By Gemma Morris
19th August 2014

Having a Skype interview for a new job can be very convenient. You don’t have to fight traffic or find a parking spot or worry about getting lost en route. But just because you’re not going on-site for an interview doesn’t mean you can be casual in your preparations. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking appearances won’t matter, even from the safety of your living room!

Dress as you would for a real-life meeting

The camera doesn’t lie. Be just as well groomed and properly dressed as you would be if you were meeting with a potential employer in person. That means clean, unwrinkled clothing that casts you in a professional light. Even if the company you’re applying to isn’t a suit-and-tie sort of place, do make an effort to look smart – a collared shirt rather than a tee-shirt, a neat jacket rather than a crumpled jumper. And as tempted as you might be to sneakily wear pyjama bottoms or slippers paired with your crispest shirt, do try to resist. It’s a psychological trick but one that works – dressing the part, head-to-toe, will change your mind-set from ‘home on the sofa’ to ‘on a job interview’.

Be aware of your surroundings

It’s a highly unusual aspect of the Skype interview that potential employers get to see you in your natural environment, as it were. In person, they’ve no way of knowing if your lounge is untidy or your roommate listens to opera at full volume. But on a video conference, there can be lots of small, overlooked details that, whether fairly or not, can create an impression of you. If possible, set the stage in a clean, well-lit room with a door that closes. While you’re not out to impress anyone with your housekeeping skills, do try to cast an eye around for clutter, dirty dishes, and so on. Try to see the setting as if from someone else’s eyes. Does it look like a space occupied by a reasonably professional and reliable person? Also be sure to minimise interruptions by alerting anyone you may live with that you’ll need some space and quiet. Turn off the telly or music, take the dog for a walk, put the kids in front of a DVD – do whatever needs doing to ensure you and the interviewer won’t be distracted by external events.

Smile and make eye contact

Seems natural enough, doesn’t it? But the medium of the camera can create an extra layer of awkwardness: What do I do with my hands? Where do I look? Let’s face it, an interview can be nerve-wracking enough as it is, especially for candidates who may be inherently shy or introverted – and adding the unnatural element of talking to your computer can just make it more uncomfortable. It’s best to be as relaxed and confident as possible. Remember, you’re trying to make a connection with the people on the other side of the screen, so that may require a little extra effort. If it helps, remind yourself you are in complete control, safely in your own surroundings. It might be useful to do a practice run with a friend who will give you some feedback about how you ‘read’ on camera.

Stay focused

This one is deceptively simple. The aim is to give your complete and undivided attention to the interview. Not only is it courteous to the person you may potentially work for, but it keeps your mind focused on the process and therefore able to answer questions thoughtfully and with purpose. Perhaps it seems obvious, but it’s hard staying in the moment when your phone or computer is bleeping with incoming texts, emails, or social media notifications. Whatever it is, it can wait 20 minutes. Close out of any open apps or websites on your computer and set your phone to silent – leave it in another room if you have to. If you think someone can’t hear you clicking away as you send a cheeky Tweet, or notice your eyes cast down as you read a text – believe us, they can.

Embrace technology thoughtfully

Technical problems in a Skype interview can add an additional degree of difficulty to the proceedings. A weak WiFi signal or a frozen screen, and you can miss out on key bits of the conversation. If you didn’t hear a question properly, speak up and address the problem straight away. You may need to suggest ending and reconnecting the call or some other quick fix. Don’t worry about seeming difficult; you’re more likely to be seen as a direct and open person, as well as a problem solver. Additionally, you may want to consider using a screen-sharing app, so that the interviewer can look at documents with you – perhaps there’s a website you built or a report on business outcomes from a data project you led. If there’s something that will visually help you sell yourself, by all means take advantage of this online interview format.

There’s no question you can absolutely ace a job interview from your own home – with just a small amount of preparation and practice. Good luck! 

Skype interview

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments. Have you interviewed via video conference? Any do’s and don’ts to share with our readers?

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