How to Do Skype Interviews the Right Way

ID-100103810In today’s digital world, in-person interviews are increasingly giving way to Skype interviews.  They make sense from the employer’s perspective because they are less time consuming and therefore less expensive.  However, they are actually more challenging than a traditional interview for the job seeker.  While they appear easier, there are a lot of potential dangers lurking in Skype interviews.  Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you ace this interview and make the employer want to meet you in person:

Do practice using Skype ahead of time.  Nothing can halt a Skype interview quicker than technical difficulties.  While your ability to use Skype may have nothing to do with your qualifications for the job, it will have an impact on how they perceive your level of competence.  Before your Skype interview make a few calls to your friends and ask them how you look and sound.  When you are comfortable using the application, you can focus your energy on the interview itself.  

Do dress professionally. Since you are not meeting the employer in person, they will pay even closer attention to the way that you look.  Dress as professionally as you would for an in person interview and don’t count on the fact that they’ll only be able to see you from the waist up.  

Do prepare as much as you would for an in-person interview. Job seekers often make the mistake of not preparing enough for phone interviews.  A Skype interview is likely more than a screening.  Be ready to discuss your skills, experience, and fit for the job in detail.  

Do practice on video.  The great thing about video interviews is that you can practice them.  Make the time to record a practice interview and watch it back to see if there is anything that you need to improve.  You might even be surprised by how professional you look and sound!

Do be personable.  Nothing replaces a personal connection.  Smile a lot and make an effort to engage with the interviewers.  Keep in mind that they are trying to find someone who will fit in well with their team.

Don’t forget that they can see the background.  Pay attention to where you are interviewing.   Look on the screen to see what the interviewer is seeing.  Make sure that it’s not messy and that there is nothing that will give up information about your personal life.  Try to keep the background as neutral and professional as possible.

Don’t allow distractions.  Distractions such as children, pets or the television will kill your professional image.  Find a quiet place for your interview where you will not be interrupted.

While there are a lot of pitfalls with Skype interviews, if you can successfully navigate them and stay focused, you will stand out from your competition.  The first one may be intimidating, but after you do a few, it’ll become second nature.  Good luck!

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of pat138241 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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Improve Your Telephone Communication

Most people are a little uncomfortable speaking on the phone.  It can be difficult and awkward, and sometimes you aren’t sure if your message is coming across.  Since most selection processes include a telephone interview, and many positions demand effective telephone communication, it is worth taking the time to improve your telephone skills.  Here are some steps that you can take to try to get more comfortable speaking on the phone:

1)  Break it down.  Why is speaking on the phone difficult for you?  Is it more difficult to listen without seeing the speaker’s facial expressions and body language, or to speak without using nonverbal communication?  Once you identify which part of telephone communication is challenging for you, you can strategically focus your efforts on improving it.

2)  Practice on the phone.  Many people are uncomfortable with speaking on the phone because they rarely do it.  The more you speak on the phone (even to friends and family), the more comfortable you will be.  In addition, you can practice your listening skills by actively listening to podcasts or books on tape.  You can practice speaking by recording yourself answering questions and playing it back to see how you sound.

3)  Focus on the conversation.  If you are distracted, telephone communication is extremely difficult.  It is best to find a quiet and comfortable place to speak on the phone.  Listen carefully and don’t multitask.  Have a paper and pen handy to make notes.  If you don’t understand what the other person is saying, ask them to repeat it.  If you let them continue when you don’t understand, you will likely get more and more lost and may completely misunderstand what they are trying to say.

4)  Take your time.  Be sure to organize your thoughts and write down your objectives for the conversation.  When speaking, be direct and to the point.  Don’t talk on and on.  Also remember to speak clearly and slowly.

5) Add enthusiasm to your voice.  Don’t be monotone.  Many people keep their voices very flat.  Expression in your voice is particularly important when you are speaking on the phone because your listener cannot see you.  Your intonation is the only way that they can detect your enthusiasm.

Since most of our communication is nonverbal, telephone communication is inherently difficult for us.  However, since many of our important conversations will take place over the telephone, we need to become comfortable with it.  If you take the time to practice, and remember to focus, it will get better.  Try to enjoy talking on the phone and smile.  This will immediately make you sound warm and friendly.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

The Mistakes that Job Seekers Make With Telephone Interviews

How do you perform in a phone interview?  Are you confident that you will pass through the telephone screening?  Since resources are limited at many organizations, more and more employers are using the telephone interview to whittle down their giant pile of resumes.

Many job seekers don’t pay much attention to the telephone interview.  It is important to recognize that the telephone interview is an integral step in the screening process, and that it requires the same level of preparation as any other interview.  Here are some common mistakes that job seekers regularly make with the telephone interview:

They are not completely focused on the interview.  Some people check their e-mail, scan the newspaper or keep their eye on the television during telephone interviews.  Imagine if you did that at an in-person interview!  Your performance will not be nearly as strong as it would be if you were completely focused.  You may be able to answer the questions, but you won’t come across as engaged or enthusiastic, and your answers won’t be as strong.

They have not prepared for the interview. While most job seekers will spend a lot of time preparing for an in-person interview, many do not spend any time preparing for a telephone interview.  Some job seekers even have trouble remembering the position and the organization when the employer calls.  While it can be more difficult if the telephone interview is unexpected, it helps to keep a list of the organizations and the positions applied for, and to always have details and examples of experience ready.  If the telephone interview is scheduled, prepare for it as you would for any other interview.

They do not have their resume or job description in front of them.  It is a lot easier to provide detailed examples of your experience if you have a copy of your resume in front of you.  Also, you are better able to demonstrate that you are a good fit for the position if you are looking at the job description.  Job interviews are difficult, so make use of any possible advantage.

There is background noise or other distractions.  When there is a lot of background noise, it does not give the employer a positive impression of your level of professionalism.  Barking dogs, yelling children, and a loud television all present an image of you being disorganized and chaotic rather than skilled and confident.

They are too passive.  People are often quieter on the phone than they are in person.  Many job seekers fall into the trap of limiting responses to one-sentence answers.  This approach will not make a good impression on the employer.  Show interest in the position, be engaged in the interview, and don’t be afraid to ask your own questions.

They have poor telephone communication skills.  For various reasons, many people are not comfortable speaking on the phone.  If this is the case for you, it is particularly important that you practice the telephone interview.  It is not enough to practice the questions, you need to practice on the phone.  During your actual interview, speak clearly and slowly, and make sure that you will be undisturbed.

There are technical difficulties.  While it is not your fault if you have poor reception or if your phone dies, it does reflect on you, and the employer may respond to this frustrating situation by removing you from consideration.  You need to do everything in your power to make sure that your phone is working properly.  If you are having difficultly, let the employer know that you will call them right back on a more reliable phone.

Telephone interviews can be intimidating, but if you prepare ahead of time and stay focused during the interview, you will be miles ahead of many of your competitors.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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I Hung Up on an Employer!

 Cell phones are notoriously glitchy and with so many people using them to job search, phone issues cause more awkward situations than ever before.  So what should you do if you’re talking to your dream employer and the line suddenly goes dead? 

Don’t panic.  This is probably not the first time that this employer has been hung up on and it won’t be the last.  Stay calm so that you can effectively respond to the situation. 

Call them back.  You want to continue this conversation as soon as possible, so call the employer back immediately.  If you get their voicemail, leave a message.  They may be calling you and leaving you a message at the exact same time.  If that’s the case, then try again. 

Apologize.  Regardless of the reason, nobody likes being hung up on.  It makes you appear unprofessional or like you’re not actually interested in the job.  Apologize and provide a brief explanation, but then move on.  Don’t dwell on it.

Consider getting a new phone.  Any phone can drop a call, but some phones (and service providers) are worse than others.  Does this happen to you a lot?  Do your friends and family complain about your phone?  As a job seeker, you need your phone to be reliable.  If your phone is consistently causing you problems, then it may be time to invest in a new one.

It is both embarrassing and frustrating when your phone cuts out on an employer.  It’s hard enough to get an employer to call you, so when technology teams up against you, it feels like you don’t even have a chance.  Don’t take it so hard.  Everyone has this problem at least once and employers are used to it.  As long as you address the situation with grace and professionalism, it won’t hold you back.

(Written by Karen Bivand)

How to Prepare for a Telephone Interview

Telephone interviews can be tricky.  Because you can do the interview in the comfort of your own home, many job seekers don’t take them seriously.  This is a mistake.  Employers use telephone interviews to screen out applicants who are not qualified or are not a good fit for the organization.  If you don’t impress the employer in the phone interview, you will never have the opportunity to showcase your knowledge and expertise in person.  Here are some tips that will help you prepare for a telephone interview:

Research the job and the company.  If you want to perform well in the the interview, you need to spend some time researching both the company and the position.  Through your research, you will find out the company’s priorities and values, which you can focus on in the interview.  By getting a thorough understanding of the position, you are better able to demonstrate how your skills and experience make you a good fit for the job.   

Choose an interview space that is quiet and free from distractions.  It is important that you find a room for your interview where you can be away from children, animals, your spouse, the television, and any other distraction.  If you are not completely focused on your interview, you will come across as disinterested or unqualified.   

Have your resume and the job description ready.  One big advantage that you have in telephone interviews is the opportunity to discreetly look at your resume and the job description while you are answering the interviewer’s questions.  This allows you to provide specific and detailed answers that will impress the employer.  Be sure that you have these documents ready so that you don’t waste this opportunity.

Have a pen and paper handy.  The interviewer may provide you with useful information, or they may use a term that you want to research later.  If they decide to schedule you for an in-person interview, they could give you a date and time and even directions of where to meet them.  To ensure that you don’t forget any of these details, have a pen and a pad of paper ready so that you can write it all down.

Prepare for common interview questions.  While an interviewer can always throw you a curve ball, there are common questions are often asked.  If you are prepared to answer these questions well, you will be more confident and able to impress the employer, which will make it easier for you to recover if one of the interviewer’s questions throws you through a loop.  Here are some examples of common telephone interview questions: Why are you interested in this position?; How did you hear about this position?; What makes you a good fit for this role?; What are you strengths and weaknesses?; and What are your salary expectations?

In some ways, telephone interviews are even more difficult than in-person interviews; you can’t see the interviewer’s body language or facial expressions and many people are less comfortable communicating over the phone.  However, if you are well prepared and you make sure to convey enthusiasm in your voice, you will be well on your way to getting invited in for an in-person interview.

(Written by Karen Bivand)

Excel at Telephone Interviews

You are a star at in-person interviews, but even the most seasoned professional can have trouble when faced with the telephone interview.  How can you be sure that you pass the telephone screening?  Here are some guidelines that will help:


1.  Practice on the phone.  Telephone interviews are a completely different animal to in-person interviews.  Keep in mind that between 60% to 70% of our communication is nonverbal.* When you are on the phone, you lose all of that and you are only left with verbal communication.  By practicing on the phone, you can ensure that you are not depending on your facial expressions and body language to communicate your personality.  Your voice has to carry it all.  Make sure that your voice is strong and enthusiastic and don’t forget to smile.  (Strangely, a smile does carry through over the phone.)


2.  Make your answers good.  Within this limited realm of communication, the content of your answers is more important than ever.  It is a good idea to have your resume in front of you and to have a list of key messages.  You can use them to help jog your memory, but don’t read from them.  You don’t want to sound too scripted.


3.  Find a quiet place to talk with no distractions.  Listen carefully during your interview as the employer is evaluating your communication skills.  If you don’t understand a question, ask them to repeat it.  If it is not a good time for you, ask if you can schedule a time to call them back.  If at all possible, it is best for you to take the call, but if you won’t be able to concentrate, it’s better for you to reschedule.  For a phone interview, you should set aside at least 30 minutes.


4.  Take it seriously and answer the questions carefully.  You won’t usually get a job offer from a phone interview, but you can certainly get screened out.


5.  Have professional and reliable voicemail.  Anytime you are using the telephone for business purposes, pay careful attention to your voicemail.  It is a reflection on you and your professionalism.

 
There is no need to be intimidated by the phone interview.  Just make sure that you’re prepared, keep focused, and be yourself.  Good luck!
 
*(Source: Engleberg,Isa N. Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. My Communication Kit Series, 2006.)  
 

(Photo From: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)