By Emily Macey
When I started searching for my first attorney position at the start of my career, I spent a substantial amount of time on the road traveling to interviews. Fast-forward to the present and technology has replaced the need to travel. Skype has become more than a method of keeping in touch with our friends and family – it is also now a tool for business. This is a great development for military spouses, especially attorneys! It allows us to interview for jobs around the world before we PCS or in anticipation of our Servicemember’s retirement. There are important considerations we all take for granted when preparing for formal face to face interviews, but what are the faux pas, common courtesies, and tips that should be considered before a Skype interview? Proving that you are a true professional over Skype can be the key to nailing the interview and getting the job. These are some of the things you should consider before that video call comes through.
First of all, plan ahead! From the moment you’re asked for your Skype name, consider the image you are projecting. What does your user name say about you? It’s great that your name projects your fun, crazy personality but you need a professional name to be seen as a professional. The same goes for your profile picture; keep it tasteful and professional. Skype accounts are free so create a new one if necessary.
Be mindful of any distractions in your environment. If possible, eliminate all noise, especially noise from children, pets, televisions, telephones, doorbells, and any other background sources. The only thing you want the interviewer focused on is you and your outstanding qualifications. Choose a location for the interview that is simple and well lit. Try to avoid using a distracting background. Think “professional” and remove all the clutter, the empty wine glass, and the stacks of unopened mail. Your background should be simple without bright lights or windows behind you. Instead, put a light a few feet in front of you to brighten your face and focus attention where it should be, on you.
Eliminate any possible technical issues. Plug in your computer or be sure the battery is fully charged prior to the interview. Find a good headset to use so you can hear and be heard clearly. Test your Wi-Fi connection in the location you plan to sit and come up with a back-up plan in the event you have internet issues. If internet problems are frequent in your location, discuss the possibility of a disconnection and how you plan to handle issues if they occur at the beginning of the call. It will show the employer you are the type of person who plans for contingencies.
An important aspect of interviewing is connecting with the person through eye contact. It shows confidence and creates a bond. It’s an unnerving experience to watch someone on Skype looking down the whole time or making strange faces and fixing their hair. The easiest thing you can do to avoid this is closing the dual screen. Keep only the window with the interviewer open or cover your picture up with a Post-it. Before you begin, set the camera to make sure you are happy with your appearance and then close it for the duration of the interview. It will eliminate distractions for both the interviewer and yourself. Because most computer cameras are located at the top of the screen, think about minimizing and positioning the window near the camera in the center top portion of the screen so that as you look at the video of the interviewer it appears that you are looking directly into the camera and at them. Also, take the time to think about the perspective that they will be seeing you from. Moving back from the camera, putting the camera at the correct height, not slouching or being too stiff, and thinking about which body parts you do, or do not, want emphasized will go a long way.
As we are all aware, first impressions are important. You would wear a pressed, professional suit to a formal interview and you should wear one for your Skype interview. Don’t get caught with your pants down…or your pajamas. As tempting as it might be to put on your suit jacket and hide your lower half comfortably under the table or desk in pajama pants, if you need to stand up for some reason during the interview, your professionalism will take a hit. Dress as if you were doing the interview in person instead of through Skype.
A great advantage to a Skype interview is the ability to make notes and post them out of view of the interviewer to help jog your memory about topics you want to discuss. Write down questions you have thoughtfully prepared to ask the interviewer and keep a copy of your resume and cover letter nearby to refer to them (but avoid reading verbatim from prepared materials). Also, keep in mind that if you are referring to papers and shuffling them around, the interviewer will be able to hear those noises. I suggest Post-it notes to quickly glance at if necessary. Remember that notes will never take the place of being prepared for the interview.
If planning is important then practice is essential! Once you have all of the pre-interview prep done, ask a family member or friend if you can spend some time practicing with them over a Skype chat. Set everything up just as you plan to have it the day of the interview and record it. This will give you an opportunity to catch any lighting issues, sound issues, odd shadows, or other anomalies. It also gives you a chance to become more comfortable being on camera and provides a great opportunity for feedback. Keep in mind the importance of pausing after being asked a question and not interrupting or talking over the interviewer.
Last, but not least, SMILE and show them all you have to offer!