You've used Skype to stay in touch with your family members and friends. It's so easy, even your grandparents are using it.
But now you have an employer who is asking to interview you over Skype. How do you handle it? Is it different from other interviews?
The answer is yes, it is very different. And it's different from your normal Skype conversations, which tend to be rather casual and laid back. The level of intensity will be different in this Skype session. And how you interview over Skype is different from a normal interview in several ways:
- You can see the interviewer, yet you cannot maintain true eye contact with the interviewer, since looking into their frame makes it appear you are looking in a different direction. Only looking at the camera gives the illusion that you are maintaining eye contact, but then you lose the feedback of looking at the interviewer.
- You can see yourself, so it's almost like doing a live mock interview
- Depending on your connection speed (and the speed on the interviewer side), there may be a slight time delay between speaking and delivery, so there is a tendency to step on each other when speaking
- Depending on your connection speed and webcam, your gestures may end up showing in freeze frame mode, since Skype optimizes when the background changes.
- The sound quality will be lower than in person and probably lower than a typical phone call
So a Skype interview is different and quirky, yet there are ways to overcome these unique challenges. Here is what you should do:
- Keep your webcam and screen directly next to each other, then focus on looking into the webcam, rather than looking at your screen, especially when speaking. This will give the interviewer the best feel that you are maintaining eye contact. You should, however, look at the screen out of the corner of your eye to continue to receive nonverbal feedback from the interviewer. I know, tough to do, but it can be done.
- Do NOT look at your own image, except to make sure you are properly setup and framed at the beginning of the interview. Seeing yourself speaking (and worse--doing a simultaneous personal critique) can throw you off your timing in presenting.
- Be sure to pause at the end of each complete answer to give the interviewer the opportunity to step in and ask a new question. Be conscious of any visual signals from the corner of your eye (remember, you're focused on the webcam, not your screen) that the interviewer may be looking to interject or cut you off.
- If you have a crummy webcam, this might be a good time to get a better one. If you don't have the time or money, optimize the settings on what your equipment and limit your gestures, especially the broad sweeping type.
- Most webcams have poor microphones included. You can get a great separate mic input for under $10. If you don't have the time or money to upgrade, make sure you are speaking clearly and aimed toward the mic inputs.
Here are several additional tips that can help you for your Skype interview:
- Make sure your background is as basic and non-descript as possible. It not only helps with the speed of the video frame rendering, it also avoids giving the interviewer too much visibility into your personal life.
- Dress for the interview as you would any interview, although you only need to dress from the waist up. It can feel really liberating to be interviewing in your underwear. Only you will know. Just don't stand up.
- The interviewer can only see what is on camera. So it's OK to have your resume either taped to the screen or in a different portion of the screen, along with other interview cheat sheets either attached electronically or even with post-it notes.
- If you have recording capability with your webcam or recording software for Skype, definitely record the interview. Consider it a free mock interview, although remember that it's real and live.
Skype interviews are often conducted due to distance. Although they are often used as screening interviews, in some cases employers will use the Skype interview as the final "face-to-face" interview. So don't underestimate its potential. It also shows you as being tech savvy enough to pull it off.
One final note: if you are having difficulty getting a company to fly you in for an interview due to distance and cost, suggest a Skype interview instead. It may be what gives you the connection and helps you to stand out from the crowd.