Skype interviews are becoming commonplace in the modern job market, largely due to convenience, flexibility and the money-saving benefits for employers. But like a face-to-face interview, they’re just as – maybe even more – stressful for the candidate. And that’s because they have to impress someone who only exists virtually.
Preparation, though, is key for a successful interview – whether it’s face-to-face or via telephone or Skype, and in this useful guide, we’ll provide you with all the valuable tips and tricks you need to land your dream job.
Here’s how to ace that Skype interview you’ve been dreading.
Before the Interview
If you’ve never had a Skype interview before, the prospect of one will understandably get you a bit rattled. But like with all interviews, practice makes perfect.
It all boils down to feeling comfortable in front of a camera. Use a recording programme to film yourself answering questions from a list you prepared earlier, and then play it back. Do you wave your hands around more than you should? Do you fidget too much? Do you pull weird Jim Carrey faces?
Doing this will help you perfect your mannerisms and speech. You don’t have to look and act like a TV presenter or a professional YouTuber, but you do need to be able to show that you’re confident being in unusual and difficult situations.
You should also enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to conduct a mock interview. This won’t only help you test your internet connection but also get some constructive critique on your performance.
2. Check Your Tech
Make sure you have an adequate broadband connection (as mentioned previously, you can do this by running a test video call with a friend) and that your webcam works properly. You might also want to consider using headphones and a dedicated microphone (not the built-in one) – this can help prevent feedback.
You should also check for software updates beforehand. This is a very important thing to do as many updates will cause the PC to automatically restart – and you definitely don’t want this happening to you in the middle of an interview!
Remember to only use a computer or laptop for the interview – never do it on your mobile phone or tablet! If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s fully charged or connected to the charger.
3. Set the Stage
The room you’re conducting your interview in should appear as professional as possible. This means it should have good natural lighting and be free from clutter and distractions (lock pets out of the room and ask a friend or neighbour to sit your kids for the duration of the interview). You should aim to keep the focus on you, so a neutral background is essential (no family photos, etc).
If you don’t have the right technology at home or are simply unable to take the video call there think carefully where you can do it. Whatever you do, don’t take your interview in a restaurant, coffee shop or worse, from the bathroom at your current job. A much better idea would be booking a conference room at a local hotel or business centre for an hour.
4. Research the Company
You’ll find this piece of advice in practically every article on the internet about job interview tips. Sadly, however, many people don’t bother researching a company other than taking a quick look at its Wikipedia page.
Spend some time on the company’s website – find out what their mission is and what they do – and connect with people who work there to learn more about their culture and values. It’s also a good idea to read press releases and news articles for potential conservation topics.
5. Create a Desktop Folder with Reference Documents
Have a virtual copy of your CV, cover letter, references list and portfolio on standby in case your interviewer requests it during the interview. Keep all these files and any other useful documents in a specifically-created folder on your desktop for quick and easy access. Save Word and PDF versions of each document in case they prefer a particular format over the other.
It’s also a good idea to familiarise yourself with Skype’s many features, if you aren’t already. This can help you avoid a potentially awkward situation where the interviewer (im)patiently waits for you to figure out how to send a file to them over Skype (simply drag and drop a file into the chat window).
6. Perfect Your Profile
If you created your Skype account 10 years ago and haven’t updated it since, chances are it needs a good makeover. Your profile will be the first thing the interviewer sees, so make sure it stands out for all the right reasons.
Start with your username. If you have a cute, funny or playful name like – God forbid – SexyBeast85, change it immediately!
Your profile picture is just as important. Remove any holiday snaps showing off your beach body or photos of you pulling a silly face, and change it to something a little more professionally appropriate, ideally a professional headshot with a simple background.
7. Add them as a Contact
The interviewer will likely have asked for your Skype account username or at least have given you theirs when the interview was arranged. If they didn’t, take the initiative to ask for theirs and add them to your Skype contacts well in advance. Don’t wait until a few minutes before the interview is scheduled to start, as this can end up wasting valuable time – especially if there are many accounts with similar names.
8. Don’t Be Late
Another critical part of interview etiquette is showing up on time.
It’s perfectly understandable (though not exactly acceptable) to show up late for an in-person interview when you’re travelling to the company’s location. You could get stuck in traffic or there could be delays on the Tube – life simply happens, even when you leave a comfortable margin of error.
On the other hand, it’s completely inexcusable to be late for a Skype interview. After all, in the interviewer’s opinion, all you have to do is get dressed and fire up your computer – you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home.
Make a point to be ready at your computer at least 15 minutes before the video chat is scheduled to start.
9. Dress for Success
Treat a Skype interview as you would a face-to-face interview. This means looking and dressing the part. Business casual is the general consensus: women should wear a skirt and blouse, for example, and men a pair of trousers and a buttoned-down shirt.
Whatever you do, make sure you dress professionally from head to toe. Don’t assume you’ll only be seen from the chest up and decide to dress professionally on the top and casually on the bottom. Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself in the awkward position of standing up to reveal you’re wearing your pyjama bottoms or, worse, nothing at all!
During the Interview
10. Make Eye Contact
Although this may indeed be a little physically impossible, it’s still doable. Simply look directly at the camera – not at the screen and yourself – to imitate making eye contact with the caller. You’ll need to adjust your webcam so that it’s at eye level.
It may feel uncomfortable and a little weird at first, but maintaining ‘eye contact’ shows that you’re interested in the job and appreciative of the interviewer’s time. But, be warned: too much eye contact can be perceived as aggressive and creepy, while too little can seriously damage your chances of appearing trustworthy and knowledgeable.
11. Be Personable
It can be harder for your personality to come across when you’re not interviewing in person, so it’s important to make more of an effort in this department. You could take a personality assessment to help you identify your strongest traits and then weave these into your answers.
Remember to use real-life examples when discussing your skills and experience, and make it a point to brush up on your storytelling techniques. Above all else, be yourself! Yes, you want to make a lasting impression on the hiring manager, but don’t try to be something you’re not.
Upon walking into the room for a face-to-face interview, you’ll naturally smile at the hiring manager. For a video interview, though, this may be a little more difficult, and it may make you feel uncomfortable and weird smiling at the camera.
But, remember that smiling makes you approachable and it can help break the ice and build rapport with your interviewer. Of course, you should be careful that you don’t over-smile; you don’t want to freak a potential employer out!
13. Sit up Straight
As a child, your mother had probably often told you to ‘sit up straight’ – some excellent advice for an interview, especially if you want to seem engaged and indeed interested in the position you’ve applied for.
Look alive, and save the slouching for after the interview. And if it helps, just pretend your mother’s watching you.
14. Speak Clearly
Enunciate! There’s nothing worse than having your interviewer ask you to repeat everything and still not have a clue what you say. In other words, don’t mumble. It shows a lack of interest and a lack of self-confidence, both of which are necessary qualities for hiring success. Don’t speak too fast, either; you don’t want to be appear that you’re rushing the interview or that you’re nervous.
Speak out and speak clearly. Don’t shout, but make sure that you’re able to effectively demonstrate your communication skills. Meanwhile, have a glass of water handy in case your throat gets dry.
15. Don’t Interrupt
It can be hard to keep yourself from jumping at the first opportunity and interrupting the interviewer’s train of thought, especially when you feel the urge to defend yourself. Make sure you let them finish what they have to say – there’s plenty of time to answer a question or correct them on something.
That being said, you shouldn’t be completely silent when the caller is speaking. Verbal interjections like ‘Hmm’, ‘Yes’ and even ‘Uh-huh’ show that you’re still there and engaged in the conversation. After all, active listening is one of the most important skills you can demonstrate during any type of interview.
On a side, but relevant, note: don’t even think about interrupting the interview so that you can use the toilet! You wouldn’t do it in person, so don’t do it on Skype. Make sure you’ve emptied your bladder before sitting down at your computer!
16. Ask Questions
Remember, interviews are a two-way street: you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. After all, you both want to know whether you’re a good fit for each other.
Make a list of questions you’d like to ask, but keep in mind that the best questions are focused, open-ended ones. In other words, avoid asking yes or no questions or questions that are so broad they’re difficult to answer.
Although it’s generally advised to wait until towards the end of the interview to ask questions, it’s perfectly alright to ask something if and whenever you feel it fits in with the flow of the conversation.
17. Use Notes
One of the main advantages of a Skype interview is that you don’t have to remember everything you want to mention. You can even have notes in front of you – without the interviewer knowing.
Create a cheat sheet of the main points you’d like to make and the questions you’d like to ask, and place it next to your webcam for easy reference. Make sure your notes are written in an easily scannable format to get what you need at quick glance – you can do this by bolding or capitalising keywords and using bullet points.
18. Address Tech Problems Immediately
Let’s face it: Skype is known for the odd technical glitch like a weak connection, and we’ve all experienced one of those annoying ‘Can you hear me now?’ moments. But remember that employers are usually pressed for time and many may not take having to repeat everything they say very well.
Bring the employer’s attention to the problem, and stop and redial the call. If the issue persists, suggest conducting the rest of the interview via telephone. This will show that you’re a problem-solver and that you’re able to take initiative and make decisions when under pressure.
It’s also a good idea to get the interviewer’s phone number beforehand in case you run into any hiccups!
19. Stay Focused
The interviewer should have your undivided attention. Nothing screams ‘Not listening!’ louder than the clicking sounds of a mouse or the tapping of a keyboard in the background. It’s unprofessional and downright rude.
Close any unnecessary programs and windows, especially if they make noise. Even if you’re not actively browsing Facebook, a notification sounding in the background will tell the interviewer otherwise.
Always, always stay present – even if the callers engage in a side conversation.
After the Interview
20. Say ‘Thank You’
Remember to send a ‘thank you’ letter or email, just as you would after an in-person interview. Shoot it off within 24 hours of the interview, ideally right after, thanking the interviewers for their time and reiterating your interest in the job.
You should include all the interviewers in the email. If you prefer, you can send separate emails to each person who spoke with you, but make sure that the message varies somewhat! And whatever you do, please don’t follow up on Skype and definitely don’t add your interviewers on Facebook!
Have any other Skype interview tips that have helped you in your job search? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts and experiences with us!
Need more help with preparing for an interview? Our comprehensive guide includes information about everything from researching the employer to choosing the right outfit and practising common questions.