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If you've ever struggled through a job interview via Skype, you probably know how many silly little things can go wrong: Unexpected background noise might creep in, you may suffer from sketchy internet connection, and your laptop's battery could even die halfway through. But companies are opting more and more to interview long-distance candidates via Skype (or other video chatting applications), meaning job hunters should prepare to endure their fair share of business-related Skype calls during their careers. Fortunately, these interviews don't have to be painful experiences – as long as you implement a few tips and tweaks to make sure they run as smoothly as possible.
1. Pick Your Outfit Ahead of Time
And yes, that includes pants.
Even though your interviewers know you're probably at home, you should respect the process by dressing as you would for an in-person interview. Comb through your business attire and put together a professional-looking outfit, relative to the company's individual standards. University of the People suggested in a 2017 article that interviewees scan their prospective companies' websites and social media pages to learn how their employees tend to dress for work, and match those standards with their Skype interview outfits.
Keep things interview-friendly below the torso, as well. True, you're probably conducting your interview in a casual setting, and if you wore pajama bottoms for it, your interviewer wouldn't be likely to spot them. But even so, a number of unpredictable situations might call for you to stand up mid-interview (the doorbell could ring, or your equipment could malfunction, etc.), so play it safe with slacks or a professional skirt.
2. Find a Quiet, Neutral Space
Avoid that local coffee shop, and your high-traffic common living areas. Pick a place for your interview that's free of outside noises and other potential background distractions, which might come off as unprofessional or even throw the interview off-course. A 2017 piece from Forbes suggested that you choose a spot with good lighting, as well. Try conducting your interview from the desk in your bedroom, or even a home office.
If for some reason you're stuck doing your Skype interview in a public setting, give your interviewer a heads-up that there may be some noise or movement in the background. Use headphones with a decent built-in microphone to ensure parties on both ends have the best possible sound quality. You might even leave your cell phone behind during the interview, to eliminate yet another potentially distracting element.
3. Do Test Runs
Grab a trusted friend or colleague, set a time, and do a test Skype interview, as recommended by the Economic Times. Your buddy can ask you questions you expect to face in your interview, giving you a chance to rehearse your answers and beef up your performance. But a test run has other benefits, as well: It makes sure your equipment is working and your internet connection is sufficiently strong, gives you a chance to test out your location of choice, and allows you to perfect the little details, such as voice volume and camera angle.
Completing a successful test Skype interview might help calm your nerves about the upcoming call, and flag any potential issues you might not have otherwise foreseen. Make sure an outlet is in reach of your laptop's charging cable, for example, and that the lighting is decent enough to show your whole face.
4. Visuals, Visuals, Visuals
Skype interviews might have more to offer than strictly audio phone interviews, but they are still two-dimensional, and that comes with limitations. Once you've nailed down everything you want your interview to hear, make sure you can give them what they want to see, as well. Set up your laptop so its webcam frames you from a flattering angle. Practice looking into the camera – not at the screen – to give the illusion of making eye contact. Remember to smile, sit up straight, and connect with your interviewer, no matter how tempting it may be to drift your gaze to that corner box, to check how you look.
If you plan on taking notes during the interview, give your interviewer a heads-up, so it makes sense when you look away from the screen occasionally to jot things down in the notepad on your desk.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.
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