Feeling comfortable with being ‘on-camera’ and also having the technical skills to set up your end of a Skype or video interview, is an increasingly useful skills set for students and graduates. As a student you can collaborate on projects easily with students in other locations and from other institutions, and as a graduate you will have a significant advantage in today’s job market where increasing numbers of employers use video interviews within their selection processes.
You will be able to respond with confidence when an employer indicates they wish to meet with you in this way, and in addition, can initiate contact with potential employers; an advantage if you come across better in person than your do in your CV or you’re applying for positions where personality and personal confidence are critical factors. The fact that a candidate is inconveniently unavailable to be interviewed at a specific location no longer prevents employers from interviewing them; they can combine face to face and Skype interviews to see all the candidates that interest them.
General preparation and security issues
Clarify what system will be used and what the process will involve. Will they simply need to see and hear you, or will they be expecting you to use other Skype or video conference features and tools e.g. to send through documents.
Establish whether there will be any audio or video record of the proceedings. HR personnel will be aware of any privacy issues or security issues but some employers may not have thought ahead about the use, dissemination and storage of your interview.
If the interview is to be recorded, consider whether there are risks and benefits for you. If not all candidates are to being interviewed in this way consider if there are risks and benefits for you e.g. interviewers may view a recorded interview more than once.
Clarify any time zone issues.
Make sure you understand how Skype or the system you be using works. Ideally this includes being able to use features to share links, files and photos, as well as instant messaging.
Test out your computer set up. If you have experienced problems with a wireless connection, use an Ethernet cable to provide a more stable connection.
Headphones or a headset (headphones and microphone) plugged directly into your computer will avoid playback from the computer speakers and improve audio clarity for the interviewer.
You will need at least a user name and password to create and access a Skype or other system account. Choose something that looks professional.
Be prepared to close all other applications on the computer before the interview to avoid distractions.
Be mindful of anything that may be a visible or audible distraction. Eliminate clutter, bright objects and pictures that may appear on camera.Turn off all phones and communication devices and ensure that you won’t be interrupted by visitors, children or pets.
Plan what you will need to have within reach – relevant documents, pen and paper, a glass of water (swigging water from a water-bottle looks unprofessional).
Make sure that the room where you’ll be interviewed is well-lit and that your face will be directly lit with no shadows. It can be useful to look at the room at the relevant time of day to get light setting correct.
Set the webcam so that it is at eye level with your head, shoulders and hands in frame. Body language is an important part of communication, so aim to have the upper half of your body visible. Test out your distance from the camera to ensure that you are being seen at a natural distance, as if you were actually face to face.
You will be looking at the video feed of the interviewer when listening to questions but when responding, look into the webcam. This creates the impression of making eye contact, which is essential during any interview.
Appearance, dress and posture
Business attire and good grooming is always acceptable. Think about what television personalities tend to wear. Generally darker colours and plain fabrics as these look good on camera.
Don’t take the risk of just dressing for what the camera will see; revealing a pair of pyjama bottoms as you stretch to check a loose connection or to retrieve an important document may cost you the job.
Practice is a good way to ensure that you are in command of your computer set up and the software you’ll be using during your interview.
Get a friend to Skype you and ask you some interview questions and provide feedback on your position on screen, how you look and audio quality. Ensure that you can see and hear what’s happening on your screen clearly too.
The actual interview
Log onto Skype or the relevant system at least 10 minutes before the interview. Logging on early will allow enough time to troubleshoot any last minute problems.
Smile and greet the interviewer, and make eye contact.
Behave as you would at an onsite face-to-face interview.
Speak slowly. Listen carefully to questions before answering. Fractional transmission delays can make it easy to inadvertently ‘talk over’ people so wait for others to stop speaking before you answer.
Nuances of personality can be lost with video interviews so make a special effort to smile and ‘be yourself at your best’.