Many transitioning service members are interviewing, onboarding and starting work in their post-military career using Zoom and other video platforms. Instead of meeting in person, touring the office, shaking hands and getting a sense of the environment, you may be holding meetings at your kitchen table or home office via computer.
Some reports indicate video meetings won’t be disappearing from the workday anytime soon, but there are best practices and tips to ensure you’re showing your best side, building rapport and establishing your professional presence with your potential (or new) employer.
1. Remove environmental distractions.
Zoom etiquette means you’re mindful of how you’re presenting yourself. Remove things from your physical environment that are distracting to the viewer. For example, there might be piles of laundry on an unmade bed or dishes stacked in a kitchen sink.
Consider which things could be problematic for a hiring manager. They might be put off by seeing photos of you partying in your background or you on vacation wearing little clothing. They also might be uncomfortable with naked baby photos or lingerie draped over a chair in the background.
Clean up what someone on the other end of the video meeting can see in the background before you log on.
2. Wear clothes.
Yes, it’s tempting to dress only on the top half assuming no one can see you sitting down but the one time you neglect to put on pants will be the time you’ll need to stand up during an interview. People’s tolerance for your comfort only goes so far.
3. Mute distractions.
Remind your family that you have a Zoom meeting, give the dogs something to keep them occupied and silence your phones. These distractions may still interrupt a meeting or interview, but if you take precautions in advance, you can lessen the chances.
During the time of your meeting, consider wearing headphones that can mute a barking dog or crying toddler who competes for your attention.
4. Look at the camera.
If you’re using a laptop or monitor with a built-in camera, be mindful of where that lens is. Consider putting a sticker next to the camera so your eyes don’t veer down to the monitor. It’s natural to want to look at the monitor -- after all, that’s where the other people’s faces are! But it looks more appropriate to look at the camera lens.
Similarly with an external camera (webcam), keep your focus there even though it might feel unnatural not to look at faces. When someone else is talking, occasionally let your eyes venture to the monitor so you can read their body language. Just remember to focus back on the camera when it’s your turn to speak.
5. Test your equipment in advance.
Few things are as frustrating as the first five minutes of a Zoom call. The round robin of “Is my audio on? Can you hear me?” and “Joe, you need to unmute …” is tiring. Instead, before you join the meeting, test your camera and microphone and ensure they are working.
Be sure your settings are how you like them and join the meeting. When others join, give them a moment to connect to audio before asking questions or when responding to someone else.
6. Don’t leave too quickly.
If you’re interviewing for a job, it might be tempting to jump off the line quickly when the meeting ends. Instead, say your goodbyes and thank yous and then linger for a second or two.
Too often, anxious candidates are so grateful the meeting (and pressure) is over, they jump off too abruptly. Leave the meeting with grace instead.
Zoom (or video) meeting etiquette reminds us that while we might see people’s faces and hear their voices, it’s not the same as an in-person experience. We need to present our best side, be considerate of the experience the other person is having with us and take care to showcase our strengths.
While the examples shared above might sound far-fetched or extreme, I’ve seen them all on Zoom calls in the past 12 months. Trust me, they leave an impression that’s not always positive.
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