by Christina Wilson, Head Editor, INALJ Alberta
Skype Your Way to Success
As a hiring manager, working in a public library I found Skype to be an effective tool when faced with the prospect of interviewing candidates from across this vast land. Although our city had an airport, service was “regional” and the next largest centre was two hours away. With a limited travel budget for recruitment and a regional, although full, videoconferencing system, Skype became our ticket to interviews with candidates in other provinces. Cost effective, widely used and easy to set up, it’s now a common tool for conducting interviews in every sector and also accommodates team-based interviewing. Prepare yourself now for a Skype, or other video-based interview, by heeding these tips and achieve success by stage managing yourself and your close-up.
For the purposes of this post, I will assume that Skype is your application, but these tips will work for any video interview. Whatever the software, download it well in advance of the interview, to allow time to set up, get comfortable and to practise with friends and colleagues. Use the tips below as a guideline for your practice sessions. Create a professional username and add this to your email signature, resume and other job related online accounts, such as ZoomInfo, LinkedIin, etc. The day of the interview, conduct a quick test, to ensure that all systems are functioning effectively, including your connectivity. Have a telephone handy, though, in the event the call cuts out and you must continue with voice only.
Put yourself in the best light, literally. Make sure it’s sufficient so that you’re not in shadow but not too bright so that your screen (and you) appear harsh or too washed out. This is a good area for feedback from friends and colleagues.
Dress for success, after all this is a job interview. Sit up straight and remember that you are establishing eye contact with the camera, by looking directly into the web cam. This is NOT natural for most of us, so practise with a friend beforehand and get their feedback when you stray or shift away. You may need to practise focussing on the webcam. Don’t be tempted to open up any other applications on your computer, give the interviewers your full attention as if you and they were sitting in the same room.
Remember to smile and look friendly. Consider wearing brighter makeup and colours than usual to overcome the effects of lighting, especially if you are appearing pale and washed out. In this day and age of job descriptions that trumpet “passionate about libraries/community engagement, etc. etc.” you need to appear vibrant, even on camera. Certain colours, such as shades of blue, work well on video whereas reds, bright yellows and even white may be too bright. Keep small, busy patterns to a minimum, as you want your clothing to be “easy on the eye” and not distracting. Similarly, keep your background simple and not distracting so that your viewers are focussed on you and your answers. Use your background to reinforce your covering letter and resume description of yourself. For example, an uncluttered background with a shelf of books indicates to viewers that you are organized, tidy and love reading literature, graphic novels and/or business books.
Similarly, consider background noise. Try to ensure that your Skype interview is taking place in a quiet space. If you do not have access to your own office, consider booking your local public library’s meeting room. In all cases, ensure a good connection in advance. Just prior to the interview, mute your email alerts, phones (cell and land) dog and kids. The latter can be achieved by scheduling the interview with your family, shutting your office door and hanging a “Quiet please — Meeting in Progress” sign to remind everyone. Speak loudly and clearly. Video calls often contain a delay, due to the graphics, so a clear speaking voice is very important. In addition, allow a slight pause after the interviewers speak to avoid speaking over them.
One of the great things about a Skype interview is that it allows you to have your interview cheat sheet in front of you, but “off camera” and so not visible to the interviewers. Keep a few notes in front of you and be prepared to write down topics that arise during the interview so that you can weave them into replies to later questions. You can do this seamlessly, off camera, thereby minimizing awkward pauses to the flow of the interview. Prepare “stage directions” for yourself to encourage positive behaviours (“Smile”, “Look at the camera”) and discourage your own nervous behaviours. Again, this is where your practice sessions become invaluable.
While Skype’s website provides many tips for successful video presentations, some of the best guides are available, where else, in video format on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYo585k1boc) and imbedded in interviewing techniques search results. There are numerous text based articles online and one of the most thorough comes from Georgia Tech. It is online and located at: http://www.career.gatech.edu/plugins/content/index.php?id=95. Check them out, and get ready for your close up.