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Companies are becoming more flexible, global, technological, and sometimes remote – benefits that are great to take advantage of once you’re employed. But to get hired will probably require you to ace several phone and/or Skype interviews. Today many employers are interviewing local candidates virtually in order to save time for everyone involved. It’s likely you’ll have a few interviews via phone and/or Skype before being invited in for a face-to-face meeting. But there are several ways you can make a good impression from a distance.
Prepare Your Environment
Alina Bas, executive coach and life strategist, recommends being mindful of the background that the employer will see behind you on camera. “Your background can easily reveal things about your personal style, taste, cleanliness level, and habits that you might not be willing to discuss quite yet,” she says. So before your interview, remove any personal items and make sure that a neutral, well-organized background is visible to your interviewer.
Aside from what your interviewer might see, you also have to prepare for what they might hear. Whether your call is on Skype or over the phone, ensure a professional and office-like environment. Avoid taking an interview at Starbucks or out on the street, as the background noise will distract you and the interviewer.
“If you are interviewing from home, make sure your environment is quite,” says Bas. “That means having reliable childcare if your kids are home, with zero possibility of a screaming kid running into your home office, or even being heard in the background. Also consider appropriate arrangements for your pets,” she adds.
Bas also recommends printing out your resume and placing it in front of you. Highlight the points you’d like to emphasize beforehand. Don’t ruffle through papers or click through files during the interview, as that will make you come across as unprepared. Also, be sure you have internet access and are prepared to walk your interviewer through your website or online portfolio if necessary.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you haven’t interviewed remotely, the best way to succeed is to be well prepared and then practice with a friend, family member or coach.
“Write down the names of all the people you will be interviewing with, as well as their roles in the company, so you can greet them and say goodbye to them by name,” suggests Bas. “Rehearse out loud the beginning and ending of the call. Practice describing your experience out loud in complete sentences rather than in resume bullet points.”
Go on Skype a few times before your interview to become comfortable with the technology, to figure out where to look, what to do with your hands, and how loudly you need to speak.
Janel Anderson, CEO & Chief Conversation Officer of Working Conversations, recommends having a career coach, trusted friend, or mentor do a mock-interview on Skype. “Debrief with them after the mock-interview and get frank feedback about where you could improve,” she says. Feel free to do this as many times as you need to feel comfortable.
Recording your interview might be helpful, as you’ll have a precise view of how you come across on video. Anderson also suggests that you prepare for the content of the interview, as you would do for an in-person interview.
Dress for Success
Get dressed for your phone or Skype interview just as you would for an in-person interview. Even if you’re doing a phone interview, it’s best to dress in interview attire from head to toe. Psychologically, this will help you bring your A game to the interview.
Do some research on the company to determine how dressed up you need to be. While business casual may work at some companies others will expect more formal attire. It’s better to err on the side of overdressed than under dressed.
When it’s time for your interview sit at a desk or table if possible. Even if the employer isn’t able to see you your attitude will be different if you are lounging on the sofa and the employer will likely pick up on your relaxed attitude. It’s the same principle as people being able to hear you smile when you’re talking on the phone.
“While you could ‘technically’ do a phone interview in your pajamas,” says Bas, you never know if, at the last moment, you may be asked whether you have Skype capability, followed by a request to shift to Skype.”
Be Your Best Self
Lisa Culhane, life coach, believes that any kind of interview is more about mutual discovery, than anything else. “You are trying to discover if you are the best fit for the job and if the company is a place that you would feel comfortable working,” she says. “Given that you spend approximately half of your waking hours at your job you need to be confident that you will enjoy the people you will be interacting with and that this is a good fit.”
Controlling your nerves is a key component to being yourself. Offset your anxiety by consciously breathing slowly and deeply. Before your interview, you can also relax by smiling to yourself or calling a friend who always makes you laugh or listening to a favorite song that gets you going. Doing so proves to your brain that you’re not in danger and that it’s okay to let your strengths shine through.
Don’t forget to smile and be enthusiastic. Even if you’re not on Skype, your enthusiasm and passion will come through to the interviewer and help you connect.
Some Don’ts to Consider
While much of the advice remains the same whether you’re interviewing face-to-face or virtually there are differences. Try to make sure that you’re not caught off-guard.
“It is likely that a candidate may be asked their salary history on a phone or Skype interview. This is best answered by turning the question back to the interviewer and asking what the salary range is for this or similar job classes at their organization,” Anderson says. “Then, if the salary range is acceptable to you, you can respond that your requirements are in line with that range.”
Sometimes recruiters will call and ask to interview you on the spot. However, agreeing to a spontaneous interview may not be in your best interest. Bas suggests that you be prepared with a “sound-bite” about your credentials and then try to excuse yourself graciously by saying “I would very much like to discuss this opportunity with you. Right now, I can’t give our conversation the full attention that it deserves. When is the next earliest time you have available for us to talk?” Then try to arrange to put a date and time on the calendar in the next few days.
Having a pre-arranged time for your interview gives you the opportunity to be prepared and fully present when you speak to the employer.
With increasing numbers of recruiters and hiring managers opting for virtual interviews you can’t afford not to be prepared. You can bet your competition is practicing their Skype interview right now.