Mastering Skype

You’ve passed the first hurdle in the hiring process and have been invited to interview via Skype to determine if you will be one of the finalists. Congratulations! This is an opportunity to continue the conversation and stay in the search process. Here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Establish a Skype ID, but as with e-mail addresses, be careful about the name you select. Better to use a proper name than a nickname. Remember that, before the call, you will need to accept an invitation to join the contact group of your caller.
  • Purchase a Webcam, if you don’t already have one. You can’t do a video interview without one. (This may seem obvious, but I know one candidate who assumed that the creation of a Skype ID somehow took care of that detail.) You may also want to use a headset, so you’ll have your hands free for note taking.
  • Preparation is key. Test the equipment with a friend before your Skype interview to make sure your connection is adequate and the volume is adjusted properly. Ask your friend how you sound over the phone. Practice answering common interview questions and prepare questions for your interviewers in advance. Sample questions might include: Why is this position available? What are the greatest opportunities for leadership in this role? What potential threats to success might I encounter in this role? You might also ask members of the search committee what they like most about their respective roles on the campus and why they are serving on this committee.
  • Review your surroundings. Ceiling fans are distracting, overhead lights can look like spotlights, and open closet doors can be distracting. Carefully consider the background, and work to set the proper stage. Side desk lights may work best for lighting.
  • Shut out distractions. Mute phones, and notify family members and friends that you are on a Skype call and are not to be disturbed. Close office doors so that pets and small children won’t interrupt the conversation. If you are interrupted, keep in mind that how you handle these distractions is very telling.
  • Your appearance matters, as with an in-person interview. While you’ll be sitting in front of a computer screen, you will still be judged on your hair, makeup, and dress (from the torso up, anyway). I suggest a suit jacket and tie for men. A dress or jacket for women, accented with a scarf and simple jewelry, can make the right professional impression. Patterned shirts should generally be avoided, as they can be distracting. Don’t make the mistake of getting too comfortable—it’s better to sit at a desk in an office than on a sofa or easy chair.
  • Be sure to answer the Skype call with audio and video. You’ll make an unfavorable first impression if you cannot manage the technology.
  • Work on making a connection, as with a face-to-face interview. Look at the camera when you’re talking, and pay attention to your interviewers’ body language. It’s fine to glance at notes occasionally, but looking something up online or reading e-mails in the process may make you seem disconnected. Interviewers want to get a sense of how you engage with others and your presentation style.
  • Relax and enjoy the process. If you have prepped ahead of time, you will be more comfortable with this added layer of technology. I get a good sense of the level of interest from candidates from both my phone and Skype calls. I can promise you, someone who is enchanting and engaging is a more interesting candidate.

Diane M. Fennig is a senior consultant with the Human Capital Group, an executive-search and leadership-consulting firm based in Brentwood, Tenn.

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