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5/8/11 - How To Ace A Job Interview On Skype


by Vickie Elmer • May 2nd, 2011

If you haven't conducted an interview by Skype yet, I'm willing to bet that it's coming to your laptop screen or iPhone soon.


With gas prices skyrocketing and plane tickets more costly too, employers are increasingly looking to Skype and a handful of online interviewing sites and tools to conduct the first interview. Video interviews on Skype are used to "get more comfortable with the candidate" and see how they handle face-to-face communication and technology tools, said Matt Berndt, director of communication career services at the University of Texas. Some also use a recorded video interview so they can be certain they're using the exact same questions with all potential candidates.


"Telephone interviews are going to video interviews" via Skype or another mode, Berndt said. He offers some savvy suggestions for making Skype interviews sparkle:

  • Try it out with friends. Ask them to critique how you look, whether the lighting washes you out. Check your Internet connection too; low signal strength could ruin your interview. If you're using the webcam on your smart phone, make sure you have the battery charged and know exactly where to sit the phone so it captures you and your environment attractively.
  • Have a backup plan. Know the interviewer's phone number and email. Have them handy – just in case your Internet access gets knocked out or your camera malfunctions. Create a Plan B to show you're proactive and know how to develop workarounds.
  • Think about what the background says about you. Control the entire image. Create a great frame for the picture of yourself. Or keep it simple if you want to keep yourself neutral.  Berndt's backdrop was a full shelf of books, a deep blue wall and a framed Kandinsky print. "It bugs me a little bit that my door's open," he said.
  • Organize your notes in front of you. The interviewer cannot see all the desktop around you. So put it to good use with notes and prompts as well as material pulled up on your computer screen. The extra information could enhance the answers you give – and remind you to ask great questions too.
  • Turn off your pop-ups and email. They slow down your computer a bit and they may distract you from the interview. "If you receive an email from a friend with a very very funny joke, it could be bad news," he said.
  • Know Skype's features. One that may be useful: For example, you can share your screen with the interviewer which allows you to showcase your original graphic designs or your in-progress app or something else.


My experience with Skype has been interviewing executives, authors and experts for the articles I create. Here are three suggestions that apply to job interviews too:

  • Give a dog a bone. If you have an affectionate or noisy pooch, give her something to distract her – so she won't distract you in the middle of your interview. Or ask your roommate or partner to take doggy for a walk during the interview.
  • Consider who will hear you. If you're keeping your job search a secret, you may need to schedule the interview before or after work. Even if you have an office with a door, someone could overhear you – or just knock and come in as you're telling the recruiter your best saved the day story.
  • Videotape yourself during the interview. This gives you the chance to review how you did, to seek feedback on the interview – and to follow up on any question you mishandled.


The final tip comes from both of us: Practice, and practice some more. "Reduce the variables in the job interview" by preparing to answer the question you dread, Berndt said. Practice for the awkward moments – a dropped connection, both talking at once or an interruption by dog or daughter. Practice with the tools so you can manage them effortlessly before the recruiter sets up your Skype screening interview.


Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. She has collected a slew of journalism awards, large and small. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more. She has been called “dazzling,” “incredibly competitive” “creative” and “prolific and feisty” by those who work with her. Elmer is the mother of three children and the co-owner of Mity Nice, a start-up that employs teens to sell Italian ice and sweet treats from a shiny silver cart in Ann Arbor, Mich. An active volunteer, she encourages kindness and creativity and embracing change, and she blogs and tweets under the moniker WorkingKind.