Get Psyched to Skype

Job interviews via videoconferencing are gaining favor with employers.

It's not always a case of "going to an interview" -- sometimes the interview comes to you, right through your computer screen.

"Medical professionals seeking jobs should prepare for new-wave interviewing via Skype," said Joanna Kires, director of allied health permanent placement at CompHealth, a national healthcare staffing and placement company. "We make quite a few permanent placements in which the candidates have never flown out to see the sites."

While employers were once resistant to virtual interviews, Kires noted, ". now they find it a great tool and a huge cost savings for both the hospital and the job seeker in terms of transportation costs, time and human wear-and-tear."

Adam Higman, a national healthcare operations consultant, said that while Skype probably will not replace in-person interviews totally, it is "another screening tool before a facility flies a candidate in or schedules a full day of interviews." In other words, you may have to ace a Skyperview before getting an on-site opportunity.

Wondering how to do that? ADVANCE asked a cadre of healthcare, recruitment, communications and career professionals for tips on nailing a Skype interview:

Getting started

  • Use a professional Skype account name, suggested CompHealth's "A Candidate's Guide to Skype." A name like chickwithanattitude will not help you get a job. Also be sure to upload a good professional photo to your Skype account.
  • Find the right environment. Avoid fluorescent light; natural light is best but incandescent is also acceptable. Be sure you are not in front of a window which will cause you to appear in silhouette. Make sure your background is appropriate -- don't sit in the bedroom, in front of a distracting mirror, or in view of a refrigerator with children's artwork. Opt instead for a bookshelf, but make sure book titles are not provocative. ("You don't need to give an interviewer cause to dismiss you because of a library with extreme political or pornographic fare," noted Suzanne Garber, chief networking officer for International SOS.) Consider adding a potted plant, and a certificate discreetly placed (i.e. keep it subtle). Do not settle for a blank wall - too dull and sterile. 

Days before the interview

  • Test everything, advised Josh Williams, a marketing professional who relocated to Philadelphia after being hired through a Skype interview. "Make sure the video, audio and internet connection are working properly," he advised. And be sure you have consistent connectivity (. is your WiFi failsafe? If not, go wired). 
  • Position the camera so that it is looking down on you, said Keith Yaskin, former TV reporter and current media company owner. "A camera even slightly looking up will exaggerate a double chin -- not flattering."
  • Angle your seat. "TV veterans use this trick to avoid the 'mug shot look' and give their faces dimensionality," offered CompHealth. "Turn your torso slightly . your belt buckle should not be facing the webcam . Then turn your head to look at the webcam."
  • Practice with a friend. "Have your friend tell you if the lighting is free of weird shadows, if the sound is clear of echoes,  if your face is far away enough so that you are not leering yet close enough so that your expressiveness can come through," suggested Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career expert with SixFigureStart. And check your mannerisms at the door, advised Mike Honeycutt, a tech-issues consultant. "Normal mannerisms are magnified on Skype, so avoid rapid movements." He also suggested practicing at the same time of day as the interview will occur, "to account for background noises (trains, garbage trucks, mail delivery, cuckoo clocks, etc.)."
  • Look at the camera, not the screen. "Your eyes tend to go to faces on the screen, instead of the camera," noted Marilyn Santiesteban, assistant director of graduate and alumni career services at Bentley University, Waltham, Mass. "To your interviewer you will appear to be looking down instead of making eye contact. To avoid this, tape your webcam to the side (not above) your computer. If you are using a laptop with a built-in camera, cut out a face and tape it onto the camera (cut a hole for the lens in one eye) to remind yourself to look there instead of the screen."

Looking your best

  • "Makeup is a must - for women and men," according to Santiesteban. "High definition cameras pick up every flaw. Women look best with foundation and a slightly brighter-than-usual blush and lipstick. Both genders should use a little face powder, as skin sheen can look like nervous perspiration. Men who have skin on top of their heads should powder that too."  According to Norfolk image consultant Sandy Dumont, "If you are over 50 you should wear foundation with heavy coverage. In general, wear professional makeup - no brown lipstick, no eyeshadow in bright colors." And pay attention to your hands - neutral nail color is the best choice.
  • Make sure your clothes are pressed and clean, suggested Garber. The flaws do show up on screen.
  • Wear strong colors. Some colors and patterns photograph better than others, said Santiesteban. "Navy blue, black, brown and charcoal look sharp. Avoid prints, herringbone tweeds and striped ties as they 'vibrate' onscreen as the camera keeps trying to adjust to the way light hits those patterns." Also avoid red; it "bleeds" on camera.
  • Avoid jewelry that clangs, dangles or distracts. Leave the charm bracelet in the jewelry box. Choose tailored accessories.
  • Sit on your jacket. It's a TV anchorman trick to keep a blazer or suit jacket from riding up over your collar. "Pull your jacket down in the back and sit on it to look polished," said Kires.

Day of the interview

  • Establish a noise-free zone. Put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. Turn off your cell-phone, and mute your land line. "Make sure no one else is home and figure out how to prevent the dog from barking," quipped Yaskin. It all contributes to a serene environment where you can be calm, collected and do your best.
  • Test the internet connection at least 15 minutes early, suggested Honeycutt, noting that having a back-up computer, if available, could give you real peace of mind in case of technical problems.
  • Be fully dressed. "Don't just dress from the waist up, with pajamas or sweats on the bottom," laughed Kires. "You never know when you might have to unexpectedly stand up." And dress for success - business wear -- just as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Time it right. Be aware of time zones in the event your interviewer is 3,000 miles away, advised the CompuHealth guide. Make it a point to arrive early -- be online and on-screen when your interviewers arrive.

During the Interview

  • "Speak slowly and distinctly," advised Dumont, adding, "use your 'lower voice' to communicate confidence and professionalism." And practice good posture at all times.
  • Keep it conversational, not rehearsed, said Santiesteban. "And if you have an accent, mention it early on. You could say, 'You may have noticed I have an accent; I'm originally from China. Please let me know if you would like me to repeat or rephrase anything.' Then check in periodically to make sure you are being clear."
  • Maintain key talking points about yourself and your experience; keep them available but out of the camera's range. "Make sure to introduce some of these points early in the conversation, and pepper them throughout the interview," said Higman.
  • Remember you CAN be seen. "Skype interviewees sometimes forget they are on video conference and forget the interviewer can see them," said Garber. "I've seen candidates put the interview on mute only to accept packages from FedEx or to let the dog out."


Valerie Neff Newitt is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact: vnewitt@advanceweb.com.



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