Like it or not, Skype video interviews are becoming a regular part of the job application process. A market research firm recently found that 42% of companies used video interviews to recruit senior executives, management, and entry-level job functions, compared to just 10% of companies in 2010. And my company uses Skype for a good 90% of our first round interviews.
But despite how common they’re becoming, the nuances of acing a Skype interview are only starting to be recognized. Many people still simply prepare as they would for a regular interview.
A Skype interview is a whole different ball game, though — it’s like being on TV, except you’re filming, directing, and acting in this role. Follow these tips and you’ll be set to score an Emmy (er, job) from your performance.
Wardrobe and Makeup
The cardinal rule of any interview: Dress to impress. On the internet, “dressing up” includes your username and profile picture. Your Skype info will be your employer’s first impression of you. If you’ve been using the same user name since middle school (I’m talking to you, PartyAngel99 and xOx_SuperSaiyanOverlord_xOx), it’s time for a change. Your profile picture is equally important. Choosing both a professional picture and user name will prevent your employer from misjudging you or having to start off the interview by asking awkward questions.
You should also dress like you would for any other interview — no matter what your local time is, where you’re calling from, or how much of your outfit you think the interviewer can actually see. A colleague of mine once interviewed someone who wore sweatpants, an XXL t-shirt, and had just obviously gotten out of the shower. It wasn’t just awkward — it was disrespectful. The last thing you want to do is seem like you couldn’t care less.
Skype is rife with technical landmines, and we’ve all had that those annoying “can you hear me now?” moments. While most employers are forgiving, they’re also pressed for time. Your safest bet is to Skype with a friend or family member before your interview and check all of the following:
The Set: Find an appropriate place to make the call, and make sure to clean up the background. A keen employer will be inferring everything about your surroundings, so make sure to pick a representative location to have the Skype call.
Internet Connection: If your connection is flaky, find somewhere more stable. Dropped calls are understandable, but they distract from the interview and reflect poorly on your ability to plan ahead.
Lighting: Do you look washed out? Is your face shrouded in shadows? I interviewed a candidate once who had positioned the light directly behind him, making me think I was interviewing a Ringwraith from Lord of the Rings. The most ironic part — he was interviewing for a video director position. Maybe he was trying to intimidate me into giving him the job?
Sound: 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. Also, make sure you’re not in an area with a lot of background noise (the interviewer isn’t interested in what your roommate is watching on TV). A quiet room by yourself is ideal.
Script: Have your attachments — resume, cover letter, portfolio, supporting documents — loaded up before the call, so you can reference them easily without having to conspicuously click around during the interview.
In a traditional, in-person interview, your interviewer is a captive audience. Over Skype, you’re the size of the interviewer’s Skype window and it’s much easier for her to pull out her Blackberry, check her email, or scan the headlines on her favorite news site.
You’re competing with the entire internet for your interviewer’s attention, so don’t just be a talking head on a screen! From a purely visual perspective, you will look much more interesting if you move around, use hand gestures, and stay animated. Interviewers are your audience, and you’re the star of that 600 x 480 pixel screen.
The flip side of this is that you, too, have more opportunity to get distracted. To minimize this, close all windows except your supporting documents and make yourself unavailable or invisible on Skype to avoid interruptions. Put your mini-Skype-window below the webcam on your computer screen, too. That way, when you’re checking how you look, you still appear to be making eye contact with the employer.
From here on out, the rules of the interview are pretty much the same: Do your research about the company, know what questions to expect (and how to answer them), and be your glowing self. And don’t forget the follow-up — you’ll need to send a thank-you exactly the same way you would for an in-person interview. That means, don’t follow up on Skype chat. (I had one prospective employee stalk me for two months after I had turned him down. Um, creepy.)
Nail the virtual interview, and hopefully you’ll soon be walking through the real-life office doors.