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Guidelines for Your Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts Video Interview

More and more companies are conducting job interviews via Internet video calling tools including Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts. These applications provide hiring managers with convenience, spontaneity and the flexibility to talk to people in other regions and time zones, especially when hiring remote workers or employees for new office locations. They also save time and money, as companies can conduct an initial interview with an applicant without committing the time and expense of having them travel to the office to meet. When a hiring manager has numerous candidates they need to screen, online video chatting enables them to accomplish this quickly and easily.

If you are asked by a potential employer to attend an online video interview, you actually need to make more preparations than you would for an in-person interview. Below are our guidelines to avoid possible pitfalls and ensure your video interview is a comfortable and (relatively) stress-free presentation of your qualifications that leaves the interviewer wanting to meet you in person!

Before the Interview

Get familiar with the application and all the basics of using it to conduct a face-to-face conversation. You don’t want to appear unprepared, especially if you are interviewing with a technology company. You should already have the application downloaded and installed and have tested to ensure it is working as expected. Also, make sure your webcam is working properly and your Internet connection is up-to-speed. If possible, you want to avoid relying on a wireless connection, as this is much more likely to experience issues and/or interference.

Create a professional profile. Whether you are creating a Skype/Facetime/Google Hangouts account for the first time or already have one, make sure that your profile name and information are professional-sounding and that your photo has a professional look.

Set the stage for your video interview by making sure the web camera, audio, lighting and background will present you in the best possible light.

  • Webcam – The camera should be positioned so you are centered in the frame and looking straight-on at the screen.
  • Audio – Do an echo test (with Skype) and/or check your computer microphone to be sure your voice is clear and not muffled and the volume is not too loud or too soft. You may want to consider using a headset if you have one, as that can help your voice sound stronger.
  • Lighting – Try to incorporate natural or diffused light rather than artificial or bright lighting that will wash out your face. Lighting from behind you will make your face appear in shadow, so your best bet is to have a soft light focused on you from behind your computer screen. Try playing with the lighting to see what works best.
  • Background – What the interviewer sees behind you can impact the interview. For example, if the space behind you is cluttered, the interviewer may be distracted and get the impression that you are disorganized. Too many personal items could convey too much information. By the same token, a plain white background lacks depth and may make you appear as if you are “floating.” Keep the background neutral, either by having a plain wall (preferably painted in a soft hue), or by having a bookcase or a table with just a few items (e.g. a stack of books and a plant) to provide a professional yet warm look.

Conduct practice video chats with friends to ensure everything (camera, sound, lighting and background) is set properly and that you are comfortable and appear at ease working with the application.

Ensure the immediate area is quiet and disruption-free. If you have family members or roommates living with you, be sure to inform them of the interview so there are no interruptions. If you have young children and/or pets, have someone keep them occupied. Close the door of the room you are in to maintain privacy and shut any windows to keep out external noises.

When you launch Skype (or whatever application the interviewer has designated) before your interview, close down any other apps you have open (particularly email and social media), so they are not a distraction and won’t slow your Internet connection.

During the Interview

Dress for (video) success. You want to wear the same attire you would wear if you had an in-person interview with this company, whether that be strictly business attire or something more befitting the company’s culture. As with any job interview, research the company’s website and social media pages to get a feel for what type of attire would be most suitable for the interview.

For video interviews, you should wear solid and darker colors as opposed to stripes or patterns, which can appear more exaggerated on video than in person. Even though the interviewer will only see your upper body, you want your entire outfit to be professional (no shorts or jeans, for example). You may need to stand up for some reason (e.g. to address a technology issue), and dressing as if this was an in-person interview will keep you in a professional mindset.

Keep your eye on the camera. You want to make eye contact with the interviewer as either of you are talking, but in order to do that, you need to look at the camera rather than at the person you see on the computer screen. This will seem unnatural, but try to focus on doing this so the interviewer doesn’t mistakenly think you are avoiding eye contact. Of course, don't stare either; just make eye contact as if the person was sitting across the table from you. If you wear glasses, wear them during your practice sessions to make sure there won't be a glare on them. If glare is a problem, you might even want to do the interview without wearing them.

Have notes close by. Keep notes you would like to refer to during the interview, to the immediate left or right of your computer so you can glance at them quickly instead of rummaging around for them or looking straight down.

Remember the rules for in-person interviews still apply. You still need to focus on posture and try to keep hand movements and "fidgeting" to a minimum. Make sure to smile! Even though there’s a computer screen and Internet connection between you, you still want to make the best possible impression!

After the Interview

The follow-up process after a video interview is no different from what you would do after an in-person interview. You always want to send a thank you letter/email to the interviewer (and anyone else who may have attended the interview on the potential employer's side) right away and act on any next steps discussed during the interview (e.g. send references).

As with any interview, it’s always helpful to assess how you think you did — what questions you may have forgotten to ask or information you should have shared. Also, think about how you handled the video aspect of the interview and what you could improve on next time.

Follow the guidelines above, be well-prepared and your interview should go smoothly; leaving a positive impression and plenty of reasons for the company to ask you for a second interview!

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