Your next job interview could very likely happen over Skype – as more companies rope the video chat service into the hiring process. But just because you’re doing it in your own space doesn’t mean you can slack off. We got the experts to tell you how to avoid making a major Skype faux pas.
Use an actual computer
Yes, we know the latest iPhone models have great front-facing cameras. No, it is not okay to use it for your interview. That’s because your face will occupy most of the frame since there’s only so far your arm can stretch, which means you’re already dealing with unflattering angles – and who wants that at a job interview? Plus, it’ll limit your ability to gesture and use body language, which reduces the quality of your non-verbal communication, and can affect how the interviewer rates your performance.
We get that not everyone has a laptop, but that’s no excuse. Rebecca Chiu, CEO of MyWork Global, an online human resource consultancy, says, “You’ve worked hard to secure this interview, don’t sell yourself short. If you have to, borrow a laptop.”
Get a microphone and a pair of earphones
It’s a small step that goes a long way, because both you and your interviewer will be able to hear each other better, says Bang Lin, creative partner at film and production company This is Grain. And don’t put the interview on speaker, he adds. It muffles the audio, which means you risk mishearing the question, or having to ask the interviewer to repeat himself. Whatever the case, it just doesn’t look professional.
Forget wifi, use a cable
A bad connection equals pixelated images, time-lags and constant freeze frames. “Most hiring managers will readily cut short a disruptive interview,” warns Bang Lin. For more speedy and reliable internet connection, get off the wifi, and plug your laptop directly into your wireless router using an Ethernet cable. You can easily get one at tech stores like Challenger, Best Denki or Harvey Norman. Or just order it off Amazon.
Close all other windows
As with any job interview, give the interviewer your full attention. Shut off and mute your notifications, and close all tabs on your browser so you’re not easily distracted. This also ensures your laptop’s processing speed doesn’t get slowed down.
Do it at home
Your favourite hipster café and open-air areas are a big no, says Bang Lin, as ambient noise and people can be distracting for both you and your interviewer. Instead, choose a quiet, confined space where all the conditions are under your control. Make sure the room you’re in is well-lit. Skip the yellow, ambient lighting, and face the window – so that sunlight doesn’t illuminate you from behind. Both will cast you in shadow onscreen.
Sit in front of a blank wall
Rebecca says a plain background is preferable to one that is cluttered and distracting, like a bookshelf. If you don’t have a white wall in your room, she suggests hanging a white shower curtain over the bookshelf to create that illusion. Needless to say, if your room is messy, clean it up. Your interviewer doesn’t need to see your dirty laundry.
Keep people out
We all laughed when Professor Robert Kelly’s children barged in during that now-infamous BBC Skype interview. But when that happens during your own job interview? Not so funny. Don’t risk anyone walking into the frame. Lock the door. If you have a child or even a dog, make sure they’re not in the room for the duration of the interview. You don’t want unnecessary distractions.
Contour, contour, contour!
Video cameras can be unforgiving. Put your contouring skills to use and give your face definition, says Rebecca. And keep from looking washed out by adding colour to your cheeks and lips. Also, don’t forget to frame your face in the most flattering angle – that means positioning the camera slightly above your eye level (you can put the laptop on top of a book to elevate it), and tilt the screen downwards to face you.
Don’t forget your bottoms
Dressing the part gives you greater confidence and puts you in the right frame of mind for the interview, says Rebecca. Pick a solid-coloured top. Avoid loud prints or colours, and skip the fancy jewellery. You don’t want to put on anything that calls the interviewer’s focus away from you. And make sure your bottoms match your top – which means no shorts. You never know when you might need to stand up.
Don’t feel obliged to look into the camera
You might feel pressured to keep staring into the camera in order to maintain eye contact with the interviewer. But that could make you feel uncomfortable and awkward, and affect how you perform in the interview. Bang Lin says skip the conventional wisdom, and just look at your interviewer on the screen, so you appear more natural.
Be mindful of movement
Avoid excessive and overt hand gestures. These can look jerky especially if there’s a slight time-lag between you and the interviewer. If you must gesticulate, remember to keep your movements within the frame.
Make up for the loss of physical cues like handshakes and gesturing by smiling more, says Rebecca. It also helps add warmth to your interactions, and makes you appear more likable.
And don’t read notes off a prepared document on your desktop – the movement of your eyes will give you away. Besides, you wouldn’t refer to notes at an actual job interview, would you?
Warm up with a friend
When you’re all set up, do a Skype video call with a friend. Not only will that help you test the clarity of the video and audio, that friend will also be able to flag any potentially embarrassing things you might not have noticed – like that One Direction poster hanging on your bedroom wall.
It also helps to get some practice in. Record your mock interview and review it, so you can see which areas you need to work on. It might be painful to watch at first, but Rebecca says that’s normal. Nobody automatically looks good on camera. Just keep at it, and you’ll see improvement.
These minefields could trip you up:
1. A less-than-professional Skype username or profile picture
Your future employer may not be too impressed when they receive a call from “hungrybunny113”, combined with a poorly-shot selfie from 10 years ago.
2. A false start
You might get connected without realising it. While waiting for the call to go through on your end, turn the audio off and block your webcam with a post-it note till you see the person appear on screen. You don’t want the your potential boss to catch you mid-yawn.
3. A dying battery
Video calls drain your laptop’s power pretty quickly. Even if the battery is fully charged, don’t risk running out of juice and cutting the interview short. Keep your laptop plugged into a power outlet throughout.