You got a call for a job interview! Hooray! But there's one problem: You and the company you're applying to aren't in the same city. That’s a conundrum for many students looking for internships away from their college campuses and for many people hoping to relocate for new opportunities. Most likely, you’re going to have a Skype interview, where there’s more room for error and less personal connection than an in-person interview. Skype interviews take a little extra preparation, but with careful planning, you can shine.
MISTAKE #1: Signing on late
In an in-person interview, being late is a huge problem, but it’s even worse in a Skype interview. At least when a hiring manager is waiting for you to arrive at her office, she can work on another task while she waits, but with a Skype interview, the hiring manager has to stare at her screen waiting for you to sign on. If you make her wait too long, she’ll choose to move on to another task, and you’ll have missed your opportunity. But this is an easy mistake to avoid. Sign on at least ten minutes before your interview and accept the invitation from your interviewer (or confirm they’ve accepted yours, depending on what was arranged). When the interviewer initiates the connection, you'll be ready and waiting.
MISTAKE #2: Not testing your equipment beforehand
Technical difficulties will happen during Skype interviews, but if they do, be sure the problem is happening on the other end of the connection, not yours. Find a spot in your home or office with a strong wifi signal and test everything out with a friend the night before. If you're having trouble connecting or the image keeps freezing, do some troubleshooting to fix the problem. If something goes wrong during the interview, you can be confident that it's not your fault, and you'll be the one graciously accepting the interviewer's apology, rather than making excuses of your own.
MISTAKE #3: Having the wrong set up
While you're testing out your equipment, you should also figure out the perfect setup. It’s no secret that people don’t look their best over webcam, but you should try to appear as polished as possible during the interview. First, look for a non-distracting backdrop. Find a solid colored wall to sit in front of -- this way, you ensure that the interviewer doesn't get distracted by background clutter. You'll also want to choose an area where you have some privacy. You don't want you interviewers to catch a glimpse of your roommates wandering around behind you in their pajamas. Next, find a good camera angle. Your interviewer does not want to look up your nostrils or at your hairline. It’s always a good idea to stack books under your device so your eye line matches the camera. One helpful trick for Skype interviews is looking directly at the camera as you speak -- it will appear as if you're making eye contact. This will make the interviewer more comfortable, and the conversation should flow more easily. Finally, don’t use a handheld device -- you risk shifting yourself out of focus. If you must use a tablet, set it on a secure stand.
MISTAKE #4: Dressing like you’re at home
A Skype interview is still an interview, which means you need to dress like you would if you were meeting someone in person. Sure, it feels funny to sit on your couch in a suit and tie, but if that’s what you’d wear to an in-person interview, it’s what you should wear on Skype. If you’re 100% positive your lower-half won’t show up in the frame, you can skip pants, but most people find that it's easier to get into the interview mindset when they're fully dressed. Looking the part will help you feel the part -- you’ll be more confident and professional, and that will be reflected on screen.
Aside from these Skype-specific tips, treat the interview as you would any other -- research the company, practice answers to common interview questions, ask thoughtful questions, and send a thank you email. Skype doesn’t have to be a hindrance.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan