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So you need to nail an interview on Skype

in Best Practices, News and Features

laptop-phone-deskMore and more, a job interview requires you to perform over the web. That applies even locally…a couple of years ago, I applied for a job with a Humboldt employer where my first-round interview was over Skype. Interviewing remotely is different, and yet much is the same. You have to prepare for a regular interview, plus do some other things. This article is on those other things, how you equip, prepare and perform so that you have advantages over other applicants.

First in equipping yourself is with the technology itself. You will probably want to buy ($100) or borrow a better camera than the little eye thing that comes standard on your laptop. If you’ve got a truly good camera already, then you’re ahead of the game.

Make sure your internet connection is powerful enough; nothing makes an interview more awkward than a herky-jerky slide show experience.Make sure you’re using a professional profile…SkypeSkippy5150, with a photo of your best keg stand, is not an appropriate interviewing choice. (Remember, Skype accounts are free, so sign up for another, purely professional one if need be.)

Test the technology ahead of time. And test yourself with it. This includes video, audio, bandwidth, and the software itself. Equip yourself with a good interviewing space. Think about the lighting. Natural light is best and fluorescent is just the worst. If you can get complimentary lighting on your face, that’s gold. Dimming down the background means that your camera won’t adjust for too much brightness and dim your face out.

 

Preparation for the space extends to sound. Pick a quiet place if you can. Turn off any electronic notifications (my phone loudly announces “DROID!” at any time it can, simply to embarrass me). Let others who use the space know that you have an important interview, so they don’t yell for you, practice their samba drumming, etc. If you need to secure a baby-sitter or dog-sitter to keep cute but noisy beings occupied, do that.

 

When preparing your staging, manage the background. A warm, uncluttered background is best. A good example is wood cabinetry or paneling. You don’t need perfection but you do want professional.

 

The platform, while awkward, also provides you some advantages. Use them! Put a few key

notes up near the camera…make sure you’re still prepared and the notes can be easily scanned…but write up a few key points, have the best thing from your resume, and post a good question or two for your interviewers.

 

Remember that you are trying your best to connect. This requires you to look at the camera,

rather than at the screen. To help with this, put the photo of a trusted mentor, or a friend, or a cute koala bear right next to the camera and speak to the photo. Practice this.

 

Look the part yourself. Research how to dress at this employer, and dress that way all the way to the floor. In part, this will give you a psychological boost…you feel more professional and that will come through. In part, you don’t want to be the horror story (example: the young guy who was unexpectedly asked to show his portfolio to the camera and, when he stood up to get it, also showed that he was only wearing boxer shorts below the waist). As with a face-to-face interview, shower, do your hair, that kind of stuff.

You need a Plan A and a Plan B. Know who is placing the call and at what time. If, despite all your prep and testing, you have equipment malfunctions, address them. It’s generally best to acknowledge the issues directly, revealing yourself as a problem-solver.

Practice, of course. Do Skype calls with friends. Ask them to interview, perhaps with both a couple of questions you believe you’ll be asked, but also with a surprise question or two. Skype allows you to record calls, and you can review your performance until you’re happy with it.

Situate yourself ahead of time with the camera. See how you look. Fine tune the lighting. Try to recreate a portrait, rather than a mug shot. (Remember how the professional photographer positions you with your body at a slight angle and your face to the camera? Try that.)

When it’s time to perform, mom’s right: sit up straight and smile! Focus even more than you would in a face-to-face interview; don’t allow any distractions. Emphasize your vocal variety to make up for the loss of much of the nonverbal communication. Practice active listening and,beyond that, add occasional vocalizations like “hmmm…”, “I see” and “yes” so there’s no doubt that you’re still online and actively engaged.

Then wrap up strong. Reinforce something positive from your record or from the interview itself. Thank your interviewers. Ask for the job! When the interview concludes, remember that you’re on camera…until you’re postitive that you’re not. Last, send an old school written thank you note, which is still one of our most powerful communications tools in 2014.

Do these things, and you’ll outperform 80% of the people interviewing over Skype. Best of luck!

 

The information provided in this blog is intended for general information purposes only. Readers should seek the help of an HR professional for guidance on specific issues.
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