How to Prepare for a Job Interview, Part Four: The Skype Interview
So you’ve applied for your dream job and received the email about arranging an interview. You feel as though you’ve just mastered the penultimate level of your favorite gruesome video-game; you’ve killed off all those enemy soldiers or ghosts or zombies or panda bears, or whatever you’re into… Now all that’s left is conquering the final stage – in this case, the dreaded Skype interview.
The Skype interview can be a daunting challenge. It can mean that the job you are applying for is in a different city than where you’re currently based and will require that you move. The job might also embody your hopes and dreams of finally moving out of your parents’ basement. A Skype interview might mean that the company is based in a different city and that this is the only chance you have of making an impression on your (if all goes well…) future employer. It might also mean that your interviewer is too big of a deal to meet in person. Either way, there’s a lot of pressure and it is of the utmost importance that you do well.
But don’t fret! The benefits of a Skype interview for you, the interviewee, do exist. For one, there is no way you can get lost on the way to the interview and arrive late. The meeting can take place wherever you are most comfortable (your office, your home, a coffee shop, Hooters… maybe not Hooters…). In other words, the interview can happen on your own turf, rather than in a cold, unfamiliar, intimidating office. This allows you to be more comfortable with your interview environment and consequently less nervous. The most important benefit, however, is that you do not need to commute to your interview, meaning that your Pre-interview self-prep process can occur right before, indeed exactly before your actual interview with no other distractions (the drive, the waiting room, etc.).
But you know all that already. You came here for the goods, not for lengthy descriptions of the pros and cons of Skype interviews. So without further adiue, we present to you D2D’s tips for Pre-Skype-interview self-prep.
1) If your interviewee mentions arranging a “Skype interview,” ALWAYS assume that they want a video interview and not just a phone call. Why?
Video call = sight + sound.
Phone call = sound.
If you assume your interviewer meant a voice call, and you do not prepare to present yourself physically, it can get embarrassing. It’s also a tad awkward when your interviewer has his or her video turned on and you only have voice, because you are fumbling to put a nice shirt on before you can turn your own camera on. It will inevitably make your interviewer suspicious, as he or she might feel like you’re hiding something. He or she also probably wants to see you in order to assess your facial features and see whether you have a nice smile or a tattoo which reads “I hate puppies” plastered on your forehead. So, even if the interview ends up being only over voice, always prepare for a video component.
2) Make sure you’re computer is plugged in.
Sure, the interview might last only 5 minutes and your battery can hold out that long… but what if they love ya and want to spend an hour listening to your opinion on every aspect of their company and their line of work? Watching your battery dwindle will make you increasingly nervous as you try to figure out a strategy to interrupt your interviewer and tell him/her you need to grab the extension cord in the other room. Your only other option is to suddenly go blank and have your interviewer think you hung up on him or her. Trust me…. You really don’t want to have to charge your computer, turn it on, wait for the wifi to kick in, sign into Skype and call back your interviewer. It makes you seem pretty unprepared.
3) Make sure your environment looks professional or at least mature to your interviewer.
If you live at home, it might be a good idea to conduct your interview in the living room or your dad’s study or any neutral, drab, serious looking room instead of in your childhood bedroom. Teddy bears and Backstreet Boys posters won’t help you look like a responsible adult who’s serious about the job. Neither will having your half-eaten Power Sandwich on a plate next to you. A bed is generally not a good thing to have in the picture, for obvious reasons… A noisy smart phone that screeches out your Daddy Yankee ringtone every time someone bumps you on LittleMonsters makes you look like a vapid teenager, not a savvy job candidate. It’s a good idea to have some books or office supplies (binders, paper clips, staplers, etc.) around to make you seem academic and/or productive. If you have a fish tank, have that in the background, as the presence of fish have been proven to have a calming effect, and because this may show that you are responsible for keeping something alive — always a good characteristic to have. Look around your apartment and see if there are any objects which relate to the job you are applying for or which say something about you that you want your interviewer to know. Have a Chinese lantern dangling behind you if you are applying to be a tour guide in China. Have a photo of yourself working with kids in a developing world country if you want to show off your compassionate nature. Get creative!
4) Dress for the occasion as you would for an in-person interview.
Your interviewer might only be able to see you from the waist up, but that doesn’t mean you can wear a suit and tie on top and pajama bottoms down below. Why? Wearing semi-uncomfortable interview clothes (i.e.: your Power Outfit, which we discussed in Step Three of the Pre-Interview Prep Series) naturally makes you carry yourself in a more formal way and maintain a better posture. The latter is necessary in a Skype interview. While some movement and especially gesticulation is always encouraged, a very slight rigidity or at least straightness in posture helps non-verbally communicate to your interviewer that you are a serious candidate. Wearing comfortable bottoms carries with it the temptation to stretch out one’s legs or even sit cross-legged atop your chair. Interviewers can pick up on this. Plus, what happens if you suddenly need to get up? Maybe the fire alarm in your kitchen goes off or maybe your interviewer asks to see something which you keep in the next room over? You stand up and your interviewer gets a look at the Hello Kitty! pajamas or short shorts or butt-less chaps you chose to pair with that smart-trendy blouse. That won’t make you seem very professional now, will it?
5) Have only websites and documents related to the position you are interviewing for open on your screen.
Close Facebook, close gchat, close any form of communication with friends who are only looking to distract you with tales of their rowdy night out on the town. It will not help your concentration. Smiling for no reason (as far as your interviewer is concerned) will make you seem creepy…
DO have things about the job open so that you may refer to them during the interview. Have your resume and cover letter ready, as well as the description of the position or offer letter the company/organization may have sent you. In fact, have every initial document they have sent you (literature about the history/mission of the company, list of tasks which will be required of you, etc.) open so that you don’t waste your interviewer’s time having to open them in Word/Excel/Powerpoint/whatever when he or she refers to them during the interview. Better yet, print some of them out and highlight the most important parts. It is also a good idea to have a little something extra on the company open, the knowledge of which will surely impress your interviewer. For example, a staff list with bio’s or the company’s “who we are” page is a great way to refer to other people in the company whom your interviewer probably already personally knows, thus impressing him or her with the research you’ve done on your potential future colleagues.
“I see Bill Murphy graduated from Occidental the same year I did and that he has a background in PR. It might be interesting to work together with him to help find an answer to blah blah…”
That kind of thing…
6) If you live with roommates, make sure they don’t have a screaming-match scheduled for the same time as your interview.
This seems like an obvious point, but it is an easy one to forget when you are absorbed in pre-interview self-prep. Having your roommates singing karaoke on the other side of the door is not a good way to achieve that 9:1 solitary-social ration we discussed in Step 2 (To Socialize Or Not Before An Interview). So do tell them to quiet down and maybe read a book for once, while your interview is in progress. Better yet, get’em out of the building. Treat them to a Starbucks or something.
These are our suggestions for how-to and how-not-to prepare yourself for your Skype-interview. In addition to these points, everything we have discussed about pre-interview self prep in Step One (The Power Sandwich) and Step Two (To Be Social or Not) and Step Three (The Power Outfit) applies in the same way. If you are lucky enough to get a Skype interview rather than an in-person one, understand that the only extra convenience you have is saving on travel time. So don’t get too comfortable or informal; take your interview just as seriously as if you were in the hot seat in the interviewer’s office. Remember, how you are perceived by your interviewer is the most important thing. So do yourself a favor and don’t botch that impression by fondling your childhood blankie or writing Star Trek RPG or whatever weird stuff you do when the cameras aren’t looking. Prepare as you would for an in-person interview, look and feel professional, and your interviewer will be sure to take you seriously.
Creative Commons photo above by docpop