by Rossy Mendez, Head Editor, INALJ Puerto Rico
Virtual Connections: Mastering the Skype Interview
When I found out my interview was going to be a video chat on Skype I was both horrified and relieved. Knowing my tendency to have clammy hands and a voice that changes pitch five times in the course of a minute, I was happy I had a chance to shine without the pressure of being there in person. A part of me, however, was also terrified. This was a very prestigious institution and the competition was fierce. I thought of all the things that could go wrong and the anxiety it would cause. After all I have had my share of embarrassing interview moments, like the time I spilled a bottle of water on myself when I tried to take a quick gulp or the time a button on my shirt snapped right before I met the interviewer. Oddly enough in both occasions I was granted the position. I think part of my success was the ability to think quickly on my feet and stay calm. But still the thought of a virtual meeting was frightening.
Prior to the interview everyone told me that a Skype interview is just like any other interview. I feel strongly this is not the case. A Skype interview in a sense more challenging that an interview in person. First of all, there is an infinite amount of things that could go wrong while you are having your interview; technology could fail you and obnoxious background noise can cause you to be distracted or even worse, embarrassed. Then there are the little things such as having a firm handshake or talking to the receptionist before you meet your interviewer. The good news is that there are ways you can ace the Skype interview and make it work for you. I was able to let go of my fears and handle a successful interview. As a matter of fact, the next day I was offered the position. Here are some tips that might help you on your virtual adventure.
1. Test the equipment- It is crucial that you test your camera, microphone, speakers and internet connection before the interview. Use the test call feature on Skype or call a friend and ask whether he or she can see and hear you clearly. I tested everything and set up the area the night before and still encountered some technical difficulties. Fortunately, I was able to resolve the issue before the call was made. Do have a backup plan whether it includes having an extra microphone or keeping your phone handy. I also made sure that the camera showed my face and some of my torso to avoid the floating head syndrome.
2. Dress for Success- It is important that you dress the part from head to toe because you want to give a good impression and if you have to stand up for whatever reason you do not want to inadvertently reveal that you are, in fact, wearing Powerpuff Girls pajama pants. Make sure the colors you wear fit the background and cover up your arms and cleavage. For most libraries and archives, you do not have to look like you are going to a corporate meeting; therefore, you can keep it interesting with a nice colorful necklace or a pretty scarf.
3. Monitor your surroundings- If your apartment tends to be loud go somewhere that you are not likely to be interrupted. Do not Skype in your bedroom even if that if that is the location of your desk. I heard from a recruiter that this reflected negatively on a potential candidate. Set the camera against a solid background and make sure they are no distractions behind you. Because I have colorful walls I ended up settling for the beige wall in my kitchen.
4. Have an appropriate Skype name/picture- this is something I read recently and I am happy to report I thought about it before my interview. Similar to your email address your Skype name could send the wrong message. I normally use a funny informal name for my calls; therefore, I used my Facebook account which has my full name.
5. Do your homework- This can definitely make or break any type of interview. You should be prepared for difficult questions and have done some research on the company. During my interview I was asked how I had prepared for the interview. I responded that I had tested my equipment, made sample calls and read their website, blogs and even the finding aids. I threw in a couple of examples with my answer. I also asked challenging questions that were not easily answered by their website.
6. Show attentiveness- A couple of friends suggested I looked at the camera and not the screen which was a very helpful tip. Other things I did were shut off my instant messaging, close browsers and place my phone on vibrate to avoid all interruptions.
7. Smile/Laugh- I sincerely believe that this is what has granted me the job in many occasions. In fact, my previous employers have told me that one of the reasons they hired me was because of my cheerful attitude. Demonstrate that you are a person that is fun to work with and that you can see the lighter side of things. I try to convey this in my cover letters as well.
The bottom line is to be prepared. Treat the interview as if you were going through it in person by doing your homework and following up with a thank you email/letter just like you would in person. Do not forget that you should also be using this opportunity to find out more details about the position and the institution. Lastly, if something goes wrong stay calm, do your best to remedy the situation and move on. If the interviewer does not handle this correctly you should wonder if that is the kind of place you want to work for anyway. Every interview is an opportunity to get an insider’s view. Even if the meeting does not land you the job it could connect you to someone that can help you later on.