I love Zoom. Free to use and easy to set up, Zoom makes it possible to see people as we talk to them. It’s much more personal than a phone call. Update June 2021: And now there are other videoconferencing applications..
People who haven’t tried videoconferencing are often leery of the download and setup process. But now that we’ve spent a year dealing with the pandemic, most people do know how to set up. The basic computer-to-computer call is free. Having a housemate interview is important to find a good housemate, and videoconferencing can help you have a good interview!
When to Use Videoconferencing
There is one situation when videoconferencing is good for housemate interviews. You’ve already screened the candidate in a phone call, the other person is a good candidate and you aren’t currently living in the same local area. Mind you, videoconferencing should not replace an in-person meeting when it is possible to meet the potential housemate in person.
With your smartphone, tablet or laptop you can do a tour of the potential home—the room that is for rent, the bathroom, the views out the window, common spaces and the kitchen. In other words, the entire space.
You can have the conversation about how you would live together.
To use it well, here are some hints.
You want to have eye to eye contact. You need to remember that it is the camera that is looking at you, not the person. TV anchors learn to look into a camera because that makes them look as if they are looking at you. You want to mimic the same thing. When you open Skype you have the video of other person and also a little window of yourself. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help myself from watching myself. It’s kind of fascinating. So use that tendency, arrange the picture of yourself to be close to the camera. You can click and drag it. If you put your own pic as close to the camera as you can get, when you look at yourself, it will appear that you are looking at the person to whom you are talking.
Speaking and Hearing
Many computers these days come with internal speakers and a microphone. When you first set up your videoconferencing, you are prompted to test those settings. On my MacBook Air the microphone and camera work very well just on their own. Other people like having a videoconferencing headset with headphone and a microphone.
Sometimes it happens that you hear yourself being echoed at the other end. The other person’s microphone is picking up your voice. The fix is for the other person to turn down their speakers. Or if they have their sound coming through speakers to disconnect their speakers and use their built-in speakers. A headset also fixes this issue.
Occasionally the videoconferencing audio or visual degrades. I’ve heard sounds like trains going through tunnels, had the sound not come through clearly. Sometimes the visual gets pixalated like a pointalist painting or freezes. That means that the connection isn’t working for some reason. The answer is to create a new connection, so hang up and call back. I’m never upset—I consider that fact of being able to see and converse over the internet somewhat magic!
Using Chat (SMS)
It is possible to send a chat (SMS) to someone on your contact list. I find the chat very useful to communicate if there is a problem with the connection. I might send a chat that says, “I’m hanging up, I’ll call you.” With friends whom I chat often, we will use the chat to ask if it’s a good time to talk. The chat window is also awesome for sharing files! Simply drag the file to the chat window. (The other person has to accept before it will transmit.)
Videoconferencing is a useful tool when a good candidate is not local. And while it is much better to interview in person, you will gain a good amount of information through seeing one another as you talk.