If you haven’t had a Skype interview yet, chances are you will soon. More and more companies have been using Skype or Google Hangout to conduct their first-round interviews. Employees are increasingly working remotely — a recent London study guesses that nearly half the workforce will be logging hours at home by 2020. And interviewing candidates by webcam saves time and travel expenses. But while most of us have been trained to interview in person, a remote meeting brings its own unique challenges and nuances — ones that can trip up even the most seasoned pro.
Which is why we've turned to Cara Press. As a career counselor at Bottom Line, a nonprofit that mentors low-income and first-generation college students (such as, full disclosure, myself), Press knows a thing or two about interviewing on camera.
“I focus on doing things like job-searching, internship-searching, resumes, cover letters,” Press explains. Mock interviews are a big part of her counseling responsibilities too, and lately, she’s found herself preparing more and more students for ones that take place over the phone or a webcam.
We asked her for her top tips on nailing a Skype interview.
Prepare your environment
Interviewing over the computer calls for some preparation that we just don’t deal with in an in-person interview — such as cleaning the room you'll be in or adjusting the lighting, says Press. “When I’m interviewing you, I shouldn’t see your unmade bed or dirty laundry in the background.” Despite the fact that you’re interviewing in a non-traditional setting, “you still want to present your most polished self."
Also, be aware of noise. “Try to find a quiet place or let your roommates know that you can’t be interrupted during that time,” Press advises. She also suggests keeping a water bottle and your notes and questions nearby for easy access during your meeting.
Test the technology
Webcam-based interviews require practice just as in-person interviews do — but you should treat them as trial runs, too. “Practice ahead of time over Skype with a friend to make sure the connection is good,” Press says. And because you could always run into a technical glitch or two, have some backup. “Make a plan with the interviewer within the first few minutes about who will call who in case you get disconnected,” she suggests.
Treat it like an in-person interview
Other than being over a computer, a Skype interview isn’t that different from an in-person one. You still need to do your research on the company, dress professionally, be on time and ask smart questions. Eye contact can be tricky, however. Says Press: “Avoid looking at yourself on the big screen and instead look at the lens of the camera so that you appear engaged.”
We all get nervous during interviews — but smiling can help you loosen up, and help you land the job. “Most people want to work with other individuals who are friendly,” Press says. “Remember to smile whether it’s on the phone, over Skype, or in person. That’s a big one that people tend to forget.”