It's All About The People

  • 5 Quick Tips for Conducting Video Interviews

    by Express Employment Professionals Pittsburgh West  

    During the past several months, people who never used video conferencing software before the COVID-19 pandemic have become believers in the potential the technology has for how they conduct business in today’s always connected world.

    Interviews, for example, are an ideal fit for video calls and became more common during quarantine when shelter-in-place restrictions prevented in-person meetings. But of course, as with any tech, many people experience a bit of a learning curve in the beginning.

    There’s plenty of common ground between in-person and video interviews and most hiring managers are well versed in the basics, like having a prepared list of questions or turning off email notifications and text messages. However, in regard to video interviews especially, there are a few tips to consider you may not have thought about.  

    Give candidates plenty of time to prepare.
    Because of the immediacy of technology like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, it’s easy to start up an impromptu video call with coworkers and colleagues any time you need to have a discussion. However, once you decide you’d like to interview a potential job candidate, set a specific date that allows them time to download any necessary technology, test their device, or make arrangements to do the interview from somewhere with more reliable internet. 

    Have a plan B
    Of course, no matter how much prep time there is, no technology is perfect and the potential for a breakdown is always there. Therefore, be sure to have a backup plan in case you get disconnected. Whether it’s a predetermined time to try again later or a phone number where you can be reached to continue the interview, let the candidate know how they can get back in touch if something happens.

    Set a firm agenda
    Video interviews, in general, can feel less formal than an in-person interview. It’s the nature of the medium, but don’t be tempted to just put it together on the fly. Set an agenda for the interview and what the candidate can expect. The agenda can be simple, such as a bulleted list that includes topics like Introductions, Review Job Description, Company Overview, etc. You could even email the agenda to the candidate a few days in advance so you’ll both be on the same page and have a “roadmap” for navigating the video interview.

    Remove distractions
    Sure, distractions like email and texts apply just as much to video interviews as they do to in-person interviews, but when you’re not in the office, there’s likely a whole new set of distractions to contend with you may not think about until it happens. One of the biggest is technology issues. If you’re having to pause the interview to adjust settings, figure out how to mute and unmute, etc., it can not only be distracting, but also frustrating for the interviewee who came prepared to put their best foot forward.

    Additionally, surprise visits from kids and pets are always a possibility when interviewing via video from home, so be sure to find a place where you can lock yourself away from interruptions as best as possible.

    Show some grace
    Face-to-face interviews are stressful enough for candidates, throw in the disadvantage of not physically being in the same room as the interviewer where it’s easier to read body language and facial expressions, and it becomes a much more awkward interaction—especially if the candidate has little experience with video conferencing. So, it’s important to take that into consideration, help them feel comfortable, and let them know that it’s just as awkward for you and to relax.

    About Express Employment Professionals
    At Express Employment Professionals, we’re in the business of people. From job seekers to client companies, Express helps people thrive and businesses grow. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK, our international network of franchises offers localized staffing solutions to the communities they serve, employing 552,000 people across North America in 2019. For more information, visit

    Whether your journey is that of an employer or job seeker, Express Employment Professionals is here to help. Check out our recent article on building employee loyalty and maintaining a productive workforce. The Employers section of our website offers a variety of tools and resources. We also have several resources for job seekers, including ExpressLearn, Job Genius, and Job Journey.

    The Pittsburgh West Express office is located at 6200 Steubenville Pike, Robinson, PA 15136 and serves the serves areas West of Pittsburgh to the Airport Corridor and Beaver county. Local businesses and applicants are encouraged to stop by, visit or call (412) 494-2000.

    The Power of Your Voice

    by Kelly Burgos Harper, KBH Communications & Vocal Coaching

    Let’s talk about one of your most important sales and communication tools:

    Your voice.

    On any given day, we rack up an average of 7,000 spoken words. Some sources say as many as 16,000 words.

    We use our voice to communicate with practically everyone. We use our voice for fun when we sing in the shower or the car (come on, you know you do it) or laugh at a funny joke. We use it for protection when we yell, “STOP!” to a child about to run out into the street.

    Even if you’re not a “professional” speaker, singer, or voice actor, chances are your voice helps you make money. Think about the role our voice plays in presenting to a client, training a new sales executive, selling ourselves in an interview, or asking our boss for a raise. And yet…

    Have you ever thought to actively take care of your voice or learn how to harness its power?

    Yes – your voice has power. Power to express, earn trust, teach, inspire, generate excitement, create unity, put someone at ease, command your audience, communicate powerful messages. Or it can do just the opposite. Can you think of a time when the way you used your voice helped produce a positive outcome? How about a time when it contributed toward a negative outcome?

    So, let’s give your voice a little time on the agenda, shall we?

    Within the word limits of this article, we can’t dig in too deep. So, I’ll share a just a few practical Voice 101 tips to start you on a journey of vocal care.

    Develop mindfulness around your voice. Some things to start to consider:

    • The physical sensation and condition of your voice - How does it feel? Do you use your voice with ease, or is there strain, fatigue or tightness? How does it sound? Does it sound healthy? Does it sound strained, weak, tired, raspy, hoarse, breathy, clear, bright, dull?

    • The way you use your voice to express yourself - What vocal tendencies do you have? How do you use inflection, dynamics, intensity, tone/pitch, and melody to express and communicate?

    • The way your voice actually sounds - record yourself speaking/singing and listen back. Does it sound the way you expected? Is your voice communicating what you intend to communicate? 

    Vocal Care 101 – and it’s pretty basic

    • Hydration– for your vocal folds (cords) to work properly and with ease, you need to maintain hydration throughout the day. Drinking room temperature water is best, especially if you have a speaking or singing engagement. Steam can also be used as a direct form of hydration to your vocal folds (cords). Also, be aware that caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate, so you may need to take extra water to make up for that mug of coffee or glass of wine.
    • Rest – Good sleep is helpful to the voice as it is to your entire body. You’ll also want to give your voice intentional rest breaks throughout a busy day of speaking or singing.

    • Stretching your voice – Stretching your vocal folds (cords) before and throughout a long day of voice use is essential for preparing and protecting your voice and preventing vocal fatigue. A coach can teach you vocal warmup exercises (with proper form) that work for your individual voice. One simple warmup is to use humming, “ng” or lip bubble sounds to gently glide from your chest voice (low register/lower notes) up into your head voice (upper register/higher notes) and then back again. 

    • Watch what you eat – Sorry cheese lovers (and I’m one, too), but dairy is never going to be your friend when preparing for a speaking or singing engagement. It’s mucous city! Not a good sound unless you’re a thrash metal singer. Heavy meals and foods that bulk up or take longer to digest are also not conducive to being in your best voice.

    • Be kind to your voice – Try not to book too many back-to-back sessions, meetings, or calls if you don’t have to. Give yourself breaks in between. Wherever you are, make sure you have water handy. Use headphones or earbuds when on Zoom and phone calls. Limit the time you spend speaking loudly in noisy environments. A coach can help you find your natural pitch and assist you with lift and pitch adjustments to help “save” your voice during heavy speaking/singing days.

    There’s so much more, but I’ll stop here. 

    Rest assured, with the right information and coaching; you can learn how to protect and preserve your voice. You can learn how to strengthen your voice, gain clarity, control your tone, and optimize your sound. You can learn to control your breath, speak well through nerves, speak more dynamically and efficiently, project when you need to, and start to build knowledge and command of this extraordinary instrument that serves as one of your most important communication tools.

    Speak on! Sing on! Rock on!


    For more information about Kelly Burgos Harper Vocal Coaching, visit or email Interested in a FREE VOICE YOGA warmup training Kelly is offering to PAACC members? Shoot her an email!

    It’s All About the People

    Deb Gray, Owner, Express Employment Professionals Pittsburgh West

    In 2019, we launched our educational series, “It’s All About the People,” to help businesses understand and better serve their employment needs. We focused on recruiting, hiring, orientation, and onboarding for improved engagement during record low unemployment and the challenges of a multigenerational workforce. 

    One of the biggest takeaways from our speakers and panelists was for everyone – employers and workers alike - to make the extra effort to be flexible enough to understand the other’s position.

    Now, flexibility is needed more than ever to navigate through the changes brought by the pandemic. We, employers, employees, families, community leaders, religious, profit, and nonprofit are all impacted in some way. No one has been left untouched, and we all need understanding.

    My journey is an example and I will share.

    On Thursday, March 19, I found myself working very late on a transition plan to exit my office and set up my team of 12 to work from home. By 4 pm Friday, my office was vacant, and we spent the weekend setting up home offices and preparing to service two-thirds of our businesses who were still open. We launched remote systems, learned Zoom, and set out to implement my first plan with hopes of a new routine.

    As a proactive leader, I carefully and positively reassured my team about our present plan and guided them for the near future. We acknowledged that we must expect the unexpected. The employment business is ever-changing but certainly became more so. Communication was critical, as was the willingness to revise the plan – weekly, daily, and sometimes by the hour. I exercised patience (more than ever) and was persistent in encouraging the team that we could work our way through. I also prayed a lot.

    Some additional challenges throughout this time kept me grounded in a new reality:

    • At week 2, we lost an additional 10% of our clients to closures. 30 workers impacted.
    • We persevered and added 5 new essential businesses.
    • At week 3, a team member with two years’ experience resigned for another new, less stressful position.
    • I navigated the PPP loan process, not once but twice, and was finally successful.
    • I learned that leased space is not a requirement, so I plan to reduce my footprint.
    • At week 4, I took my 86-year-old Mom to the ER, not once but twice (non-COVID), and had to admit her by herself for 4 days.

    It was tempting to function from a place of fear. However, my clients, our workforce, my team, their families, our health and our future depend on us to work through this. In doing so with collaboration, commitment, and compassion, we are finding a new success.

    I challenge employers and job seekers to embrace these values to help move from fear to learning and growth, and perhaps even greater leadership.

    As you work through this time, remember that it truly is all about the people, professionally and personally. The pandemic has reinforced this fact. My journey with my team will continue with an emphasis on planning, persistence, patience, and prayer.

    Whether your journey is that of an employer or job seeker, Express Employment Professionals is here to help. The Employers section of our website offers a variety of tools and resources. We also have several resources for job seekers, including our brand new Get Ahead live event series on YouTube (May 14) and LinkedIn (May 21), as well as ExpressLearn , Job Genius , and Job Journey .

    To learn about our available jobs or to connect with quality candidates, you can visit or call (412-494-2000). Our recruiters are interviewing and onboarding remotely.

    It's all about the people