kype and video interviews have risen greatly in popularity in the last decade. Whether you’re a prospective student, a recent graduate or an international student looking for a placement abroad, the chances are, at some point, you’ll be asked to do a Skype interview.
Regardless of whether the person interviewing you is a university admissions officer, an employer or otherwise, it’s vital that you’re ready impress your interviewer just as you would in a face-to-face meeting. To do this you’ll need to be prepared for all the ways in which Skype and video interview can let you down, in order to make sure to avoid them.
You may be a touch-typing digital native with a love for coding, but video interviews are tougher than they look even for someone keyed up on the world of video communication. Read on for our top 7 Skype interview tips, plus a few extras.
Skype interview tips: preparation
1. Tidy your surroundings
This is something many people forget when they have a video interview, but if your backdrop is one of torn Metallica posters, used underwear and an unmade bed, then the likelihood is you’re not going to get the job. And it won’t be because interviewers hate heavy metal, it’ll be because you look disorganized, lazy and unbothered about making a good impression.
Opt for a neutral background for your video interview, and don’t feel that you need to show off any personal information – you will be judged on your competency, not because of your collection of the complete works of Dostoyevsky.
Additionally, if you live with others, or your neighbors are obnoxiously noisy, then you should tell them in advance that you’re taking an important call. This should ensure your video interview won’t be disrupted by housemates calling your name or by blasts of loud music.
2. Dress smartly
Although it’s tempting to just throw on a shirt over your ice cream-covered pajama bottoms, you absolutely shouldn’t. If you have to stand up to get something during the interview, you’ll be instantly exposed as the slob you are. Instead, you should dress as you would for a face-to-face interview – head to toe – and present yourself as is appropriate for the job or position you’re applying for.
Because you’re not there in person, appearance is all the more important in giving a good impression and, therefore, has a bigger role to play in getting you the job. So make the effort; have a shower, brush your teeth, do your hair and dress up rather than down.
3. Familiarize yourself
If you’re new to Skype and video calling you’d be wise to play around with the program before your interview, to better understand how it works and how to fix things should they inexplicably stop working.
It might also help to do a test call; the last thing you want is to rock up at your desk one minute before the interview to find that your speakers don’t work, or that your internet’ bandwidth is too low. So make sure you’ve tested your equipment as well as your video call program well ahead of your interview and once again on the day.
4. Angling your webcam
The position of your camera can be very important to your video interview. Too close and interviewers will see just your face, too far and they won’t see anything at all. Test out your camera beforehand and position it so that it incorporates most of your top half. This will allow interviewers to see your hand gestures and make it easier for them to gauge your overall body language.
Another key aspect is your lighting; make sure you’re lit by as much natural light as possible (although try not to sit directly in front of the light source as this will shadow your face). Natural light will make you and your surroundings look brighter and more inviting and will assure interviewers that you’re not entirely averse to daylight and the outside world.
Skype interview tips: during the call
5. Look at the camera, not yourself
I’m not calling you vain, but try not to look at yourself in the bottom right-hand corner screen. This is very easy to do, especially in a job interview when you’re conscious of how you look and want to make a good impression. But try not to. The interviewers are likely to pick up on your erratic eye movements and mark you down as a) someone who loves themselves or b) someone who’s as skittish as hell.
Nor should you try and make eye contact with the person on the screen because, although it might feel more natural to look directly at the person you’re talking to, in the eyes of your interviewer it will look as if you’re gazing at something else. Instead, you should focus mostly on the black dot of your camera or webcam while doing your Skype interview, as this is the only way to actually make eye-contact with your interviewer, albeit eye-contact that you can’t tell you’re having.
6. Sit up straight
You’re at home, no one’s made you travel for an hour for a 10-minute interview slot, you’ve just had a perfect cup of tea, you’re comfortable, happy and only feeling a little bit nervous. When you’re as relaxed as this it’s easy to forget about your posture and how you’re sat – but this is one of the most important aspects in showing positive body language. Don’t slouch or lean back too far and don’t cross your arms or lean on your desk. Be alert, sit up straight and look ready to answer questions.
7. Speak with clarity
To ensure none of your brilliant answers are misheard, ensure that you enunciate your words clearly. Also make sure that you speak loudly enough, but not too loudly – you don’t want the interviewers to feel as if they’re being shouted at!
Additionally, instead of relying on non-verbal communication to express how much enthusiasm you have for the opportunity, in a Skype interview you should focus more on your verbal intonation and clarity. If you’re excited about the role, sound excited. If you’re pleased to meet them, tell them so. This is because in a video interview many of your non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions and hand gestures, will be lost on your interviewer, often due to low video quality or the fact that many of your gestures will be cut from the shot.
Skype interview tips: other common problems
- Low broadband speed – this can make your camera freeze unexpectedly and give you low video quality.
- Background noise – this will sound much louder to your interviewer and may drown out your answers. Do your interview in a quiet space and close the windows.
- Other technical problems with your camera/speakers – if you have any technical issues during the interview itself, remain calm. If the problem can’t be fixed, suggest rearranging the interview or, for audio problems, suggest using a phone to speak while still using the camera. Whatever the problem, don’t get angry, don’t start hitting your computer and definitely don’t start swearing at it – even if you think the interviewer can’t hear you!