having more of these interactions, you’ll learn some stuff on the way as you go and you’ll learn some mistakes that can be made. And hopefully, those mistakes that I’ve made, and that you don’t have to, and that I can replay them back to you.

Because even in being experienced with working from home, remote work, having meetings all the time, I wasn’t used to quite the volume that I was going to be having these calls that I, you know, back in March or April. So, I learned a few things very early on, just in terms of preparedness and things like that that hopefully I can pass along to you, to make sure that – definitely things that you could be doing, and also, very importantly, things to not do that can very much ruin your chances and completely take you out of candidacy for the position, or just in any conversation that can be detrimental to how you present yourself.

So, the first thing that I’ll say – I’ve kind of broken them down – when I was looking at how to present this or how to give the best possible advices, I’ve broken it down to sort of four points, I guess.

So the first point that I’ll talk is very simple – and most of what I’ll talk about seems obvious and very, very logical, and that’s the point is that these are pretty much little details that, if not paid attention to, can completely ruin things for you, but if paid attention to and you might not necessarily notice them, but it makes sure that things can run smoothly.

First, if anyone’s part of this when we came into the conference here, one thing that you’re always getting told is the technical component. So, make sure that you have a stable internet connection, make sure that your audio is working, make sure you have a functioning webcam. If you don’t have those things, try borrowing those things from a friend or someone who does have those things.

Make sure that if you’re on a laptop that your battery life is good, that you’re not right at the end to right before the call and then you’re scrambling to find your charger and everything like that, and then you’re ten minutes in and your battery dies. So, those technical things kind of make sure that everything flows naturally, that there isn’t an issue that could’ve been very easily avoided.

Things like closing tabs, other browsers, other software that you might have open, anything that would be potentially slowing down your systems, or imposing in that process, you really want to make sure you’re set up for that.

In the same way that you want to make sure that you leave on time for an in-person interview, make sure that you know the bus route or the driving directions or anything like that, it’s the exact same. The due diligences that need to be taken and, again, sounds obvious but sometimes they’re not taken and ends up, kind of, sneaking up behind you and running things.

With that being said, in this new age of COVID and the pandemic and the way we communicate now, I’d say people are probably a little bit more forgiving now than they were maybe six months ago if you’re doing a video interview. So, depending on the context, I think that you can get away with a few things that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise in a previous time.

But I’d say, within those cases, if there is something that maybe – audio is spotty, internet connection, no matter what you do, is not great – I would start the call with that sort of stuff, and just kind of lay that out there; “Hey, by the way, I hate Rogers, it’s terrible. They’re giving me horrible, horrible service throughout the whole quarantine.” That’s not my case, but you can let people know that that might be something that occurs. “Please bear with me, we’ll get right back to it.” Just that they’d know what they’re expecting, right?

The technical piece is, first and foremost, the easiest to implement, the easiest to make sure it’s good, and then you can kind of go forward. This is all stuff that’s pre-call.

The other thing is your surroundings. Make that you have a quiet space. That there’s not a lot of distractions – and we’ll get to distractions in a little bit – but, a quiet space, with a clean background.

So here I have, you know, mainly white. I can’t avoid that I have my record shelf here with a collection of vinyl records – something like this, while part of the background, isn’t necessarily distracting. At times, in even gives me opportunities to very quickly talk about some of my favourite vinyl records and music and things like that, and kind of build rapport almost at the beginning of the call and really build that relationship.

Because someone may also have that shared interest in vinyl records and we can talk about it for a minute or two, but that’s it. You don’t want to be in a situation where your background is then creating conversation, and that conversation takes up more time than you have for the interview, and more time than you have to actually present your skills and present yourself in the best way that you could.

If it’s unavoidable, I would say things like books, records, anything that would be appropriate to have in an office I would say is okay. But for the most part, general rule, keep it clean, no mess definitely.

Dressing professionally is very important. I would that in today’s climate it’s also a little it different with the types of roles that people are going for. I know that typically for men anyway, the shirt and tie and the complete formal look is something that has been a common practice in interviews.

I’d say it really depends nowadays on the position that you’re going for. If I’m a graphic designer and I have a role that I’m going to be video interviewing for at a creative agency or something like that, probably won’t want to go in with a complete full suit and tie. But if I’m in finance and looking for a position in finance or in any of those professional segments, consulting? For sure, suit and tie, full business formal look is good.

But either way, professionally dressed, well-kept, and really presenting yourself as a you would, if you were leaving the house. That type of work and that type of presentation isn’t just good for the video interview, but it also helps really – when we’re in quarantine and we’re all at home, doing those little things to take care of your personal appearance, your physical appearance rather, and putting yourself together in those ways, it can be very tough.

I’m in my sweatpants and living with my friends for the past four months, but doing those types of things in the morning and kind of really almost mimicking what it would be like if you’re going to work, even if there’s no work to go to, is very helpful. So definitely bring that best foot forward when doing video interviews, for sure.

And it’s not hard, you guys can see this much of me. I am – I promise I am wearing pants, if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to. It doesn’t take a lot to prep this square here, so really make sure that that’s done, because it is something small, and for employers, hiring managers, that’s exactly the thought. “How hard is it to clean-up, right? It’s not that hard. You’re telling me if you haven’t done that, then you don’t care too much, right?”

Part of that physical – your surroundings and prepping, is also making sure that you’re getting rid of distractions, like pets, loud noises. Some you can avoid, some you can’t avoid.

I live in downtown Toronto and there’s a lot of construction, I might pick it up. I’ve done my job to at least close my windows, make that a little bit easier.

But things like pets, if you can – I know it’s heartbreaking to leave a pet in a room for half an hour with the door closed. If you can do that, that would be great not having a chihuahua walk across the keyboard surprisingly and lick your face. While it’s cute, again, it takes away from your points and the things that you’re trying to put forward.

People in the background is usually not great, or messy backdrops. I’d say the biggest thing that I’ve learned actually, because I have minimum three to four of these calls daily, and living with my partner, I’ve learned to be really transparent with her when those calls are happening, and what those calls would look like, how serious they’ll be, whether I’m talking to an employer partner and I kind of need the silence or if I’m talking to a co-worker that already knows my partner and this those time I can say “don’t worry about it, you can pop in and say hello if you want.”

But really, if you are living with other people, with children, with loved ones, with partners, really being transparent and open about… “Hey! In half an hour from now I have this” or “An hour tomorrow I have this thing that’s important for me to really need that concentration,” and creating that communication.

Because I’ve learned the hard way a few times that I’ve gotten upset because of noise or things like that, and I didn’t even have the courtesy to even tell my partner that it was happening and I kind of just – that’s on me, I didn’t say anything and how would, you know, my partner’s great but she’s not a mind-reader. She can’t predict when I’ll be on video or on an important call.

So, doing that due diligence with the technical component, the surroundings, you physical environment, really making sure that those distractions – like turning off your phone, putting it on silent – all those things are things pre-interview, pre-phone call, whatever it is, whether it’s a networking session, maybe you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn and want to “pick their brain” as they say, and have a virtual coffee, these are all thing that should be put into place and really, really be paid attention to as you’re going on.

And I actually, I hope that there’s notes being taken. I can actually even share with Rachel [Mitchel of TorontoJobs.ca] sort of my top points here. I actually purposely was going to go all on video so that it could just be this kind of [back and forth] channel, since I’m doing video interviewing tips and networking tips.

If you’re interested, I can share these points with Rachel and she can spread the message as she sees fit.

Before we get into the during, one final thing that I found, I’ve made the mistake of, so hopefully you don’t have to, is logging on early. I’ve had that where you get a certain sense of comfort, “Hey! I’m at home! The call’s at 2. What is it? 1:52, oof, that’s world’s away, on my god, I have all the time in the world. Now 7 minutes, now 6 minutes, I still have all the time in the world.” And then 1:59 comes up and I’m scrambling, I realize I don’t have the login, oh it’s Zoom, I thought it was on Teams. I have to open Zoom up, and now all this time I was prepped, I was ready, and I ended up showing to the call at 2:02 and I’m 2 minutes late, and my team members are like what are you doing, you know.

So, logging on early, and making sure that there’s none of those surprises – same way there’s none of those physical distractions, making sure there’s no surprises like in a software update or something that might impede in your arrival on time to the call or the interview. That’s very important. Same way like you show up to an in-person interview, time 15 minutes early, right? This is the technological equivalent of it.

So that’s sort of the final piece beforehand, the few tips that I have during – I won’t be getting into typical interview thing. Like we won’t really talk about what questions to expect or anything like that, because then that’s a whole other subject and I just want to give some very quick tips for video communication.

One thing that I did not think about at all for a long time was the elevation of my laptop, right? So when things start, here I’ll change it up. So when we started out, I’m here, I’m in my chair, very well poised, I’m sitting back, my back’s straight in my chair, and I can speak very fluidly and you guys have a sense for that too and I almost – I almost feels like you’re on the other side of my table here with me because we’re kind of on the same level.

When I remove this plastic box here

and I kind of have this sense, I was doing this for quite a while, and all while it’s good and we can communicate this way and it’s great, it’s not a great look. I’m fortunate enough to not have a big double chin or anything like that, but no one really want to be seeing someone like looking down at them, or kind of doing this [head resting on palm] where we’ve been on with people that are sort of hunched over or whatever, not that there’s anything wrong with that if I’m talking with my colleagues and coworkers, I won’t set up a box or anything like that.

But if it’s in a position where I want really to express the right message and make sure that my communication is clear and coming across properly, I will find a way to elevate my laptop, or even push it back a little bit

. Doesn’t that look better? I might wrong completely, but to me, I found that very, very important to make that tweak.

I’d say that also in the same line, sort of the perspective or your computer and the camera and everything like that, you can do many of these things on your phone or your tablet. You’re not necessarily going to be doing them on your laptop. I’d definitely, definitely say make sure to stabilize the tablet or the iPhone or the – sorry, not iPhone probably – the smartphone in a way that you’re not the one that’s holding it and then having that sort of like shaky experience where it kind of looks like you’re on the move or anything like that.

Find a way to create a seat where you can just kind of prop up the phone or the tablet or anything like that, so that it’s not moving, and that you can sit there and present yourself to the best of your abilities. So, that’s almost a technical piece, but that’s very important when the call starts is to have that stuff lined up.

The other piece that’s really big in that line of visual and how people see you I’d say is posture. I have a tendency to kind of hunch over, and when you’re listening you sort of hunch. A great yoga term is to take your shoulders out of your ears, to really make sure that that posture’s good – you know for a long call that can be tricky standing upright and you might have different preference.

I think it’s important to be comfortable, but to not express boredom or discomfort in any sort of way, so it’s just be constantly shifting and moving and “uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah.” Stay put, it’s not – hopefully it’s not a two-hour call or anything like that, and hopefully it’s a position where you can stay till. Comfort is first and foremost, and if it is an issue to do that then obviously you won’t. Posture and those things are very important in presenting yourself to the best of your ability.

The two or three final things that I’ll talk about are eye contact. So if you notice, I haven’t really been looking at myself here on the screen. I haven’t looked at the chat really, but the chat hasn’t been active. But I haven’t really been doing much of this [face looking down and not directly are camera].

I’ve been looking directly at the camera the whole time. It does take a little bit of experience and a little bit of repetition. When you’re speaking, it’s also a little bit easier to look into the camera. I try to do it when the other person is speaking, so it looks as though I’m making that eye contact, rather than that, right? [Eye shift downwards and not looking straight at camera]

So that eye contact into the webcam is very, very important. And I’d say if you have note too, I’d say to kind of make sure that those notes and eye contact also reflect that. I have a bunch of sticky notes on the tips of the tablet, but I’ve made sure to stick them all across near the webcam, so that when I’m looking at it, my eyes aren’t diverting too much and it doesn’t look like I’m distracted. So I kind of put my sticky notes here and I can very quickly see and obviously it’s noticeable that I’m not looking directly into the camera, it’s not too bad, right?

My other point in sort of that eye contact is – usually when we’re taking notes, usually it’s more common now when we’re taking notes on your phone or on your laptop – if you’re in a video interview, I would very much make it clear or make it obvious that you’re taking notes by pen and pad. Because when you’re writing them down, it very much has that – you can tell what you’re doing, you can tell that I’m writing notes even if you’re just doodling. That visual of writing is there versus – even if you’re taking notes of what the person is saying – doing that and hearing the keyboard go off, it looks like you’re in a side chat, it looks like you’re talking to somebody else or playing a video game, whatever it is, it’s a bit distracting.

So I think that the pen and pad versus the laptop – definitely not the phone, that kind of doing on of these [texting on the phone] that’s not good – I’d say that’s one time where really…it’s kind of funny because we’re kind of using this virtual context, but the pen and pad is very important there.

And the final piece that I’ll mention that is very important during is so project well and make sure that you’re heard clearly, because sometimes there are connectivity issues, so to very much enunciate and project well and remember to pause. So, when you get a question from a hiring manager, from an interviewer, wait a few second for them to be finished, treat everything with that kind of patience, and remember to really not jump in. Because we’ve all at this point have been on zoom calls, whether with friends, peers, interviews, where people tend to cut one another off. It’s brutal in real life, when people cut one another off and not necessarily listening and just waiting for their chance to speak, but it’s much, much worse on a virtual call where it just sounds worse.

You can’t pick up on “no, you – oh, uh, sorry –, ugh –” and then everyone just kind of goes like this [disengaged and not looking at the camera] and then everyone at once decides to go talking again right? So, I’d definitely make sure you’re being patient and deliberate with how you’re communicating, and that projection of your voice, or your style of communication, along with appropriate pauses after each statement, or after the questions that they’ve asked to really make sure that there’s no delay, no lag, nothing like that, that pause will really make sure that that’s clean in that way.

And you know that’s one of those things that takes repetition. Sometimes when it’s silent on these calls, you know, it can be a little uncomfortable, so just being comfortable with that one to two seconds of silence is totally okay. And I know sometimes it feels like 30 seconds of silence when it’s there, but just be comfortable with those confident pauses.

I know that was a lot of info. I hope that you’ve gained some valuable insight into video interviewing, and just kind of tips on how to be successful, and I think there’s a lot left to your creativity, to the context of the positions that you’re in. I just wanted to provide these tips that are so, so, so, so simple to implement, but many people don’ do them, myself included. I have a list here of 18 points or whatever, whether it’s 19 points – I don’t do them every single time, but I think that they’re all points that are… you don’t want it to be based on your internet connection, you don’t want your rejection to be because a pet walked through the screen.

So things that you can avoid, make sure that those things are taken care of and you’re set, and you’ll probably have a better interview and a better video call.

Any questions? I know there’s probably less questions that the last session on internships and your foot in the door and things like that. I’ve love to hear even some experiences from people. Have you found that this is helpful? Are implementing some of these in your own video calls? Have you been having video calls? I’d love to hear more.

If we have time. I know that we’re running out. I know the whole thing is done at 4:00. We can also just stop and I can Rachel other points.

Oh yeah! That’s a great question in the – I know that a lot of times in the pre-screening, or as they say one-way videos, it’s pretty tough. Sometimes it’s way, way harder, and sometimes it feels unnatural. So I’d say do everything you can to kind of mimic that real conversation. Really make sure you are aware of that time you are set-up, the time that you can consolidate all your point, that you’re not running out of time. I once had a video on-demand, or one-way video where I was talking about how I was good at managing time and then ran out of time on my answer. So, really making sure that that’s all set up and good to go. And yes, often times, are reviewed by a person that’s using that as a sort of screening tool.

The video once recorded – so are you talking originally on our website? On our platform, once you recorded that video, that video does stay on your profile. If there’s certain – we do review them as well – so as our team is reviewing and notices that maybe the dog did run through your screen, or there was some loud noises or whatever it may be, we’ll allow you to re-take them. But for the most part, we try to have that one profile when you’re invited to take it, you take it and that hopefully is your best attempt at the video. But if there’s something where you truly, truly feel like “I absolutely messed up, like these people need to know, it needs to be reset, it needs to be burned and destroyed,” you can let us know, you can contact our support team, no problem.

So, and I was just reading [participant’s] comment there, on the comments, so thank you.

I think that’s it, if no one has any questions. I’ll send all the points. I hope this stuff was obvious actually, because it should be obvious, it should be logic, but I hope that you implement it in your experience with video interviews.

Again, like I mentioned on the last session, I’m on LinkedIn, please add me. I’d love to hear how this has gone, maybe implement those tips and tricks into your process and maybe they’ve changed things, maybe they haven’t, I’d love to hear more though if you want to connect.

Alright, I think that’s it for me. I’ll talk to you guys later. I’ll you on LinkedIn.

Final question. I’m not sure if there recording will be available. I assume so, but I don’t want to promise anything. Yeah, I think that would be a good question for TorontoJobs.ca.

Thank you everyone and a huge, huge ‘Thank You’ to TorontoJobs.ca for making this happen, for allowing me to speak and give you guys some of these tips. So I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again at future events. Thanks everyone!

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