How to ace a Skype interview

Daniel Mason, Senior editor
July, 2015

Skype interviews are an increasingly popular way of assessing candidates across all job sectors - this advice should help ensure you're ready to take on the challenge

Don't be surprised if a potential employer requests that you interview over Skype. As Estanis Bouza, careers consultant at City University London says, 'Video interviews are very much on the increase and they are now being used by recruiters in every industry, so students are likely to come across one at some point.'

Use a quiet location, where you won't be disturbed by noises and people

It's particularly commonplace in sectors such as marketing, sales and media, or if you're applying for work abroad. In some cases Skype can be used if you are invited to an interview but, for whatever reason, you can't make it; rather than cancelling and missing out on the job, ask whether a video call would be an acceptable alternative.

You should prepare in the same way as for a face-to-face interview - so research the company and think carefully about what questions you expect. 'Although some candidates may worry about the prospect of talking to a camera, the truth is that video interviews have undeniable benefits for them,' says Estanis.

For example, it means the interview takes place in the comfort of your own home - or another location of your choice - and makes use of technology you may already own and be familiar with. Even so, all interviews are nerve-wracking, so give yourself the best chance of success by following these top tips.

What should I plan in advance?

Plan well in advance where you are going to do the interview. 'Use a quiet location, where you won't be disturbed by noises and people,' suggest Ian Boardman, head of career development and employment, and Tahira Majothi, careers consultant, at the University of Salford. 'Use a clean and simple background so the recruiter focuses on you.'

Estanis agrees, 'Pick a quiet and well-lit place with a good internet connection, a plain background and where interruptions are not likely to occur.' Practise with friends or family to check that your technology is set up correctly and that you come across well on camera. Make any adjustments, such as to volume levels or lighting, based on their feedback.

Thorough preparation and repeated practice-runs will make you much more confident when it comes to the real thing, especially if this type of interview is new to you.

What should I do on the day?

'Dress to impress,' says Estanis. You should wear the same outfit you would have chosen for a face-to-face meeting with the employer. Ian and Tahira add, 'This is your opportunity to give a professional first impression.'

But that doesn’t just mean your clothes - you should also ensure your Skype profile username and image are appropriate.

'Reread your application and identify examples you can use to demonstrate you possess the knowledge and experiences being sought,' suggest Ian and Tahira. It's important not to focus so much on making sure the video interview goes well technically that you forget to prepare for the questions themselves.

Make sure you close any software on your computer that might play notification sounds, and switch your phone to silent, to guarantee you won't be distracted.

Also, let everyone in the house know you're about to start the interview so they don't interrupt.

Then sign in to Skype early to ensure you're calm and composed, and position any notes you want to use where you can see them easily without having to turn away from the camera. You should be ready to go.

How should I act during the interview?

'Skype interviews allow recruiters to get a sense of your personality and your communication skills,' say Ian and Tahira. 'Use positive body language, make good eye contact, smile, listen and take an interest in what the interviewer says.'

Estanis points out, 'Always look into the camera to make eye contact with the interviewer', not at the screen. Speak clearly, and be careful not to interrupt as this is more easily done with the slight delay over the internet than during a face-to-face meeting.

If there are any technical hitches, for example if you can't hear the questions very well, don't struggle through as you won't put in your best performance. Mention the problem. It may easily be fixed, or the interviewer may be happy to end the call and redial.

Have any documents such as your CV or portfolio available as you could be asked to send them during or after the interview. Then, once it has come to an end, send an acknowledgement email thanking the recruiter.

'Reflect on what went well,' advise Ian and Tahira. 'What would you do differently next time? Use your university careers service to help you prepare for future interviews.'