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Best practices for hosting virtual interviews

Hosting the virtual interview

Interviews are perhaps the most critical part of the hiring process. They allow your company to get to know applicants and assess both their role-specific knowledge and soft skills, as well as their interpersonal abilities and overall fit. Similarly, they help potential hires better understand the role they are applying for and overall company culture in a way that goes beyond a job posting or “About Us” section of your organization’s website.

Luckily, digital tools for video conferencing and connecting with others have made it easier for businesses to find the right applicant. Let’s look at the value of virtual interviews and three best practices for hosting them.

Interviewing in a virtual world

Since the beginning of the year, 86% of organizations have shifted to virtual interviews.* Though, Lauren Smith, vice president in the Gartner HR practice, said that “many recruiting functions were already conducting virtual interviews, including using video interviewing technology for remotely located candidates; however, this now is the norm for all candidates given the current environment.” It’s showing organizations what can be done—in expanding reach, saving time and money.*

The right video conferencing solution puts people face-to-face, authentically simulating the in-person interview experience without requiring the interviewers and interviewees to be in the same place, at the same time.

Virtual interviews enable businesses to search far and wide for the most qualified new hires, regardless of where they’re located. Applicants, meanwhile, don’t have to try to coordinate complicated travel plans if they don’t live near your company’s offices or drastically re-arrange their schedules if they do.

Best practices drive productive virtual interviews

A dependable video conferencing platform is the foundation of consistently positive remote interviews. The following best practices can help your organization make the most of these opportunities.

  1. The right tools, time, and preparation

As the organization hosting the interview, your team should be prepared and extend the same courtesy to interviewees. That means making the date, time, and expected duration clear as soon as possible, so candidates and internal stakeholders alike can block off time on their calendars.

Having the right video conferencing platform is also crucial. A dependable and accessible platform will:

  • Be widely accessible with standard web browsers and operating systems.
  • Offer compatibility with basic video conferencing tools, like built-in cameras.
  • Allow your company to record parts or all of the call, if necessary. In these cases, your business needs to provide the relevant disclosures and consent forms, as Monster explained.
  • Not require the applicant to pay for software or setup.

Sharing a link to the meeting and specifying the software to be used allows candidates to ensure everything is in good working order before the interview starts. That ultimately saves everyone time.

While not a requirement, your company can offer to set up a short test call ahead of time to ensure everyone can connect as planned. You can also leave it up to candidates to ask for a test call before the interview, as an increasing number of professionals are familiar with video conferencing systems.

  1. Creating a professional environment

Thoughtful, professional candidates take care to make a good first impression. Your company should do the same thing.

A professional environment isn’t just for the office. A professional environment can be created anywhere you are. Set up your computer and run a test call with a teammate to make sure the area is clean, uncluttered, and has appropriate lighting. You should also check on technical specifications like the resolution of your webcam, your position relative to it – adjust your chair height or move the webcam to reach the desired result – and the output volume of your microphone. Remote employment service, FlexJobs, also recommended making it clear that you’re conducting an interview:

  • Close the door and put up a sign or other reminder that an interview is in progress.
  • Schedule the time on your calendar in advance.
  • Silence your phone.
  • Close other programs on your computer to avoid slowdowns and notifications from popping up during the interview.
  1. Consistency in interviewing

Some best practices that apply to in-person interviews are just as relevant for virtual ones. Preparing interview questions ahead of time, and using a standardized format for all interviewees, is especially important.

This approach helps to create a level playing field for everyone involved. While the responses of candidates can and should lead to more individualized follow-up questions and comments, having potential hires answer the same foundational questions provides a consistent basis for comparison. It can also assist in removing unconscious biases from the interview and hiring processes.

Video conferencing helps your company find the best candidates

Drawing from a local talent pool is often valuable, but casting a wider net potentially means bringing in more qualified applicants. This can help fill positions faster without sacrificing quality and keep your company operating at peak levels.

Virtual interviews simulate the entire in-person interview process, allowing for subtle indicators like body language and tone of voice to be just as clear as they are in person. Leveraging this valuable tool is simple with a little planning and preparation.

Give your company the tools it needs to successfully host virtual interviews — get started with a free Cisco Webex plan today


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Young hipster man with tattoo sitting on floor and playing acoustic guitar
Times are changing, so is music

Virtual music change

Usually at this time of the year my friends and I begin the banter and planning associated with our annual pilgrimage to the Isle Of Wight Festival. Although we weren’t able to participate this year, I am always seeking ways to keep music an active part of my life.

Live music especially is an important part of my life. The energy and anticipation in a room just before a band comes on is electric. The difference between a great gig and an “Epic Gig” is marginal but in my opinion, the venue, sound system, and people form an essential combination to reach “Epic Proportions”.

I was a bit cynical about the virtual gig concept. How can it possibly be the same?

No people, a tinny sound, and I’m in my front room!

Support with playlists

Then Chris Martin partnered with Global Citizen. Seeing the performance in a stripped back and relatively unproduced manner reminded me just how good Coldplay is. It even made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

So much for no energy! Those tunes touched me, and the atmosphere came from the situation we all find ourselves in.

A few days later I decided to create a playlist ‘Isolation Station’ for my team- just a few songs and a little irony to put a smile on their faces.

Finally, one last virtual music event that really reset my perception that I needed to be in the venue, surrounded by like-minded souls was the Hacienda House Party, a live dance music event based around some of the original superstar DJ’s of the Hacienda in Manchester, England. This event provided my family with a backing music soundtrack for a lovely sunny Saturday. It was brilliantly produced and when pumped through the home sound system, it sounded awesome! Boom, we were raving at home.

Together at home

And whilst I’m waxing lyrical about virtual music events, check out the links below that caught my eye- irony and comedy in musical form.

Oh My God (Stay Home Edition) | Kaiser Chiefs

Reworking of a great anthem following a tweet by a fan to a UK radio station

The Rolling Stones perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” | | One World: Together

Check out Charlie Watts drum kit! I’d love to know the story behind this. Taken from the Global Citizen gig at the weekend which Cisco sponsored.

As the Chilli Peppers once sang “Music the great communicator.”

Live From Home weekly livestream

At the other end of the spectrum Cisco has done a good job of using Webex to showcase performing artists of all practices during the weekly series, Live From Home. Presented by AppDynamics and Cisco, Live From Home is using Cisco technology to directly benefit the performers and to provide top-notch entertainment for the public. They are also fundraising for art charities in need. My favourite was ‘Indie Night’. It certainly inspired me to pick up my guitar and start dusting off the old campfire favourites!

We all get so much from the arts which we can often take for granted. Streaming lets us listen to what we want, where we want, whenever we want, and whilst that is a good thing, it’s live music that now really keeps artists afloat. It’s not just for the mega bands touring the world on private jets, but more importantly it’s for the bands and musicians playing at bars and small venues, who are completely shut down for now.

In the clear

So, when all this is over and we can actually go to a venue with a sticky floor and a musty smell, let’s go show our support and help the next Coldplay or Billie Eilish breakthrough.

You can do that on May 5th during the Live from Home event on Cisco’s Virtual Experience Hub for the public.

To conclude, my perceptions were proven wrong….virtual music can move me and bring entertainment to the masses. Music plays such a huge part in all our lives, whether you play it, write it or just hum along because you don’t know the words, it’ll put a smile on your face or a tear in your eye. Right now, the power music has is remarkable and can help us all get through this together.

Stay Safe and tune into the next Live From Home event on 05/05

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How to create a video conferencing agenda

Hold engaging video calls with a meeting agenda ahead of time

Meetings can be a waste of time if not run properly. In fact, a 2019 study revealed the cost of poorly organized meetings would be $399 billion dollars, in the United States alone (1).

An important way to ensure meetings run smoothly and efficiently is to set an agenda prior to the call. Setting an agenda is important, so all attendees can come prepared. Often participants join a meeting, not knowing how to prepare, or what the meeting will be about. And as a result, a follow-up meeting is needed, making the first meeting more of a time-suck than a productive call.

Prioritize your time and energy

Before setting an agenda, consider these three things:

    1. Understand that you don’t have to solve every problem in one meeting

Think about what can be accomplished.

Meetings have different goals and priorities. While some are brainstorm meetings, others are status updates, or presentations on collected information or metrics data. The list goes on, but a single meeting shouldn’t try to fit everything into one. Before you set an agenda, understand what type of meeting you want to have. This will aid in how attendees prepare beforehand and in knowing how long to set the duration of the call.

      2. Consider making meetings shorter

Participants may be more engaged and less likely to multitask in a shorter meeting, knowing they can get back to their work.

Video conferencing calls don’t have to be a designated 30 minutes or 1 hour long. Yes, it’s true that sometimes that amount time is needed, but consider other approaches. For example, let’s take a brainstorm call. Try setting the meeting for 20 minutes and have participants come prepared with ideas they can share for the first 10 minutes. Then, in the second half of the call, have people try and think of additional ideas as a group. After the call, you can narrow down the ideas and send them out, and let people vote. Or set up a second, 10-minute call to walk through the top three and do a final vote.

For a read-out call, sometimes people fill space with information that is too in-the-weeds if there is not clear direction given. Consider setting a shorter call and instruct the presenter to give the top three bullet points and top three lessons learned. Or top three things that can be improved upon. This will shorten calls and keep people focused. If people are interested in more information, they can follow up outside the call.

3. Don’t be afraid of trial and error

Meetings can look and feel different. Try various methods to see what works best for your company.

People work in different ways. What may work for someone, may not work for others. After a meeting, ask for feedback. You may be surprised in what people have to say.

How to plan for and contribute to meetings

What should your agenda look like?

Based on the meeting type, consider:

  • What is the objective of the meeting?
  • How long the meeting should last?
  • How many people need to be on the call?
  • Who will need to talk/present?
  • Should everyone on the invite actually be on the call? (this is important because you don’t want people to feel like their time is being wasted)
  • How long each of those people need to convey information?

An example agenda:

Objective of call:

Example Agenda

At the bottom of the agenda (or within it), you can request what each person needs to do to prepare, or what they need to bring to the meetings. For example, do they need to send slides over beforehand? Should they come with one question to ask, etc.?

Additionally, it’s important to let presenters/participants know how much time they have, beforehand. In fact, to keep a meeting on track, you can give a 2-5-minute warning before the transition to the next topic and presenter. Because everyone will have seen the agenda and time allocated, the switch will be smoother and it won’t feel like someone is being cut off.

One last note

Remember, meeting templates can look very different based on the type of meeting. So, create yours to fit your business needs and detail it with as much or little information as it needs. You can experiment to see what works better with your employees.

Preparing for every meeting with a clear objective and thoughtful agenda will ensure a more productive and efficient use of time for everyone involved. Taking the time up front, will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of each and every meeting.

And if you don’t already have Webex, you can sign up for the free offer, with an unlimited meeting time!


(1) 2019 study on poorly organized meetings

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3 tips for managing a virtual get together. A group of friends hanging out and drinking wine. Four young women in the webex meetings space. Wine glasses are put in the air to toast.
3 tips for managing a virtual get together

Meet by virtual means

Working from home? Me too.

It sounds pretty fun (and definitely has MANY perks), but can also get a bit isolating.

As remote working trends continue to increase, the shift from the office to the home “office” can feel big if you’re used to frequent water cooler conversations, taking  lunch breaks with your colleagues, and planning happy hours after work. Even for a regular “work-from-homer,” I still find myself going a little stir crazy every so often.

If you’re missing your friends or colleagues (who may also fall into the friend category), here are 3 tips for hosting and/or attending a virtual get-together:

Plan a time

If you’re with your colleagues, look at their calendars and find a time that works. You can even use a team collaboration space to suggest times, using reaction emojis, like the thumbs up, to let others know if a specific time works for you. If you don’t have visibility into calendars or a space with all invitees, texts or survey’s work as well.

Assign a host

This person is in charge of figuring out the time, sending out the invite, remembering to show up. Like a host at a party, they can greet people who join the call and mediate if everyone starts talking over one another. Prior to the call, or at the start of the call, it’s important to lay out a set of “guidelines” as well as what they should expect.

For people who have never joined a video conferencing meeting before, you can let them know in advance that they may need to download the app (if joining from a phone or new device). And it’s fun to see everyone, so encourage them to use a device with a camera.

Because there can be background distractions and noises, ask attendees to keep themselves muted until they would like to talk. In addition, unlike normal happy hours or get-togethers, side conversations are near impossible. On a video conference, they tend to result more in people talking over one another. If this happens, suggest that people try the chat tool to either directly message one person, or the entire group.

If you’re the host and need to leave early, you can assign a new host.  That way the call won’t end for everyone.

Change the layout

Webex offers three views: active speaker view, active speaker and thumbnail view, and grid view. Instead of just seeing only the person talking, change to the grid-view where you can see up to 25 different screens. This view allows for you to see everyone’s reactions and makes it feel much more like you’re all together in person. It can also help in seeing if someone is trying to talk or when someone is finished talking, limiting interruptions.

Don’t forget your snacks and drinks! Host a virtual cheers at the beginning of the call, just like you would normally if you were in person. Don’t let the computer screen prevent you from ordinary get-together rituals.

As for planning your next get together, do it before you go! Use the polling tool to suggest times and have everyone vote in real-time.

Little things can go a long way in starting a get-together, especially for those new to the video conferencing arena. So, do you think you’re ready to virtually hang out with your friends? Start planning!

And if you don’t already have Webex, you can sign up for the free offer, with an unlimited meeting time!

We hope these tips help your next get-together run smoothly! See how @bshaughn of NYC consultancy makes virtual happy hour’s happen

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My virtual team experience

I graduated in May of 2019, and along with my peers I faced the daunting pressure of figuring out my next step.  Like many that were in my shoes nine months ago (or still are now), the end of the road in academia didn’t present a clearly defined transition into adulthood. Unless your major led to medical school or law school, graduation looked more like the edge of a cliff, and not the top of a podium.  

millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce and webex technology

If the shoe fits…

I scrapped the ‘logical next step’ option and did the next best thing: I looked for a workplace that would have the best environment in which I could grow, learn, and challenge myself. And with luck, I would also love my coworkers, and have fun while achieving all of the above. Yeah it sounded impossible to me too. 

Status update: currently self-appointed CFO (Chief Fun Officer) of new recruits. I’m growing, learning, challenging myself, loving my coworkers, having fun, AND writing this blog. How you ask? It all started with the interview. I knew from my first conversation with Cisco that it would meet what I was looking for.  

Ready, set, recruit

My experience was typical – a 5% response rate to job applications: an email here, a link to a video conference there, a phone call.  Aside from the occasional email chain, there was no channel for me to communicate with those involved in the recruitment process, let alone a channel to get to know potential team members. In such a time of uncertainty, the lack of visibility added to my stress. There was a clear separation between me and my potential prospective employers I would just need to wait until someone communicated at me. That’s until I started my interviews with Cisco. Only then did it dawn on me that when a company interviews you, you are interviewing them too; you can’t just want the shoe, it must fit on your foot. 

My virtual recruitment adventure 

My recruiter and potential team members asked me to create a free Webex Teams account on This was unusual, but I was open to this interview process. Immediately, the interviewer leading my interview process began a conversation with me one-on-one and added me to a ‘space’ titled ‘Welcoming Ana Vincenti’ (that’s me) with the other members of her team she would eventually want me to connect with. A space, just for me? I was already feeling special. 

Next thing you know, I was welcomed with confetti, gifs, emojis, and enthusiastic messages from the team that they were excited to meet with me. And for the first time in an interview process, I felt (dare I say it) good. Being added to the space made me feel like I was already a part of the team, even if just as a guest for the time being. It removed the walls that I had consistently felt in all other interview processes — it’s like I was invited into the same room where everyone else was, as an equal.  

In Webex Teams you can search from thousands of Gifs to find the perfect expression of yourself at any time.

The team continued to use the platform to schedule video meetings with me directly in the Webex Teams app (I was using the online version). Outside of our scheduled interview times, the team made a point to let me know they were available to answer any questions that came up. All I had to do was message them directly on Teams. And the cherry on top of it all? The entire process happened completely remotely. I was traveling for quite some time when this opportunity suddenly popped up. Worried about how it would affect my candidacy, the team said, ‘we’ll meet you wherever you are, whenever you’re available,’ and that’s exactly what they did. 

virtual interview with a unicorn on top of computer.png

The virtual interview process!

My first interview was with who is now my manager and took place while I was squatting outside in front of a Prada (classy, I know) in Milan, on my phone. I had my video on, looking as one does with the beloved combination of 90-degree heat and humidity. I was candid and let her know it was the only place I could find reliable WIFI. I made it clear that I very much took this opportunity seriously, despite how my video looked. She laughed, inquired about my travels, and we continued with the interview. That right there, was the beginning of what sealed the deal for me. More video interviews, gif exchanges, and messages later, I became a part of the Cisco family.  


Once things slowed down, I started thinking about what my day-to-day would look like. The only question I had about integrating into the team was…’so…how tall are all of these people in real life?’ I had not a doubt that I would fit in with them on day one. I already had ample opportunity to connect with them through video, messages, and gifs (usually a clear indicator of one’s personality). By the way, I still don’t know how tall all my coworkers are.  

Some of the people I work with weekly are in Europe and Asia. You heard me correctly; I get to work with people across the globe. Not bad for my first job! That was a goal of mine for way later in my career, but Webex Teams has made it possible from the get-go. This technology makes it so exciting to go into work each day. Or rather, not to go into work, because if I don’t want to leave the house, my team and I stay connected through Webex Teams. We trust one another to get our work done no matter where we are.  


I took so much away from this experience. Check out some of my takeaways below:

1) Life after college. Six months in, I love my first post-graduate job. Webex Teams made the transition between candidate Ana and employee Ana seamless. I communicate with my team even more closely than I did on day one.

2) Video is key in communication. Video is key in communication. From the first interview —  on the floor in 90-degree heat (I wouldn’t recommend this, but desperate times call for desperate measures), I was able to be candid with my future team. Seeing their smiles, make eye contact, and hearing their laughs was pivotal in making me feel comfortable with the team, role, and Cisco as a whole. Ultimately, it allowed me to perform better as a candidate, as I was able to present myself just as I would in a live situation, even though I was far away. It also gave me a much more holistic picture of my future employer and was key in winning me over as a candidate.

3) Be candid, open, and welcoming of new ways to operate (especially when they challenge status quo). This is not a ‘typical’ interview process, or a globally deployed way of working. However the technology is perfectly built to support it and makes for a wonderful experience. I was unsure what this new interview process would look like, nor how I would adapt to having a virtual team. But I embraced it with open arms, was honest about how it was new for me, and the team reciprocated. This a lot of trust between us immediately, which set the foundation for the incredible experience I’m having with the team today. 

Adopting collaboration technology is easy and fun

So, business owners (and future employees), if you are still on the fence about adopting collaboration technology, I hope I’ve made the value clear. This easy-to-use platform was key in engaging me from the get-go, and I can guarantee it will have an impact on other millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce. The flexibility, ease, and comfort it provides in communication is a differentiator that businesses must invest in if they plan to engage top talent. And quite simply, it makes people happy. I’ve been able to meet faraway coworkers’ families, stay home when I need to, worked in different locations, and met so many people from all over the globe, all without missing a beat. Technology keeps the work excitingeverywhere, all the time. Let’s make excitement in the workplace the norm.

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How video improves communication during any conference call

Top reasons why video conferencing benefits communication

Communication is key to business. But too often, communication itself gets in the way of how businesses work. Whether it’s aligning sales and marketing or coordinating on project workflow status, efficient and effective communication can be hard to come by. This is especially the case when companies are dependent on traditional conference calls, which can be limiting.

Communicating on strategy or instructions is improved with screen sharing software, which allows meeting participants to integrate video into the proceedings — the next best thing to being in the physical room at the same time.

Want to drive better internal coordination and collaboration while on a call? Consider these reasons for how screen sharing and video conferencing can improve communication.

Video reveals nonverbal expression

Body language and facial expressions matter. Yet these levels of communication are imperceptible on traditional conference calls. Video can make these nonverbal cues seen, which may help increase productivity and provide a better experience over other forms of communication.

When an office worker calls IT for help, for instance, the technical directions can become burdensome to explain over the phone. Also, with traditional calls, remote IT help doesn’t have actual visibility into the situation. Add video, however, and tickets can be resolved more quickly when IT can explain solutions by demonstrating the required steps or live trouble-shooting. These gestures are invaluable to helping a non-IT expert understand the instructions.

Video helps nurture client relationships

Communication in both sales and customer service is improved when video is integrated into processes. Video conferencing software can pay dividends early on in the sales process when reps can hold face to face meetings with prospects. This dimension of communication can help build trust and credibility — don’t discount the value of eye contact when listening to clients explain pain points or their company culture.

Video helps foster a better client experience, which can move the sales process along. Video also comes into play with customer service and retention. Having video on a quarterly or monthly update keeps the client relationship fresh, while also making it easier to explain performance metrics or other details.

Video facilitates creative team collaboration

It can be hard for a graphic designer to get their visual concept across when restricted to the format of the traditional conference call. While they may be able to see the image in their head, or even sketch it out on paper, the other meeting participants don’t have as great a level of insight, which can stunt collaboration.

Video can help solve this challenge by allowing creative team members to share their ideas and or workshop concepts with other attendees in real time and with the aid of a professional tool. A designer may use screen sharing to cast a video of them using a drawing program, while architects on a call could use a building modeling platform to collaborate.

Video provides indelible records

It can be difficult to record every word said on a conference call, even when meeting participants take scrupulous notes. There’s no such gaps or oversights when using the recording feature on a video call.

The preservation of video is a huge advantage to communication. Records-keeping processes are substantially improved and videos can provide reference for future users. For example, a video recording of a sales demo can be archived for training purposes. Besides helping provide ironclad history of instructions or strategy, video can also help with business continuity.

Video helps power remote workforces

Remote workforces are more the norm for businesses these days, from startups and small businesses to enterprise-level companies. Employers have been pressed with increasing expectations for flexible working arrangements, but they’ve also seen the inefficiencies such setups can lead to. Video-powered conferencing is a way to address those productivity drags head-on by giving remote, home-based, and traveling coworkers an engaging and easy way to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

Team members who are miles apart but working on the same project can use video to provide updates or otherwise coordinate on next steps. Video helps companies avoid some of the major pitfalls companies encounter with remote workforces. Managers who have video-based check-ins can better assess performance and help form bonds with a direct report who they’ve never met before.

Video improves onboarding

Onboarding is a crucial stage for both employees and clients. You want to ensure that new hires have the support and information to be productive, and that clients can realize value or return on investment. Information retention is improved with video, while sales reps or managers have a greater ability to course correct during the early stages of the relationship to avoid common obstacles. Familiarity is beneficial at such stages, but something that traditional conference calls can’t provide with only voice.

Video is a powerful and efficient channel for delivering communication. Businesses can leverage video conferencing and screen sharing in internal and external interactions. Interested in learning more about video features and the software needed to support such implementations?

Learn about our screen sharing solution or get started with a free plan today.

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