“You want to interview me on what?!” How to survive a Skype interview

publication date: Nov 7, 2012
author/source: Philippe Gérard
Skype has been used for interviewing for several years now, but it is still uncomfortable for many, including me. The thought of not being in the same room with the interviewers is somewhat frightening. It can feel like losing control over the interview situation. Here are some tips to help you perform at your best during your Skype interview.Phil Gerard photo

1. This is just the beginning 

Skype interviews are mostly conducted as a first step with out-of-town candidates to help decide whether it is worthwhile to fly the candidate in for further consideration. Remember that everything will not depend on this one contact - offers are not made on Skype interviews alone. At the same time you need to perform well enough to advance to a face-to-face interview in the future. 

2. Be prepared 

Technology always plays tricks on us, so do not leave the preparations to the last minute. Make sure that your equipment works well before the interview.  Check your speakers, microphone and camera settings. You don't want to find out when the interview starts that something doesn't work. Skype has a handy test call feature that you can dial up to check your audio and video settings and performance. 

3. Set the stage 

If you are doing your Skype interview outside your professional office, make sure that you are in a private spot where you can focus and not be interrupted. Make sure all cell phones or other beeping devices are turned off, that no children, spouses or other family members can enter your room, and that no dogs or other animals make noises that can distract or embarrass you. Even if the interview is audio only, try to focus on the interview task. I have once spoken to a candidate who I am certain was doing the dishes while talking to me! An interview is not the ideal time to practice your multi-tasking abilities.  

4. Keep it real 

Try to think of the Skype interview like a personal interview and present yourself just as you would in a face-to-face situation. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Just because you are not in the same room does not mean you should dress down or that your demeanour can be more casual. 

5. Make a trial run 

One of the biggest challenges I have seen with Skype is managing where to look while you speak. The natural tendency is to look at the screen, not in the camera. Cameras are usually located at the top of your screen, while the picture is a bit below. Looking at the picture on the screen will make you look down and give the impression that you're avoiding direct eye contact. Try to look into the camera and get comfortable with it. If you're using a laptop, you can move the laptop and camera closer to eye level, rather than placing it on a desk that forces you to look down. 

6. Just wait! 

With Skype the connection is always a bit of a gamble. Sometimes there is a delay, so speak clearly and reasonably slowly and allow pauses, especially at the ends of sentences.  Skype will not replace a personal interview in the same place with your potential employer. But especially if you're exploring an opportunity out of town, a good Skype interview could be your ticket to a face-to-face interview. 

Philippe (Phil) Gérard has been a fundraising professional for 14 years in the community service, education and university advancement sectors.  His specialty is major gifts fundraising. An MBA with a human resource management specialization set him on the exciting path of fundraising talent management.  He is a director of advancement with Simon Fraser University. Phil is also the President of Gérard Consulting - Fundraising Talent Management and author of Phil's Careers Blog. His firm helps fundraisers find a great career and organizations find and retain the next great colleague. 

For more information, visit www.philscareers.com or www.gerardconsulting.ca.

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