The Skype Interview

Interviewing candidates over Skype has become an acceptable practice.  For years I have been interviewing out-of-town career counseling clients using the service.  It’s the only way I can tell if their body language complements or contradicts what they are saying when we conduct a mock interview.  But it’s also the only way I can judge how a candidate, for one of my executive recruiting clients, presents themselves in person.

The rules for a Skype interview are somewhat relaxed.  Dress conservatively and professionally, but it’s silly to wear a suit and tie (or the female equivalent thereof).  On the other hand, you have to be aware of how you look on camera and the message your surroundings send.

Regarding the first, go to the “Settings” option on your computer camera and make certain the “zoom” is such that your entire face does not take up the computer monitor.  You do not want the interviewer to be able to see every imperfection on your face – or to think you have a big head!  Also, make certain that the picture does not “flicker.”

Just as importantly, or perhaps more so, are your surroundings.  I once interviewed an individual, over Skype, for a position that required, first and foremost, someone who was detail-oriented.  He assured me that he was.  Problem was, his computer was in his bedroom facing the bed.  The bed had not been made and the photos hanging on the wall were all crooked.  His environment, if you will, contradicted his words.  I did not submit him.

Another interview I did went very well.  Again, it was a bedroom scene, only this time everything was in order.  In the middle of the interview something cute happened.  The candidate’s young daughter, she was maybe four or five, came into the room.  Her father did not realize it.  She climbed on the bed with her stuffed animal (a dog) and just watched.  When he finished answering my questions I asked him if he had any questions for me.  When we were done I told him I had one final question for him: “What’s the name of your daughter’s dog?”

He looked at my like I was crazy and assured me that she, they, did not have a dog.  “It doesn’t look that way to me!”  I was smiling and told him to turn around.  He started to laugh and asked me how long she had been in the room. 

She was a bit embarrassed.  Instead of running out of the room she went over to her father, dog in hand, for protection against the strange man on the computer.  He put her on his lap, introduced us, and we had a very nice conversation.  He let her talk.  She told me about her dog and what she wanted to be when she grows up.  It was a very sweet conversation and a great way to end an interview.

He was impressive, but she was even more so.  Clearly he was a good parent.  When I told my client about the interview, she was interested in him but not overwhelmed.  In passing I mentioned his daughter.  That’s what got him the interview with the client.  It didn’t get him the job, but it got him the interview.

So, be aware of your surroundings and, if you have one, a stuffed animal might help (OK, a cute daughter)!

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