A handy tool for college students trying to keep in touch with friends and family in far-flung locations, Skype has become far more than a social aid. Businesses have rapidly begun conducting interviews for jobs and internships via video chatting; it’s more personal than a phone interview, and enables companies to interview non-local job candidates that are unable to travel. Just like any other interview, there are certain things to keep in mind if you want to ace it. In fact, adding the variable of Internet connection into the mix, Skype might even give you more to prepare for! Here are seven tips to help you rock your Skype interviews.
1. Pay attention to your background.
Speaking to an interviewer through Skype means inviting them into your environment. Not only do you want it to look good on camera, but you also want it to reflect well on yourself. If possible, you want to keep it simple but not boring. “I would stay away from a room that’s distracting, with funky colors or gaudy wallpaper,” says Megan Morini, assistant director and business consultant at the University of Miami’s career center. Framing a bookshelf or desk behind you is a great way to add depth to the image your interviewer will see. Just be sure to clean up all clutter and take out the trash! There’s absolutely no need for a potential employer to see Solo cups lying around.
The goal for your interview is to look professional, even though you’re at home. Be conscious of any inappropriate posters you have on the wall behind you, explicit books on your bookshelf, etc. They may have been a gag gift from your sorority sisters, but employers don’t know that!
While you may be tempted to interview sitting on the couch or bed, you’ll definitely want to avoid this. You’ll look far more professional sitting at a desk or table. “What I ended up doing was going to a Barnes & Noble café that had free Wi-Fi to have the interview,” said Elizabeth Tompkins, a senior at the College of William and Mary. “With that simple change of scene I felt more professional. I'm sure it looked better too, not having the background of my dorm room in the video feed.”
2. Wear an office-appropriate outfit.
Just because your interview is being conducted in a less conventional way and from the comfort of home, this doesn’t mean you’re allowed to stay in your pajamas. Because your interviewer can physically see you, wear what you normally would to an interview. While this varies depending on your field, a nice blouse with a blazer is always a solid option. “I would err on the side of caution,” says Morini. “Don’t wear anything too bright or busy. I’d stick with a black or cream-colored top.”
Don’t go halfway with your outfit, either! It can be super tempting to dress for success on the top (what can be seen on camera) and wear casual shorts or sweats on the bottom. But this could end up biting you in the butt – you never know if you’ll have to get up at some point! Your best bet is to dress like you would for a Monday morning at the office.
3. Keep an eye on your lighting.
Your Skype interview is, essentially, your primetime moment. You’re the producer AND the star. “Filming” conditions should be as close to perfect as you can make them so you can look like your fabulous self to your potential employer. If you position your camera in front of a window or other light source, your face will be a dark silhouette on screen. On the other hand, bright overhead or fluorescent lights can wash you out. The best lighting is natural sunlight, but don’t worry if you’re being interviewed after dark or on a rainy day! Any light source in front of you will do. A lamp on either side of your computer/webcam will help avoid looking like you’re under a spotlight, and you can try covering your light source(s) with a cloth to soften the light.
To test out your lighting before your interview to make sure it’s flattering, Morini suggests having a practice interview. “Have a Skype call with a friend, parent or career advisor [from your campus’s career center],” she says. “You can try out your lighting, your background, your Internet feed.” Just like doing a dry run before an in-person interview to practice getting there, a test Skype call could do you lots of favors.
4. Prepare for technical difficulties.
Internet connection can be spotty in the best of times, so always come up with a backup plan. Skype is often full of technical difficulties and can cause audio lag and pixelated video, especially when the connection is bad. If your Wi-Fi is super unreliable, use an Ethernet cable to plug yourself in so you don’t lose service in the middle of your interview.
As much as you may love your laptop, it’s still a piece of technology and doesn’t know not to die during an interview. Keep it plugged in to avoid any potential battery disasters, and quit all unnecessary programs; not only will they be distracting, but they’ll also slow down your computer’s processing (interfering with your video feed) and drain the battery quicker. If all else fails, keep your cell phone handy. “Make sure you have a contact phone number for your interviewer,” Morini says. “If something goes wrong, you can give them a call and go right into a phone interview instead.”