In the previous issue, we discussed phone interviews, and today we move on to Skype interviews. Skype interviews are increasingly used to vet candidates. Crystal Chen says that her company, Coursera, “uses Skype for a good 90 percent of our first-round interviews.” Perhaps this is an extreme example, but it is likely a herald of things to come. To convey the complexities, Chen says that a Skype interview is “like being on TV, except you’re filming, directing, and acting in this role.”
The basic rules about preparing for an interview are the same whether it is conducted in person, by phone, or by Skype, but following the medium-specific tips below can make your Skype interview more successful.
Make sure that you will not be disturbed during the interview — by people or pets barging into your room, or by noise from another room. Have a neutral background that will not compete with your attire. Soft but adequate lighting is also important. Harsh lighting can make you look washed out.
Have the right equipment. Chen suggests: “Don’t rely on the built-in microphone unless you want to sound like you’re in a bat cave. Get a dedicated microphone and test it out.” Michaela Gianotti adds that using a headset will help your audience “hear you more clearly and with less distracting background noises.”
Similarly, make sure you have a solid internet connection, because a dropped call distracts from the interview and may reflect poorly on you. Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Resumes suggests: “Test yourself by filming yourself answering some sample questions.”
It’s good to have a backup plan in case your internet connection fails you. Options include a landline, cellphone, or Google chat. Rescheduling the interview is a last resort.
“Avoid standing out,” advises “Ace Your Interview” author Lisa B. Marshall. “You want them to remember what you said, not what you wore.” As Rangel notes, “Prints and patterns can overpower the screen and make it hard for the interviewer to watch you.” She also suggests: “Full dress for the call.” That means dressing head to toe, not just head to waist. Wearing your comfy Hawaiian shorts with your collared shirt and suit jacket is fine — unless you need to stand up for any reason. Marshall provides extensive suggestions, especially for women, on colors, makeup, and jewelry.
You want to keep your eyes on the camera, not on the view from your screen. Chen quotes a tip from Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Digital Interview Handbook,” for helping you appear to be looking right at the interviewer: Download a photo of the hiring manager, print it, and make a hole in the photo to allow the camera lens to see through. “Now you can look at the photo, which makes it more human to conduct your digital interviews,” says Bailo.
Moreover, make sure your body language expresses that you’re engaged. “As you’re communicating, lean forward,” suggests Bailo. “This will show interest and concern and will engage your audience. It will also convey eagerness and willingness to listen.” Just be careful not to overdo it. “Even more so than in an in-person interview, avoid excessive physical movements.”
“Put on your best newscaster face,” says Rangel. “You have to be a little more animated and expressive than you would in person to convey your enthusiasm.”
You should have all backup materials (job description, cover letter, resume, etc.) readily accessible on your computer, so that you don’t need to riffle through a stack of papers to find something. Also, turn off all notifications, so that you won’t be disturbed during your interview.
Bottom line: Check out everything ahead of time: the background and lighting, the microphone and computer connection, your attire, and your “look” on camera.
By David Marwick
David Marwick is KempMillJobAssist’s workshop coordinator. He studied economics at George Washington University and worked as an economist for George Washington University and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.