What is the difference between regular interview and interview done through Skype or other video call platforms? None, apart from the form of contact. It is still a full-fledged element of the recruitment process on the basis of which the recruiter will decide to hire or invite us to the next stages. This may be our only chance for a good presentation, it is worth to do as much as possible to get the best result.
Every interview is stressful. However, I know that for some people the one done on Skype is much more difficult than an in-person meeting. Are you one of those as well?
I run projects for clients Europe-wide which means that I look for candidates in many different countries. Great if we can meet in person, but more often than not it is impossible and I resort to using Skype or another videoconferencing system. The most important in candidates assessment are always their competencies, but elements of self-presentation also play a role (there is no point in denying it). And while when it comes to an interview conducted in an office most candidates seem to know the basic rules (dress code, smile, eye contact, decisive handshake, etc.) and they successfully use it, for many people I’ve met the Skype interview seems to be the unknown land.
To make it more familiar I will share with you today 13 aspects I consider worth taking care of before and during a job interview over video.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
SET THE SCENE
- Background: While it is important what we say, what can be seen behind us also impacts the way we present ourselves. Laundry hung out to dry, heaps of baby toys, stuffed deer head with antlers – I saw in the background that and a few other attractions. It is obvious that most candidates take video call interviews from home, and home … well, is a home where there are children and washing is being done and you surround yourself with beloved objects. The issue is that I don’t drop-in to candidate’s house for a chit-chat over coffee. I want to meet with a professional and talk about work, not the colour of the pants that they have just washed.What can be rearranged is worth re-arranging. Maybe you can move the laundry to the other part of the room for that hour, maybe on the wall behind you, you can hang a picture from the hall instead of a half-naked family photo from the beach (yes, yes…). And no, I don’t suggest that there is something wrong with the family beach vacations. I mean that some family happenings should remain private, even if the recruitment is being retained by a family-owned firm.Have a critical look around and see what is behind you and what changes you can and need to make.
- Camera: To show you well the camera should be at your eyes level. No need for a fancy equipment – some books stacked on top of each will work great. It is important that the camera is at the level of your eyes and is stable. If you are using a phone or a tablet place them on a stand. I once talked to the candidate who was using his phone and kept it in his hand. Throughout the conversation, I felt like I was riding a roller coaster… If you’re using a tablet or phone for a Skype interview, place it in a stable setting. Your interviewer will be grateful.
- Light: The camera is a sensitive organism and for the best functioning needs good lighting. Without it, nothing will be shown properly and all our efforts put into a proper mimics and eye contact will be wasted. The best is to have a light illuminating us from the front. In an ideal world, we should sit in front of the window. If we sit with the window behind us, we will achieve the “Saint effect”: a golden halo and a dark spot in the place of our face. It is not nice to talk to someone whose face is not visible – believe me, I checked more than once. On the other hand, the side lighting will give the effect of a cartoon monster that has only half of the face. If you don’t have the possibility to sit directly in front of the window (or the interview takes place on a dark, gloomy winter afternoon) switch on a light that will light up your face (a regular desk lamp is fine) and an additional side light source. The camera will work best then.
- Notes: One of the great benefits of the Skype interview is the opportunity to use and to take notes, which sometimes is difficult or impossible during a regular meeting. Place the pad with the main points of your presentation next to your computer and use them during the interview. It can contain your resume, key business or market information, a list of questions you have about the company or role.
PREPARE THE ACTOR
- Clothes: sweatshirts, polo shirts, t-shirts – I have conducted several conversations over Skype and seen a variety of outfits. All of these discussions concerned managerial positions. Skype interview is still a regular job interview. For an office meeting all of these candidates would turn up in an appropriate office attire, but in the comfort of their own home, they feel the video-call interview is more like a meeting with a friend than an official occasion. Do not make that mistake. If you do not like formal clothing or feel uncomfortable in tight pants or stiff skirts, you can stay in sweatpants and combine them with the businesslike top. Just remember not to get up during the call!
- Test connection and hardware: This is an obvious one, so I list it here just to keep the list comprehensive: always before the interview check if your equipment works, if the connection is good and how you look and sound. Do the test with someone who can tell you what needs improving. No long-distance friend required. It can be your child or partner Skyping you from their phone from the other room.
- Tweak your Skype profile: professional Skype profile and professional nick have not harmed anyone yet. Don’t worry too much if the nick john.smith is already taken and you are left only with john.smith_8. It will still work better than bloody_mary_78 Also remove that kitty pic from your profile and replace it with a generic or professional photo of yours. It is all about that first impression.
- Emergency: Make sure you have at hand the contact details of the person you are talking to, including their phone number. It will come handy if one minute before the hour “zero” your internet drops dead…
DURING THE INTERVIEW
TAKE CARE OF THE QUALITY
- Headset / Microphone: There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about using the headset during your video interview. I use it every time to make sure that I hear well every sentence the candidate says and none of the external noises is interfering. Besides headphones, I also have a microphone which helps to collect everything I’m saying. A good microphone will effectively neutralise poorer connection quality. Especially if you are having a conversation in a foreign language or with several people, make sure you use headset or headphones to make the experience less stressful.
- The surroundings: another obvious one: close the door to the room you’re using, tell your housemates that you are unavailable, silence your mobile and turn off other applications on your screen and loud alerts on the screen (especially if using a laptop). I recently talked to the candidate who had a big dog coming in and out of the room through an open door and I could also hear his wife shouting at children. Not ideal…
- Technical problems: the last one of the obvious. If technical problems appear to say about them right away. A few months ago I talked to a candidate who immediately at the beginning warned me that he had a problem with his laptop that might unexpectedly shut down. Thanks to that I wasn’t surprised when 40 minutes into the call the connection died and I was not able to call him again. After five minutes he solved the problem on his side and we were able to finish the conversation.
It is also usually much better to use the internet connection via cable for the call unless you have a very fast wifi.
BUILD UP THE RELATIONSHIP
- Eye contact: job interview via Skype differs from other interviews in that it is conducted via a video call. Maintaining an eye contact is tricky. It is completely natural to keep looking at the image of the caller on the screen when we say something. I always try to look at the camera from time to time, especially when I ask questions or talk about the role. It is a strange feeling initially but easy to get used to and worth the effort. On the other side of the screen, my candidate has the impression that I am looking at him which helps a lot in building the relationship.
- Smile: interviews are always a bit stressful, and those done on Skype or other video call system are even more difficult for some people. Almost every candidate I talked to during the past months forgot to smile. If you are afraid that this may your issue as well, stick a post-it note on the side of the monitor to remind you to keep smiling.
These are the most important issues to keep in mind when preparing for a job interview over Skype or video call. Let me know what is your video interviewing experience. In the hindsight, would you find any of those 13 points helpful?