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How to Look Good and Perform Well in a Skype Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

In my search practice, I conduct a large number of first interviews by Skype. While I don’t keep track of the exact numbers, my guess is that about 25 per cent of my interviews are conducted that way. I can only see this trend continuing as the travel costs to bring candidates in for initial meetings cannot be justified.

You should prepare for a Skype interview the same way as you would if you were being interviewed in person:

  • Anticipate the questions you are going to be asked;
  • Learn as much as you can about the company and the people who will be interviewing you;
  • Develop several insightful questions you can ask during the interview; and
  • Make some notes to make sure you address all your most important points.

In all likelihood, the employer is interviewing – in person – candidates who live near them, which places you and the other people on Skype at a slight disadvantage. However, here are some tips to help you rise to the occasion.

Dress the part

The tendency in Skype interviews is to dress more casually than you would if you were in the employer’s office. Big mistake! Even if you may prefer jeans and a t-shirt when working from home, you should always dress like the employer. Also, don’t run the risk of wearing a shirt and tie (above the waist) and sweat pants (below the waist) thinking that your bottom half will not be seen. I once asked an interviewer to move his computer around so I could see him in a better light. When he got up to move, I could see he had his pyjama pants on. I wasn’t too impressed.

Organize your surroundings

Maybe I am just nosy but I like to look at what’s on the wall or bookcase behind the person and I often ask them about it. If they’re in an interesting room, I sometimes ask them about that. Once I interviewed a person from Panama City, who had an apartment on the 20th floor overlooking the city and the water. I asked her to show it to me and it was spectacular.

On the other hand, I’ve interviewed people whose computer was in their bedroom and there was an unmade bed behind them and quite visible. Another fellow thought far enough ahead to put the dog outside before the interview. But what he didn’t anticipate was the dog barking at the door throughout the entire interview. I finally had to tell him to take a moment and go take care of the dog because it was a clear distraction for him and us.

The bottom line here is: Be conscious of what your surroundings say about you and organize them accordingly.

Set up your computer so you look your best

A number of people use laptops on their desks and sit close to them. This means the person on the other end is looking up at you with a better view of your ceiling than of you. To overcome this problem, always make sure your computer is at eye level.

I use a laptop in my office. But for every Skype interview, I place one of those blue plastic recycling bins on my desk (upside down) and put my laptop on top of it. Now the camera of my laptop is at eye level. (No one says it makes me look any better, but I think it does.)

Don’t forget that having correct lighting on you will make you look good. Just think back to when you’ve had portraits or other photos taken and how much care the photographer took to get the right lighting. While you won’t have the luxury of a professional on standby, remember that overhead lighting or light from behind you will tend to wash out your face or even darken your face. The best type of lighting is natural light on your face. If you don’t have natural light, use a small lamp, like a table lamp, to illuminate your face.

There are a number of other snippets to think about:

  • Determine if the employer is going to initiate the call to you or vice-versa. Usually the employer does it but don’t take anything for granted.                                                                       
  • Make sure you have strong Internet connection so there are no breaks or delays during the interview. Always get the interviewer’s telephone number so that you can call       them immediately if something happens to your connection.                                                                                                                                                                                       
  • First impressions count so make sure your Skype user name and profile picture reflect you in a professional way. Please: no pictures of your pets or images. If you want, you can always create a second Skype account for friends and family.                                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Send your Skype contact details at least a day before the interview so the employer has plenty of time to accept.                                                                                                                   
  • Don’t be checking your email or browse online during the interview. The interviewer can see you and it’s very obvious what you are doing. Actually, the best practice is to close out all other programs on your computer so you won’t be tempted at all.                                                                                                                                                                 
  • Look at the camera, not yourself. We are all curious about how we look so there’s a great temptation to look at yourself in the lower right hand corner. But doing so causes you to lose eye contact with the interviewer – not a good idea.                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • Lastly, practice, practice, practice. I know you wouldn’t consider giving a speech without rehearsing. The same rationale applies to being interviewed by Skype. Make sure you know how it works by practising with a friend online. Talking into a computer screen will feel awkward but a few rehearsals should ease those concerns. You will learn how to use the technology and how to present yourself professionally.

A final tip: If you are not already a Skype user, commit to setting up your Skype account over the next few days and testing it with a friend or family member so you know how it works. I can think of several times when I had a planned interview set up with a candidate (by Skype) but he or she had not bothered to figure it out beforehand. The result was they missed their interview and did not leave a favourable impression on me at all.

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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn