My client DG was recently interviewed for an international role he really wanted. “It was a disaster!” he reported. “We had to use Skype and I’m a complete luddite when it comes to these things.”
With interviews and business being increasingly conducted over webcam, it’s worth following a few guidelines to create a professional impression when the conversation is being conducted at home. Here are some suggestions:
- First impressions
The very first impression is going to be your Skype or mobile ID so make sure it’s a professional one and not a cutesy nickname used in college. Remember to smile. The next impression is going to be a combination of the following – environment, technology, attire and being present. And smile.
Your three year old’s drawings may make a lovely backdrop for the kitchen wall, but not for an interview. Choose a plain wall or one with a few moderate pictures for your backdrop. Make sure the light is good so you can be seen clearly – facing a window is optimal, avoid having one behind you. Arrange to be in a quiet room away from the family or room-mates with the door closed and “do not disturb” outside. Lock it if necessary, you don’t want to be interrupted. Turn off your mobile phone and any other electronic sounds (check your computer for incoming email sounds, Facebook notifications, etc.).
Practice beforehand with a friend so you really know how to work the technology and make sure your microphone and camera are working. If your wi-fi is at all dodgy, use an ethernet for better connection. Do you know how to change the screen size? Do you know how to manage the volume? How about switching to sound only if there’s not enough bandwidth for video as well? Do you have their contact information already in your records to facilitate a clean connection from the outset? Checking all this out ahead of time will give you greater ease when the time comes, enabling you to smile.
Tempting as it may be to just have waist-up suitably dressed, do bother with the bottom half as well, although you can probably get away with bare feet. Someone I know had to move in the room and managed to display his boxers rather than trousers, oops. Dress as you would for an in-person interview, groomed and professional, although you may choose to err on the side of casual as a suit may be too formal.
- Being Present
Building rapport over webcam is trickier than with someone in the same room, so key is to stay as focused on your interviewer just as if you were truly face to face. Remember to smile. Look at the camera to maintain eye contact – avoid looking at the screen, or your own image on the screen (and if that’s distracting, experiment ahead of time with something to cover up your own image like a post-it note). If you need notes have them to hand for a sense of security but try not to look at them – instead, have key words on post-it notes around the edge of the screen or beyond on the wall opposite so you can keep your attention on the interviewer. Breathe deeply, have both your feet flat on the floor and don’t rock backward and forward in your chair. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Stay engaged with the interviewer and keep checking they’re “with” you – they may have interesting things popping up on their screen that you can’t see potentially drawing their attention. Did I say remember to smile?!
A note of thanks after the interview is just as relevant for a Skype interview as a face-to-face one.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!