Doing an important interview over Skype was once a novelty. These days, it’s quickly becoming common practice. The growing prominence of Skype interviews has given rise to a whole school of thought on Skype etiquette and how to make the best impression over aSkype video call.
While there’re a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there, we got the inside scoop from two people who know Skype interviews best: James Gould, Skype’s Global Staffing Manager and Skype Staffing Consultant Sean Wilkes. They literally wrote the manual for how Skype’s own employees are to conduct hiring interviews over Skype.
Both James and Sean insist that the most important thing is to treat the Skype video call as if you are in the same room as the other person. With that in mind, here are the Top Five Skype Interview Tips according to the experts:
1. Practice makes perfect
James explains, “Practicing means testing a Skype video call with a friend or family member to get a feel for it, but it also means double-checking that all of your technical components are in order.”
First off, be sure that you are running the latest version of Skype so you’re getting the best performance. Here’s where you go if you need to update Skype.
Next, verify that your microphone is in good working order. If you don’t have the chance to test the mic with a friend, there is a built-in “Skype test call” function in your Skype contacts. It is always smart to use a headset, as it will have better sound quality than your computer (that said, you should always test the headset too).
It is also essential to check that your internet connection can handle a video call. Sean points out, “You generally need at least 1.2Mbps of bandwidth for a good quality HD video. A LAN connection is best, then WiFi, and mobile 3G or 4G is a last resort for an important interview.”
Sean also reminds us that “if there’s any chance that you’ll have to do a demonstration during the interview – such as writing code or solving a written problem – make sure you’re using a desktop or laptop and have practiced Skype’s ‘Share screen…’ and ‘Send files…’ functions.”
Resources for troubleshooting can be found at support.skype.com.
2. Set the scene
A little stagecraft goes a long way. Find your inner Spielberg and strive for the ideal visual and auditory experience.
Use a HD webcam if possible and make sure to get the lighting right. James says, “If you’re lit from behind, it will look like you’re in a witness protection program.” If you’re lit from above or below, it can cast ghoulish shadows on your face. It is best to have natural light or a lamp aimed straight at your face from behind the camera or computer.
Be aware of what’s behind you. Clear away clutter. A simple backdrop will look best on the other end of the Skype call.
Background noise can break your concentration and interrupt your interview. Eliminating background noise obviously starts with choosing a quiet location. Then you need to account for all of the X factors inside and outside of your interview space: close doors and windows and be sure that someone dependable keeps your pets and kids occupied.
And don’t assume that other adults are more tactful than kids or pets. Notify everyone in proximity prior to your interview. James laughs, “There have been cases where someone’s partner has walked across the screen in their bathrobe! We suggest avoiding that.”
3. Look the part
It’s true that interview attire varies depending on your industry. Whether you decide to sport business clothes or not, it is worth looking at what news anchors and talk show hosts wear on TV. The color palette used in their outfits is optimal for the camera.
Just as with choosing a background, James notes, “Avoid stripes or patterned clothing. Small details tend to be hard to encode and may appear messy on the viewer’s screen.” Sean continues, “And check that your clothes stand out from the backdrop. A white shirt against a white wall can make you look like a floating head.”
4. Sit up straight!
All of those things your mother told you about maintaining eye contact and good posture also hold true for a Skype interview.
In terms of eye contact, it can be tempting to stare at the image of the interviewer or the image of yourself on the computer screen. It is fine to do that a bit, but you need to train your eyes on the camera. Only by looking straight into the camera will it give the interviewer the impression that you are looking at them.
Sean suggests, ” During a Skype call, you can move the image of yourself around the screen. We’re all self-conscious during an interview and are tempted to look at ourselves. Move your picture to the top corner of the screen, where it’s closest to the camera lens.”
It’s also important to sit up straight as a camera angle from below will multiple your number of chins and a camera angle from above will shrink your size. If you are using a laptop with a built-in camera, it can be worthwhile to boost it up on a stack of books so that it’s at eye-level.
James notes, “Get all of your upper body in the visible area on camera, not just your face. Hand gestures are an important part of natural communication. You don’t want to be constrained to just wiggling your shoulders.”
5. Be enthusiastic and give it your all
Skype gives us amazing opportunities to connect with people. You can truly feel as if you are in the same room as the other person, but it is still up to you to take advantage of all that Skype has to offer and to engage that person on the other end of the call.
As with all interviews, it is essential to speak clearly and convey enthusiasm. Being in the comfort of your own home is not an excuse to get overly comfortable or lapse into a monotone “telephone” voice. Sean adds, “As they say in sales jobs, you need to be ‘smiling through the call.’ Keep energy in your voice.”
We hope these Top Five Skype Interview Tips will help you to land your dream job. Follow the suggestion above, remember to treat the call as if you are in the same room as the other person and you too can be a Skype interview pro, just like James and Sean.