For international teachers, interviewing on Skype isn’t unusual. Your next employer could well be based on the other side of the globe, so wiping the dust off your webcam is almost standard procedure.
But with the break out of Covid-19 more and more schools are closing their doors. Add to that the travel restrictions being introduced, and the chances of your next interview being a virtual one are likely to increase. But that shouldn’t be an excuse to let your perfect-candidate credentials slip.
First impressions still count
Most people make an extra effort with how they dress, fix their hair and do their make-up. We all know that strong posture and making good eye contact are the order of the day; this is accepted wisdom. So why does it all go out of the window when it comes to interviews conducted via Skype?
In the dozen or so interviews which I have conducted in the past fortnight, I have looked up several noses, looked down on bald patches, spoken to cut-off heads and even been introduced to a cat!
Furthermore, it’s difficult to make a connection when candidates are constantly checking out how they look on screen, or look as if they are speaking to someone standing over my left shoulder.
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But given that Skype interviews are becoming increasingly common, here are a few dos and don’ts.
Skype interview tips
1. Take some time to adjust the height of the camera
Make sure that the screen and camera is at eye level when you’re sitting down.
2. Practise speaking into the camera
Anyone who has done media training knows that the key to coming across as authentic on camera is to "look through the lens". When I’m doing a Skype interview, I have the camera on a stand just in front of the screen so that when I’m looking at the interviewer’s eyes on screen, I am looking through the camera.
3. Don’t sit too close to the camera
There is no reason to sit right at your desk, so push back a metre or so. This will mean that there is less of a sense of invading each other’s space, which will make the whole experience less intense.
4. Invest in an extension microphone
A USB extension microphone will improve the sound quality and will allow you to sit further away from the camera. They are also very cheap to buy. Just don’t forget to test the sound levels.
5. Think about what’s behind you
A good background can make a positive impression, while a busy or untidy one can be a distraction.
6. Avoid backlighting
Trust me, that angelic "halo" can be an off-putting look.
7. Never wear a headset
Do I really need to explain why?
8. Take time to prepare for the interview
There’s an element of ritual about face-to-face interviews that prepares candidates for what is to come (getting dressed; travel to the school; checking in with reception; waiting outside the interview room). Much of this can be lost when you are fitting in a quick interview between lessons or between breakfast and heading to school. To replicate the build-up period, try to arrange your Skype interview at a time when you know you will have the opportunity to prepare yourself physically and mentally.
9. Don’t put Post-It notes around the screen
You wouldn’t have notes at a face-to-face interview, so why do people think that it’s acceptable on Skype? It’s so obvious and shows a lack of confidence.
10. And finally…make sure that you’re fully dressed
You never know what might happen during the call. If you have to stand up suddenly for any reason, you don’t want to give your interviewer a shock.
Mark S Steed is CEO of Kellett Hong Kong @independenthead