Skype and other video conferencing methods have become more popular as an interviewing tool for recruiting new employees and during the current COVID-19 crisis we are facing, they have become essential. As the world changes, we must learn to adapt to different situations and learn new skills.
We have put together a simple guide to avoid disaster during a Skype or video interviews.
As a general guide, you should try and do your own risk assessment of everything that could go wrong, and reduce or negate their negative impact.
However, are a few things to consider, before either an agency consultation or more usefully a real live video interview with an employer.
Consider your Skype name, mood message and profile photograph
It is obvious, but if your Skype name is a little too informal or personal, perhaps you should also set up one for professional use for interviews and detail it on your CV. Keep it simple and based around your actual name.
Check, remove or change your ‘mood message’. You really don’t want a potential employer to see something like: “Still hungover from last night!”
A profile photograph should also be business-like, not one of you on the beers or the vino, having too much fun or looking a little worse for wear from your last holiday’s excess.
Physical surroundings and environment
Most of this advice is just common sense, but it is amazing how often we find that common sense escapes even the most sensible of us.
Make sure you tell people in your home that you are having a Skype call; you do not want the sound of your partner shouting from the next room or your kids running riot.
Make sure that nobody is watching TV or has music blasting in earshot, resulting in the background noise being rather off-putting for all parties.
Turn off all your notification sounds on your computer, tablet and mobile, likewise your landline, and do not start reading and answering emails; however discreet you think you might be. Just shut down your email client and concentrate on the interview.
Check the physical background of your room, if it will be seen by the webcam, check the lighting too and the ambiance it creates. Move anything you would rather not be seen out of the way – you know the kind of thing we’re talking about! Check your bookcase, pictures, and posters, and the cleanliness of the room. Don’t make a silly error that could cause embarrassment.
As video interviews are still quite new to many of us, it is best to take extra time to prepare and practice.
To help you with this, we suggest you call a friend for a dry run; make sure you look into the webcam, rather than the screen, and ask your friend how you look, sound and what your general demeanour and body language is like. Listen to their feedback and fine-tune or adjust your camera angle, your body posture, the background, your eye contact, and hand movements, as well as your voice volume, clarity, and pacing.
It might also be advisable to record and video yourself and then critique. You will be your own biggest critic and you will improve by doing this, but please remember your opinion of watching yourself is always much worse than what others think.
Watch what you are doing when you are not speaking. Make sure you look attentive and interested in the interviewer and don’t forget to smile!
Try and use a laptop or desktop if possible and plug into the mains, rather than use a mobile or tablet, it will give you much better results. If you do have to use a tablet, make sure it is on a plinth and not handheld. Be wary of battery life.
If your built-in camera and microphone are not of the quality they should be, buy a separate microphone and webcam from an online. Message or call the retailer why you need them and take or search for advice on the best solution. They’re not very expensive.
You should still research the company, the market, and the role; think how you can help them and what their needs are, prepare questions too – just like you would do in a physical interview. So don’t forget this aspect. Prepare, prepare, and prepare again.
You can have notes and reminders with you, preferably out of camera shot; you could also have them on screen – which can be quite advantageous. Please use these discreetly, though, and only if you must.
It is not only polite but also a good idea to ask if they mind if you can take notes, this might give you a discreet way to check your guide notes too.
Your interviewer will make some allowances because of the different type of interview environment, so don’t get too nervous about it all, but the more comfortable and relaxed you can look, the more professional you will come across.
You are in your own space, and this should help you relax, but make sure you are in position and on-line in advance of the agreed call time, you don’t want any last-minute panics with your computer taking ages to fire up or connecting to the internet for the Skype connection.
Make sure you have a glass of water available, and a handkerchief!
Attire should be professional, relevant and appropriate.
Wash and brush your hair, clean your teeth too, in other words, do exactly as you would do if you were going to a physical interview.
You may have heard stories of newsreaders doing their broadcasts only dressed from the waist up, or wearing shorts or jogging bottoms, don’t follow this trend!
If you did need to get up to get something during the interview or needed to reconnect or check a cable, you really don’t want your potential employer to see you in your Darth Vader boxer shorts. Even Jedi mind tricks won’t help you then!
As with any form of technology, there is always the chance of problems. If you cannot hear the interviewer due to a poor connection, ask them to repeat the question or suggest you end the call and make a new connection. It is vital not to let the interview continue when there are sound issues; both parties could miss something important.
If you completely lose your connection during the call or there is another issue, be calm, use the free moments to take stock and have a sip of water. When resolved, call them or wait for them to call back, and explain what happened at your end.
Remember if the problem is not quickly resolvable, it might be advisable to use a phone line to call them and let them know. Sometimes how you act when things go wrong are the things that impress.
Thank the interviewer(s) at the end, just like you would in a traditional interview, and ask about the next stage of the recruitment process.
It is also good practice to send a thank you letter ‘post-Skype’ interview, and email is the preferred and recommended option for this. It is amazing how many people do not do this, make it quick and simple though. Things like this show you are professional, polite and care about the people you have meetings with – that will give them confidence, especially if the job you are going for is in Sales. So don’t forget to do it. Moreover, make sure you get their names and spellings correct.