Blue Sky(pe) Ambitions

SC&C Skype interviewingBy Fred Coon, CEO

Remember the old days when, if you wanted a job in New York City or Chicago you actually had to go there and have an interview? Unless you were one of the top professionals in your field, and the company was actively courting you (and footing the bills), it could be an expensive proposition to travel halfway across the country based on a hope that some company might like to hire you.

Hurray for modern technology!

We are no longer slaves to airlines, car rental places, and expensive hotels as we seek to change careers and locations. With modern, cutting-edge employers it is as simple as finding a quiet room with a really solid Wi-Fi connection, pulling out your laptop and connecting with your interviewers over the net from almost anywhere in the world.

Typically nowadays, everyone seems to have Skype, or some similar program to fulfill the same purpose. Video chatting with several people has just become de rigueur for the modern world. If you don’t have some form of video conferencing program on your desktop, laptop, tablet, phablet, or phone, people look at you like you’re grocery shopping in a tuxedo. It makes no sense.

Smarter Business Practices

Teleconferencing is a real game-changer for business. Even when it isn’t completely free, it is still affordable. Skype is ubiquitous, and has adequate video and sound capabilities for most practical purposes. Most importantly it extends the reach of job seekers and companies.

People on the East Coast can now scout West Coast companies without all the tedious travel; companies can scout for people anywhere, even in another country, from the comfort of their desks. Ultimately though, it saves time—and time is money!

Getting Ready

Appearances

Unless you’re a creative genius, noted for your peccadilloes and neurotic behavior, avoid half-open dressing gowns while shoveling scrambled eggs in your mouth and swilling beer during the interview. In fact, you want to look professional, sitting up straight, neatly dressed in business attire, and freshly shaven. Dress appropriately for the people you will be talking to.

Locale

The place you’re interviewing from should be tidy, with a non-moving, non-distracting background. Do you really need that massive box of candy sitting on the shelf beside your head? Maybe you could put that bag of potato chips crammed into your “Out” basket into a drawer for a few minutes.

Attitude

SC&C Skype appearanceYou did a great job on your clothes, looking professional, looking likely to complement any office you walk into, right? Uncross your arms—it looks defensive—and take your time answering a question. Instead of worrying about having an instant answer, a momentary pause will increase the listeners’ expectation and give a lot more weight to what you say.

Touch your chin and look away briefly once in a while; it makes you look thoughtful. But immediately get back to good “eye-contact” (i.e., looking steadily at the camera or screen). Don’t be “frozen” and make them wonder if the connection has been lost.

Practice

You practice before you go to an in-person interview—that is a given. If you happen to have a convenient partner that can help you out, practice your interview over Skype. It might be particularly helpful to have your friend use screen recording software, or a Skype add-on, so that you can see what you look like from the other person’s point of view once the interview is over.

This can help you identify if you’re making poor eye-contact or if your body language is too aggressive or meek. Once you see yourself you can make adjustments to present yourself more professionally.

Preparation

Have a copy of your printed résumé in front of you for quick reference; consistency is important so give the same numbers and dates every time. Have your three favorite “I failed but learned something” stories in point form so you can select from them, based on the interviewers’’ attitude/preferences.

Be informed about the company, and have some interesting questions about the interviewers themselves. Looking them up online is child’s play; they certainly looked up online information about you. Your opportunity comes when they ask if you have any questions.

“Yes, Mr. Smith, I was wondering about the news story where you initiated [item]. Do you think that will have an impact of the company’s [exports/growth/bottom line] this year?”

“Ms. Jones I understand that you’re going to be taking over the directorship of the Pittsburgh office this spring. What inspired you to move west? Is there some remarkable new opportunity coming up in the region?”

“Mr. Wallace, as my direct supervisor, what will be the milestones I’ll need to hit at the one, three, and six month reviews in order to be considered a success?”

An interview by teleconference is no different than if you had turned up there in person. Yes, you saved time and money, but the essential process remains the same.

The big advantages are that you can have your notes in front of you for reference; that you are in your own environment and comfortable; and that it is easy for you to take notes so that you can ask relevant or insightful questions. Plus you can quickly get out of your business clothes and hang them up, ready for the next interview, before they get wrinkled.

It’s the way of the future. Yes, you may actually still need to attend in person at some point, but one trip is so much better than several. And in the modern work-from-home era that saves companies so much money in terms of office supplies and space rental, you may never need to see the inside of their offices. The future is turning out to be a pretty good place to live.