How to Not Screw Up a Skype Interview
“I didn’t wear pants,” one reader wrote in a Chronicle of Higher Education forum about the dos and dont’s of interviewing for a job on Skype. How’d his interview turn out? “It went great,” he reported.
Skype’s effect on the interview has been discussed in depth in the Chronicle, partly because applicants to academic positions often aren’t local, so the free video-calling tool comes in handy for selection committees. Colleges can save thousands of dollars by conducting virtual interviews — and Skype’s utility also extends around campus, dampening costs for admission interviews and guest speakers.
Video conferencing may be the employer’s interview tool of the future, but are job seekers comfortable with the change? Don’t lose sleep pondering the best camera angle, just follow these simple tips to avoid calamity. And here’s a perk: If you do follow the steps below, it really doesn’t matter whether you wear pants.
Tend to the Big Picture
First impressions matter. But without the opportunity to give a firm handshake, you’ll have to rely on other means to prove yourself. Your true first impression is your username. So, if it includes the words “baby,” “cute,” “hot” or any shutter-worthy abbreviation, do yourself a favor and make a new account.
Even online, body language is important, so sit up straight. Webcams aren’t all that flattering, but there are ways to avoid looking like a washed out ghost. Wear something dark, preferably black, and avoid patterns and light colors.
If you’re worried about how formal to dress, basic science research fellow Holly Babcock suggests waiting to activate your camera until you can see your interviewer. Seeking a transition to clinical and community-based research, Babcock recently interviewed on Skype for a job and picked up this secret trick. “I did it to gauge whether I should put on my suit jacket. It’s slightly calming and increased my confidence by giving me a few extra seconds to collect myself,” she adds.
Once the interview begins, look into the webcam, not at your screen, former TV news anchor Bill McGowan tells TIME. You can even tape a photo of a friend near the camera to help you focus – although think carefully about who you choose. Babcock says you should still look at the interviewers occasionally so you can see facial expressions and gestures.
Remember that whoever is on the other side of the screen can see what’s behind you. Clean up clutter — whether it’s a messy stack of papers or an Animal House poster. A plain background is always best, Babcock says.
Silence is Golden
Keep the room quiet by quitting e-mail, instant messengers and other potential noisemakers. This means you can still keep a word document open — a resume or cover letter — as a reference. Put your cell phone on silent, or better yet, turn it off completely.
The same goes for human- and animal-made sounds. Is your dog playing with a chew toy? Is your boyfriend watching TV? Is FedEx about to ring the door bell?
Think ahead and try to ensure the house is empty, even if it means bribing a friend to pet sit. And if you’re really worried about knocking or ringing, you can always put a sign on the door asking guests to come back later and deliveries to be left outside.
Expect Technology Hiccups
The lingering terror of the Skype interview is relying on a perhaps flakey internet connection. To ease your mind, ditch the WiFi and plug into an ethernet cable.
Skype is constantly updating its software, so even if you think you’ve mastered its ins and outs, do a test run, suggests Lynn O’Shaughnessy of CBS Money Watch. Before your interview, you should be familiar with how to share links, files and photos, as well as Skype’s instant messaging function, she adds.
Prepare a Plan B in case something does go wrong. Can you borrow your roommate’s computer out of desperation? Do you have the employer’s phone number written down in case you need to reach him or her?
Finally, if your dog does start barking between answers, don’t freak out. The best approach is to maintain a sense of humor — smile, apologize and do your best to fix the problem. A potential boss will be impressed if you can keep calm under pressure. Just don’t get up to quiet down the pup if you are, in fact, sans pants.
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