Skype Interview Basics

It may be hard to imagine but there was a time when there were no phone interviews. After all, employers and job hunters were local and each expected to meet one another in person several times before a person was hired.

At a minimum now, the initial screening interview is done by telephone and no one thinks twice about being interviewed by phone.

Skype has made its way into the arsenal of tools both third party and corporate recruiters are using for pre-arranged sessions. So although I don’t like video resumes, I do like Skype and I know a number of my clients use it to reduce costs for interviewing and save time.

Assuming you have a Skype account (and if you don’t, here’s where you can sign up to get one or download an app to your smart phone), here are a few basics you need to consider when preparing:

1. Select a simple but basic background for your interview

A blank wall is boring. Busy print wall paper is distracting. Think of having a book case with books neatly placed on them. Think of having an étagère with plants behind you. a simple backdrop that provides some depth to the view, is not distracting but does not give the impression of you taking “a mug shot photo.”

2. Setting up an account? Make sure your ID is not obnoxious or immature.

Enough said.

3. Be aware of lighting on your face.

You don’t want to be in shadow or have fluorescent lighting make your face too bright (in my case, having the light create a shine from my bald head). Natural lighting on your face is ideal however, if you are doing the session at night, be sure to test your appearance to highlight your face.

Don’t forget to check for glare in your glasses!

4. Dress for an interview

From experience, I know that even if an employer wants to hire someone who has dressed down for an interview, they often offer less money. Dressing down for the interview can cost you thousands of dollars.

For example, if an employer offers you $5000 less (and often it’s more) than they might have otherwise and you stay with them for 3 years, your lost earnings are almost $15500 (three years of lost income plus the lost value of a modest 3% raise each year).

Do you really want to give up that much money to dress in a t-shirt?

In addition, be aware of your background when you select color. Generally darker colors will allow you to appear strong against a lighter wall.

5. There are two schools of thought about where to look.

One says look at the camera; the other says angle your camera to create the illusion you are looking at the interviewer.

The look at the camera advocates believe that it creates the impression of creating eye contact.

The “angle the camera” advocates believe people waste too much energy staring at the camera and underperform on the actual interview.

I haven’t formed an opinion yet on this; experiment for yourself with this by askinga friend to speak with you via Skype and offer their impressions.

6. Smile, particularly when the session connects.

One of the things I learned early in my career is that it is more powerful and effective if someone smiles at the beginning of their interview and then becomes serious than if they are only serious.

The “only serious” person is asking the interviewer to only hire them based upon their knowledge or skills. The “smile, then serious” approach affords the candidate and employer a few minutes to connect as people before getting serious. Often that connection can be the tiebreaker between candidates.

7. Keep your answers to 30-60 seconds

Most people have a limited attention span. Keeping your answers to 30-45 seconds but “slipping” to 60 seconds helps to create a give and take to the interview. The interactive nature of the conversation will keep the interviewer engaged.


If others are home when you are doing the Skype interview, make sure they know to keep things quiet, not interrupt you or “stomp around” while you are interviewing.

Ideally, others should be out of the house to guaranty this (take the kids to the supermarket for something) but sometimes this isn’t possible.

9. Speak clearly and enthusiastically

Skype isn’t perfect technology and for people with accents, sometimes it is hard to be understood. Remember to enunciate and not rush what you say.

10. Practice

I believe you rehearse/practice everything in job interviewing and this is no exception. Don’t listen to other’s negativities; it is just another skill to be practiced and mastered.

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