Skype interviews are becoming increasingly common both for initial screens and even for third- or fourth-round interviews. Online video interviews enable candidates to interview for roles that are outside of their state or even their country of residence, without having to spend money or time on travel. Despite these benefits, however, Skype interviews can be tricky for applicants to tackle, as connecting with an interviewer can be more difficult by video. In addition, it can be easy to fall into “phone interview” mode and not be aware of your facial expressions or gestures while on a Skype interview call. The following advice can help you avoid these potential pitfalls and put your best foot forward on a Skype interview — or any interview for that matter.
Prepare as intensively as you would for an in-person interview
The best way to prepare for a Skype interview is to treat it like an in-person interview in almost every way. That means researching the company, combing through your resume and other application materials, fully understanding the role you are applying for, and concretely linking your experiences to the position. For the interview day, dress professionally and in a way that matches the company culture.
According to Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning, using the STAR method is a powerful way to connect your experiences to the role you are applying for. STAR is an acronym for the various essential points you should cover when describing a relevant experience on your resume: the Situation you were in (ex. internship, degree program, summer program, etc.), the Task (what your responsibilities were), your Actions (some of your key accomplishments), and the Results (how you benefited the company or organization you worked for, what you learned from the experience). At every point in the STAR narrative, you should make sure to explain how what you achieved and learned from your professional and extracurricular pursuits is relevant to the position.
The Center for Teaching and Learning also recommends that you practice the interview questions that scare you the most, so they don’t trip you up at the moment of truth. Such questions as “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Describe a time when you worked with a difficult person or situation” need to be answered carefully to avoid sounding overly negative. While you must always answer honestly, aim to end on a positive note by explaining how you made the best out of a bad situation, or learned from a mistake you made.
Skype-specific interview tips
While many of the same job interview preparation principles apply across phone, Skype, and in-person interviews, there are several that are specific to Skype.
- Set up your interview space — Unlike with traditional phone interviews, Skype interviews allow your potential employers to view the area around you. As a result, it’s in your best interest to have as clean and professional a setting as possible, without any clutter, recommends career advice expert Alison Green in U.S. News.
- Practice Skype interviewing with a friend — It can be harder to connect with people over online video. As a result, practicing for a Skype interview is just as if not more essential than practicing for an in-person one. A mock interview that you record or conduct with a friend (or both!) can enable you to gauge how loud you should be and whether your tone is monotonous, highlight any nervous habits you might display, and also help you get used to making that elusive connection with an interviewer over online video.
- Reflect your understanding of the company’s culture in how you dress — Forbes recommends that applicants research their potential employer’s online presence to get a sense of its culture and expectations. Don’t just peruse their website — look at their social media profiles such as their Twitter feed and Facebook page, and fully understand their mission. After all this research, dress professionally and in a way that non-verbally communicates that you understand the company’s values.
- Streamline all technical aspects of your interview beforehand — Green advises interviewees to close all other applications on their computer, make sure their Internet connection is fast and not spotty (or use an Ethernet cable for prevent wireless issues), and know the user interface of Skype so they’re not fumbling around right before or during their interview. Also, keep your phone handy as a backup in case technical difficulties make Skype a non-option.
- Remove or forestall all potential distractions — Make sure you choose a time and interview location where family members, coworkers, children, or pets will not barge in on you. Such interruptions can break up your thought process, and they are also unprofessional.
- Maintain direct eye contact — Make sure to look at your computer’s camera, rather than at the screen, advises USA Today. Looking directly into the camera is the only way to ensure you have direct eye contact with your interviewer.
- Keep notes handy, but glance at them rarely — One great thing about phone and Skype interviews is that you can have notes on hand. However, with Skype interviews it will be obvious if you look down at a notebook every two minutes or so. Therefore, the best approach is to paste your resume and a few essential points you’d like to make to the wall behind your computer screen, and glance at them rarely. Notes should be triggers to remind you to cover a point, and you should not read off of them verbatim.
- Follow up with a thank-you — As with an in-person interview, send your interviewer a message thanking him or her for taking the time to speak with you.