While it would be wildly convenient if co-ops and careers fell from the sky into our laps, that’s simply not how the world works. In order to be hired in any position, it’s generally a given that you’ll face a much-dreaded hurdle: the interview. Mastering the interview (and, for me personally, learning to rein in my awkward nature) is a lifelong endeavor that generally improves over time. However, while applying for co-ops abroad during the past two months, I had to grapple with a new beast: the Skype interview. While the thought of doing a Skype interview used to make me wish I didn’t have a webcam, after partaking in several of them, I have a better feel for how they’re best handled. If you have a Skype interview coming up and find yourself nervous to stop hiding behind your “do not disturb” status, consider the following tips.
Find a good interview spot
Before worrying about the interview itself, decide where you’re best suited to take your call. A good environment for a conversation builds the foundation for a seamless exchange. A quiet space with a neutral background and good lighting are ideal. Perhaps most importantly, flawless Wi-Fi is key. After having the call drop a few times during my first interview, which I took in my flat, I did the rest of them from my office after hours because the internet connection is much more reliable there. Nothing kills the flow of a good conversation like being cut off in the middle of it!
Take account of your account
Before sharing your contact details with a potential employer, evaluate how you present yourself on Skype. Is your screen name appropriate? Is the song lyric you last posted as your status unprofessional? Do you have a profile picture? If yes, does it reflect the initial image you want an employer to have, of you? If you don’t currently have a profile picture, consider adding one before your interview; employers generally appreciate being able to see who they’ll be speaking with beforehand, and it adds a personal touch to your profile.
Additionally, make sure you share Skype contact details with the employer before the interview. For good measure, change the generic “I’d like to add you as a contact” message to something more personal regarding looking forward to the interview, for example. Along with being an additional pleasantry, doing this allows you to confirm the identity of the person you add. If you get a confused response from someone you’ve accidentally added thinking they were your potential employer, you’ll find out right away rather than minutes before the interview. Another essential thing to remember is setting your status to “online.” I perpetually set my status as “away,” regardless of whether or not I’m in front of my computer, so I made a note for myself to remember to sign on before all my interviews.
Dress for success…at least from the waist up
Skype interviews are unique in that they allow you to present yourself to an employer from the waist up, providing the opportunity to tweak your bottom-half wardrobe strategy for the interview. While some people feel more confident dressed in head-to-toe business attire, I always feel a bit out of my element in such clothes because I wear them so rarely. So, being able to swap my dress pants in for sweatpants during an interview without fear of being penalized helped me relax. Plus, being able to say you landed a position while wearing your comfiest clothes brings a satisfaction worth experiencing.
Use the split-screen advantage
Another advantage unique to Skype interviews is being able to keep notes directly in front of you during the conversation. While you can obviously still use notes written on paper, I found it helpful to keep my résumé and interview notes in a Word document on one side of my computer screen while keeping the Skype window on the other side. Being the kind of person who holds notecards during presentations but never ends up looking down at them, I always feel more comfortable having a reference handy, regardless of how much I use it. If you use this strategy, take care to focus on the interviewer and not stare at your notes the whole time, though!
Regardless of whether you interview in person, over the phone, or through Skype, entering it prepared and confident always lead to the best results; for my fellow Skype interviewees, these tips are a plus. Good luck, fellow co-ops! May the Wi-Fi be ever in your favor.
Nicolette Pire is a junior Combined Linguistics and English major. She is currently pursuing her second co-op as a research assistant in the psycholinguistics group at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany. An aspiring polyglot, she’s using her first international experience to immerse herself in as many cultures as possible while sharing her international faux pas along the way. Feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.