When I was a college senior, I was desperate to make plans for my future. I was interested in opportunities in Ecuador, Kentucky, New York, and Argentina, but on my student budget and with my class schedule, I couldn’t feasibly travel around the world to interview for every position. That’s where Skype interviews came in.
Many college students interview for jobs, internships, graduate school, and even housing opportunities over Skype or Google Hangouts. For one, video-call interviews are convenient for globetrotters; plus, many students already use video-call software to chat with friends and family. But Skype interviews and Google Hangouts interviews aren’t informal; they’re interviews, and if you want to ace them, you’ll need to prepare twice over. That’s right. Not only do you need to get ready to sell yourself the old-fashioned way, just like you would in person, but you’ll need to adapt to using the Skype or Google Hangouts medium for professional reasons.
Decide from where you’ll take the Skype call.
A few months ago, a professor used a video-call service to give an interview to the BBC from his home. During the segment, which was broadcast live, the professor’s young children flung open the door and sauntered into the room. It’s funny—watch it here—but it’s a cautionary tale for anyone logging on to Skype for an interview, be it with the BBC or a prospective employer. Take the call from a quiet, private space, and lock the door.
Unless you live alone with no kids or pets, check with your college in advance of your interview. Many college career centers allow students to reserve tiny offices for phone or Skype interviews. They aren’t sophisticated (you probably won’t find anything more than blank walls, a window, and a desk), but they are one way to ensure privacy and minimize distractions—and you won’t need headphones. Plus, you’ll look better in front of that white backdrop than in front of your Pink Floyd poster.
Prepare your device for the big day.
Ahead of time, you have three tech-related tasks to complete:
- Download or update your video-call software. Install the latest version, if you haven’t already, and test call a friend. Is everything in working order? If you will be using a computer at your library or career center, check ahead of time to make sure the application you need is installed on the device.
- Make sure your webcam is in working order. If you don’t make a test call, at least check your webcam and microphone. It’s easy. Googling “webcam check” will point you to a dozen websites that can do it for you.
- Check the internet connection in your location of choice. You can’t be too careful. How strong is the Wi-Fi in the office from which you plan to take the call? Consider making a Plan B in case of a Wi-Fi outage the day of the interview.
Use a professional screen name.
I’m not saying batmanfan1997 won’t get the job, but tjefferson1997 certainly has a better shot. Any combination of your name, initials, and numbers will do.
When scheduling the interview, ask HR who should call whom.
Most employers will call you unless they tell you otherwise, but it helps to get their screen names ahead of time. For one, you may need to add them into your contact list if you hope to receive their calls. Additionally, it’s helpful to have their information on the off chance they don’t call you within 15 minutes of the interview start time.
Position the webcam appropriately.
If your prospective employer requests a Skype interview instead of a phone interview, he or she wants to see you and read your body language and facial expressions. (This is your cue to floss, by the way.) Position the webcam at eye level—otherwise, beware the double chin or doe-eyed look—and focus it on your face and shoulders. You might decide to include the upper part of your torso in the frame, especially if you often talk with your hands, but do not sit any further away from the camera than that lest your face become pixelated. Before you answer the video call, you’ll also want to check the lighting. Sitting in front of a window will backlight you, and your employer won’t be able to see you clearly.
When I was fretting over what to wear for my first Skype interview, my friends loved to joke that I should do it pantsless. Funny thought; bad idea. Even though your legs won’t be in the frame, wear an interview-appropriate pair of pants or skirt in case you need to stand up for whatever reason. Dress for the job you want, remember?
Greet each interviewer in turn.
Obviously, you won’t be able to shake hands with your interviewers, but it’s still important to greet everyone on the call individually. First impressions and professionalism matter. Say, “Hi, ____. Nice to meet you” to each interviewer. You might wave, but it’s not necessary.
Enter full-screen mode and look at or near the camera.
Whenever I video chat with friends, I find my eyes wandering toward my on-screen image, but that vanity is a no-no in a video-call interview. As if you were in an in-person interview, maintain eye contact. This can be a little tricky in a video call because of the distance between your webcam and the frame in which you’ll see your interviewers’ faces. Enter full-screen mode to minimize the distance between their faces and the camera. If your eyes keep drifting toward your own face, minimize or resize the frame in which you appear.
Just like after any other interview, you’ll want to follow up with your Skype interviewers. Send a thank-you note or email within 24 hours of the interview, and conduct all future correspondence over email or phone. I hope this goes without saying, but to be safe, I’ll warn you anyway: Do not Skype or chat your interviewer the next time you see they’re online. If you have a question, email or call them. If they want to speak with you over Skype again, they’ll write you to schedule the next meeting. My fingers are crossed that you’ll hear from someone soon.