Approaching an Interview Using Skype
By Amanda Spoo
In today’s age, “the art of getting by” is not as simple as it used to be. Everyday technology continues to advance at a rapid rate and we have to adjust and adapt just as quickly in order to stay on top. As professionals, or students getting ready to take on that role, the challenge of stepping into a competitive and progressive industry is knowing how we are supposed to best utilize that technology. One challenge that we are seeing job seekers and college students applying for internships face is the request to have their interview conducted via Skype or other video chat services.
Personally, as an out-of-state college student, I am someone who uses Skype on a regular basis to stay in touch. But even though I was comfortable using the service, I was still very nervous when three of the internships that I applied for last winter asked if I would be willing to do an interview via Skype. I was the first of my peers to have been approached this way, so there were very few resources that I could refer to.
Since my interviews, many people have asked me to share how my experience went. While I believe that there is always room for one to improve, I found that my experience was very positive and that others might have similar reservations that I had before.
Back to the Basics
The number one thing that I discovered during my Skype interviews was that there were hardly any differences than interviews I had done in the past. Kara Ebe, career advisor for Career Services at the University of Missouri agrees. “I think students need to realize that it is important to treat the interview the same way they would any other one,” said Ebe. “Interviews are typically a multi-step process, so each step needs to make an impact that creates the opportunity to be asked back for a follow up.”
Students and job seekers should go through the same preparation that they would for a face-to-face or phone interview by dressing in full business professional, familiarizing themselves with the company, outlining points that they want to share and reviewing their resume materials that should have been sent prior to the interview. It is still important to make a personal connection and pay attention to the small details like timeliness, using a strong voice and sending a thank you card.
According to Wayne Gehrke, a senior in crop science and technical systems management at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, the biggest challenge during his first Skype interview was finding a good location. “You are not only going to be judged on you, but also on the setting that you choose to create,” said Gehrke. “You want a quiet location and a clean background; I mean you wouldn’t want them to be looking at your dirty apartment behind you.”
This can be solved by sitting in front of a blank wall or setting up a curtain as a backdrop. Another option is that most college campuses have conference rooms that can be reserved for student use ahead of time. Remember that you get to set the tone for the interview and want to do so in a professional environment.
It is very easy to get frustrated with technology and when something as important as an interview is taking place that is not when we want to run into troubles. Even though we know that some things are inevitable, there are still quite a few actions we can control.
If you are unfamiliar with Skype, start out by familiarizing yourself with the service by practicing with a friend so that during the interview you are not struggling to adjust the video or turn up the volume. Also make sure that your Skype name is appropriate and represents you professionally. Next, set up your computer in a location that you know has a reliable Internet connection, such as on campus. Exit all other windows and programs on your desktop and check the lighting and sound before the interview starts.
One component that I struggled with during my interviews was where to direct my vision. I found that by looking at the camera while you are speaking, you are better able to engage with those interviewing you because your eyes are focused on them. It is natural to look at the screen from time to time, and that’s okay, but refrain from looking down at yourself in the smaller corner screen.
A Growing Trend
So, why Skype? Employers and job or internship seekers can agree that the most preferred method of conducting an interview is one that is in person. But according to Ebe, that can’t always be the case. “Skype is a growing trend,” shared Ebe. “We live in a global economy where business can be done across the table, or across the globe. Skype can be a great tool to compensate for when you are not able to speak face-to-face.”
Businesses are starting to utilize the service as a supplement for flying-in candidates for interviews or reaching college intern applicants who are not within driving distance. Ebe explains though that while the popularity in using Skype for interview purposes has not quite become mainstream on campus yet, they are already thinking ahead. “From a career services perspective, we are starting to ask ourselves the question of how do we streamline that process,” said Ebe. “I know a lot of colleges are starting to set up locations that a student could utilize for that specific purpose.”
For Gehrke, Skype is an opportunity to set him apart. “As a young professional I think it’s good to stay on top on what is popular so that you already know about it when someone, like potential employers ask,” said Gehrke. “Not knowing means you are just limiting yourself.”
As a student getting ready to step out into the work force, I understand that there is always going to be something new that I must adjust to and my experience with Skype has helped me adapt to that learning curve. The best way to approach that challenge is to instead see it as an opportunity, tell that employer yes and go into that interview with confidence.
About the Author
Amanda Spoo is currently a junior at Kansas State University majoring in Agriculture Communications and Journalism with an option in Natural Resources. She is originally from Hermiston, Oregon. At Kansas State, Amanda is involved in Ag Communicators of Tomorrow serving as an ambassador for the College of Agriculture. She is also a member AFA (Agriculture Future of America) and is currently serving on the 2011/2012 AFA Student Advisory Team. This past summer Amanda interned with the K-State Extension & Research at their Johnson County office in Olathe, Kansas where she primarily worked with 4-H & Youth Development.