How do I prepare for a Skype interview?

As the cost of travel rises and Skype is becoming more and more commonly used, people are increasingly having long-distance interviews via Skype. An in-person interview is still probably preferable, but if your prospective employer can’t reimburse your travel costs, you are still at least able to be seriously under consideration if you can interview via Skype. All you need is a computer with a webcam and a microphone. Here are some basic Skype interview tips:

• Make sure you get your webcam ready beforehand. Do a test run of a Skype call with a friend the day before to make sure the lighting looks OK, your face is visible, and the webcam works. Test the audio quality too.

• Give yourself plenty of extra time before the interview to make sure your internet connection is working fine, camera is set up, the camera is at the right angle (with a laptop, it often looks like the viewer is looking up your nose!), mic works etc. Have the interviewers’ names and phone numbers written down on a piece of paper in case Skype doesn’t work and you have to call them.

• Take a look at the background that is showing in the webcam. Try your best to make the background really boring (a blank wall) or make it look office-y if possible (a big potted plant, or a nicely framed, not-distracting picture would be fine).

• Dress (at least from the waist up!) in a business suit or appropriate business attire.

• Make sure you have at least a cell phone full charged and ready to go in case the audio drops out of your Skype call. Ideally, have a land line ready. Be ready for any manner of technical hiccups, ranging from the audio cutting out to the picture freezing. Don’t let this distract you—VOIP is never 100% reliable.

• Use the fact that you’re not right there to your advantage: have a copy of your resume and some of your “problem-action-result” accomplishment stories on your lap where you can refer to them without being too distracting. (Remember at all times that you are on camera! It’s very easy to forget this and start doing something hilarious or just distracting). Try to maintain some amount of eye contact with the camera—but you can briefly glance at your notes if you need to. You can also take notes in a way that’s not distracting and might help you focus your answers.

• Try to get a visual introduction to the people who are interviewing you whenever possible. It makes the interview much better if you can visualize who’s interviewing you even if they aren’t all on camera at one time.

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Stephen Peteritas

I actually have experience in this category. I would also add to make sure you are on a hard wire connection rather than wifi and if you do have to go the phone route plug headphones into your computer to avoid feedback through the mics.

Jeff Ribeira

I too have some experience with a Skype interview that was just a complete disaster… Even after checking (and double checking) my hardware and everything else, the connection still failed. My camera decided to stop working and I could see and hear them perfectly fine, but they couldn’t see me. And let me tell you, it made for one awkward interview… We ended up calling it quits after about 10 or 15 minutes and just using the phones. Even with a backup plan though, it’s still very difficult to bounce back from any degree of technical difficulty (for both the interviewer and the interviewee).