Interview Tips for the Skype Age

Interview Tips for the Skype Age

Christine’s story has become a fairly common one. Coronavirus shutdowns led to immediate job loss, and finding an online job quickly became frustrating because tens of millions of people are going through the same thing.

Thirty-six million, to be exact.

Finally, she had a lucky break with a local business. Her application was greeted immediately with a text that read, “Are you available for a Skype interview next week?”

Whether it is Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or any of the many video-conferencing apps, the time to polish your skills at using them is now.

And for people like Christine who only ever used them socially, a little brushing up on internet professionalism will make all the difference in an interview.

So what can someone in Christine’s position do to prepare to put their best professional foot forward on Skype?

There are a number of steps that will make all the difference, and most apply to just about any professional interaction you may have on one of these internet platforms.

We’ve all heard the expression “practice makes perfect,” and it couldn’t be more true in this case.

Practice before your interview to make sure that you can log on smoothly. If you are on a private computer, ask the browser to remember your login info. Make sure that the audio and video functions are working as intended. The last thing you want is to be the cause of a delay because you are doing last-minute tweaks to the technology!

The next step is to practice using the platform with a friend or family member. Have them give you feedback on how you look on camera, and even practice some anticipated interview questions. The more comfortable you are practicing the format, the more likely you are to create a natural and professional impression when it really counts.

It is important to think about where you plan to hold your video conference. Pick a location that is neutral and professional and will not distract from the conversation.

Consider lighting, for example. You don’t want to sit with your back to a window that will cause you to be so backlit that your face is dim to the person you are talking to.

However, make sure there is adequate light, preferably from more than one direction so that there are no shadows cast across your face that will appear stark on screen. Ideally, having some natural light coming in with a lamp or overhead light on in the room will have you adequately lit from more than one angle.

Another important aspect to consider in terms of curating your video conference location is to make sure there is not too much clutter in the background to cause distraction. A neatly arranged bookshelf or uncluttered wall space would be ideal. Closing solid-colored curtains in a well-lit room would also work.

Some people go so far as to hang a plain-colored sheet or blanket on a rod behind their desk chair. Whichever option you pick, have your practice partner give you feedback on how the arrangement looks.

A final consideration about the location is to find a place that will be reasonably quiet and where you are least likely to be disturbed by roommates, family members and even pets.

Communicate to those you share your living space with about the importance of remaining undisturbed while video-conferencing, and consider having a sign for the door that indicates when you absolutely must not be disturbed.

Guarding against disturbances extends to ones that may intrude via your computer or phone. Your phone should be muted and placed out of sight of the camera. Close other windows on your computer, and make sure all notifications are muted or turned off.

Just as in a live interview, body language counts on Skype. Aim for a posture that appears natural, and avoid the extremes of slumping or appearing too stiff. And while hand gestures and facial expressions are an integral part of who you are, remember that excessive movement can be distracting or even appear jumpy on an internet medium.

We all know that eye contact is key in any conversation and carries a lot of weight in a job interview. But how do you achieve that on a medium like Skype? While your instinct and habit are to look at the screen, in this case, you should be looking at your camera. That way you will come through on the recipient’s screen as making eye contact, as opposed to the less desirable body language of appearing to look down that will happen if you focus on the interviewer’s image on the screen.

Again, this is something you will want to practice with a friend who will offer helpful feedback.

By practicing, looking at the camera will start to feel more natural and you will be able to get used to talking without your eyes darting all over the place.

No discussion of interviews is complete without a nod to wardrobe considerations. You’re already familiar with the adage “Dress for the job you want,” and this counts every bit as much while video-conferencing. Many people find that solid, dark colors look best on video. Keep it simple and avoid excessive jewelry, accessories or makeup that will likely only be distracting.

It goes without saying that you will want to run your proposed outfit by your practice partner as well!

If you only dress professionally from the waist up, there’s a good chance that the interviewer will never know the difference, but this may be a risk. You are counting on absolutely no interruptions that might cause you to stand up for a moment, so it is up to you to decide if that is a safe bet!

Finally, it is OK to have a few notes at hand with the info you want to remember for your interview — even strategically placed Post-its — but avoid a situation where you are flipping through papers or digging for information while on camera. This is one more area where your practice will serve you well and help to ensure that important data is at the top of your mind.

It is natural to feel a little nervous about an interview, and using a technological platform may make it even more intimidating for some. Take a page from newscasters and quickly correct any mistakes and move on without letting yourself get flustered. We all goof from time to time, but with a little practice, you should be well prepared to put your best face forward in your Skype interview.

With purpose,

Dr. Patrick Gentempo

Patrick Gentempo