Career advice: how to do a Skype job interview

People taking part in Skype call in conference room

Video calling services such as Skype and FaceTime have made it easy to interview applicants face-to-face without the hassle of travel.

But the pitfalls of using this new technology are not widely understood. Here, senior university administrators explain what candidates and interviewers need to know.

Jacqueline Marshall
Deputy registrar and director of human resources at the University of Exeter

We increasingly use Skype for an initial interview, so these are important skills for everyone to develop, especially for international roles.

With the right preparation you can make these video call interviews really work for you. For instance, you can have lots of prepped examples laid out in front of you, which the panel will not be able to see, but you must remember that great eye contact is key. You cannot keep looking down at notes.

Technology can sometimes conspire not to work – if this happens, stay calm and accept the situation with good grace. Don’t show your frustrations.

Remember to prep all technical kit well ahead of interview time and perhaps have a practice interview on Skype with a friend just to check your pace and volume. Work hard on eye contact and use people’s names to build rapport. Practise your body language – go for a casual confident position, not leaning forward or folded arms.

Search our database of global university jobs

If you are at home, make sure you create a professional setting – do not unintentionally show too much of your life – and always check what is behind you so there are no distractions rising up behind you.

Kim Frost
Director of human resources at the University of London

Treat it like a normal interview and not like a casual chat with your friends on social media, so wear an appropriate outfit just as you would if you were there in person.

Sit up straight on a solid chair. Don’t use your swivel chair – a lot of candidates swing around while talking and it’s very distracting – and keep the dirty coffee mug out of sight.

And please use a headset – laptops and tablets pick up a lot of background noise and interviewers don’t like straining to hear answers.

Yusra Mouzughi
Deputy vice-chancellor (academic affairs) at Muscat University in Oman

Wherever possible, Skype should only be used to get from a shortlist to a very shortlist. Face-to-face interviews should always be arranged, particularly for senior positions, as body language, errrrms, aaahhhs and instant reactions are difficult to spot on Skype.

Skype interviews work best with structured interviews in which everyone takes turns to ask the questions, as it is more difficult to manage a free-flowing informal conversation in a Skype setting.

Skype is not legal in all countries so check if you are liable for anything by using Skype with a candidate where it may not be legal.

Check in advance whether the bandwidth will allow for use of a camera. This is particularly important if people are dialling in from different locations.

And always check you have really closed the call before you start talking about the candidate.

Amanda Shilton Godwin
Executive officer (professional development) for the Association of University Administrators

Eye contact is really important in interviews for building a rapport with the interviewers, and you need to think consciously about this on Skype. Remember that for the interviewers to see you, you need to look into the camera.

But don’t forget to also look at the interviewers, so you can respond to body language cues from them. Don’t be fazed by time delays; be relaxed and take time to listen.

Sandra Heidinger
Director of human resources at the University of Strathclyde and chair of Universities Human Resources

Skype interviews will never replicate the benefits of face-to-face meetings – I am an advocate of "no appointment without a handshake", which means a follow-up visit after any Skype interview.

However, Skype interviews are useful for enabling the employer and the employee to identify if there is enough common interest in progressing an application further – they can help both parties to rule out employment relationships that are unlikely to work.

From the candidate’s perspective, I’d suggest making sure you have a decent microphone so that the panel can hear you. Always have a back-up phone in case the connection goes halfway through an interview.

Check what is showing in the background – tidy up your dirty washing and remind your partner not to walk in with a cup of tea for you. I’ve experienced both of these as a panel member.

Set up the camera at a reasonable distance and angle so that the panel are not looking up your nose for the interview.

Try to look into the camera, not at the screen. This will help you to make more of a connection with the panel. Still think about body language.

Remember to take account of time differences if connecting to a different country. You’ll not be at your best at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Originally published on Times Higher Education, November 10, 2016

Pic source: Alamy/iStock montage

Back to listing