Further Questions: What’s a Skype Interview Like?

I saw this question a few weeks ago, I think on ALATT, and decided to ask the people who hire librarians:

Have you interviewed candidates via Skype or another videoconferencing platform?  How do these interviews differ than in-person interviews?  Any tips for candidates about to do a Skype interview?

Marleah Augustine We have interviewed candidates via Skype, and I’d say it’s just about as effective as in-person interviews. I do think it’s harder for the candidate to put on their “interview face”, which can come across the screen and reflect negatively. Sometimes it is just easier to get a feel for the candidate when you are in the same room with them, so I would still recommend getting to the job location if it’s at all possible for the interview. However, sometimes that is just not possible. My tips – dress up just as you would for an in-person interview, have a plain background so there’s not a lot of stuff behind you, and check your video and audio settings ahead of time.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

I have personally not been on an a search committee where we used Skype. In general we do phone screenings then on campus interviews, but I have used Skype for conference calls or presentations so I could offer some general tips. I would make sure you have tested all the software you will need in advance and practice with Skype itself (even if you have to Skype with your grandma or a friend). They can let you know how to angle the camera and how to face the camera so you know what will make you look the best. My other suggestion would be to not wear a white shirt so you do not look washed out. Perhaps even wearing the shirt you plan to wear on your interview when you practice with grandma might be a good idea! Otherwise, practice like you would for any other interview.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

I have not interviewed candidates via Skype.  It seem like it would be quite similar to the telephone interview, though, with the addition of some visuals.  As with phone interviews, I would be sure to take into account that some people present themselves differently on the phone (or video) than in person.  Someone who is a “big talker” can seem very good in an interview situation, but that may not necessarily be what you want for the position.  Some candidates are more talkative and open in person than on the phone, and this is just a personal difference.

– Anonymous

Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library Systemwe regularly use Skype to interview candidates and have had much success with it. There are definitely a few things candidates being interviewed via Skype should keep in mind.  The points I make here are actually based on conversations our hiring team would have after Skype interviews, based on our experience.
First of all, know the technology. Make sure that the interview you are conducting via Skype isn’t the first time you are using the technology. Make a few test calls to family or friends before the interview, and do troubleshooting on your end. This will make the experience a lot less stressful if you are new to using Skype. Know how to adjust sound and camera angles.
Username. For professional interviews, using a Skype handle that reflects your actual name is better than something silly or cute based on a nickname or possibly even something inappropriate. An inappropriate username might make anyone calling you wonder if you are taking the job hunt very seriously.
The background you choose for your camera angle also matters. Don’t choose a distracting background, you don’t want people on the other end spending time wondering what is happening in your surroundings instead of focusing on your answers. Also, be sure you are comfortable and safe. We had one interviewee tell us that she was sitting on a chair on top of a desk and I spent the whole interview worried that she would fall off.
Make sure you know your location and potential background sounds. Trains going by a window or PA system announcements in the middle of an interview can be distracting and can throw off your interviewing groove. If you are interviewing from home, be sure to close the doors and remove all distractions. Having a cat walk in front of the camera may be cute when you are talking to grandma or your friends, but again, it has the potential to make interviewers question how serious you are taking the interview. Having children screaming in the background or dogs barking can also be a major distraction and has the potential to the impair sound quality of the interview.
Choose a flattering angle. I have spent many Skype interviews looking up interviewee’s nostrils or getting a close up of certain parts of their faces. Choose a camera angle that shows your face and neck, perhaps part of your upper body, without being too close up. Also, remember to look at the camera instead of at the screen where you will be seeing the interviewers. Looking at the camera is the closest thing you can get to establishing eye contact if you are interviewing on camera (via Skype) and it shows that you are comfortable working with the technology.
When conducting Skype interviews, I like to make a point at the beginning of the interview about how to proceed if we experience technical difficulties. If an actual technical problem occurs, don’t panic. Being able to go with the flow has the potential to earn you major points in the interview. Everyone knows interviews are stressful situations and if you are able to stay calm when the unexpected happens, it goes a long way to showing the hiring committee your flexibility and ability to “go with the flow”.
Many organizations will require a “test call” some time before the actual Skype interview, to ensure a connection can be established without a problem. While the test call may be made by someone who is not part of the hiring committee, it is still a good idea to treat the test call as if it were part of the actual interview.
Once you have camera angle, sound and other technology issues all figured out, I would encourage potential candidates to treat the Skype interview the same as they would treat an in-person interview. Dress the same way you would for an in person interview and behave the same way as well. The reason we conduct Skype interviews versus telephone interviews is because seeing a candidate on camera is supposed to give us a view of his or her reactions and by extension, a glimpse into his or her personality.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
Laurie PhillipsYes, for our last faculty (librarian) search, we used Skype in place of phone interviews. We would not use Skype in place of in-person interviews if at all possible. There is no substitute for meeting a candidate in person and having a day with them in various settings, especially when we are hiring someone for a tenure track position. We offered candidates the opportunity to Skype or phone interview. Some either couldn’t work it out to Skype from their location or weren’t comfortable with it. One person planned to Skype on her phone (bad idea) and we asked her to switch to phone because the video quality was terrible and it was distracting. We had both options in the room, just in case.  I have to say that our candidates who Skyped with us ended up with a better impression. We were able to see facial cues and they were, too. We could also gauge energy level, etc., which is important. Tips – it’s really obvious if you are reading from prepared notes on a Skype interview. Don’t do it. Think about how your location looks on camera. Practice with someone to make sure it’s going to work. Don’t Skype on your phone. Be prepared to switch to phone quickly if it doesn’t work.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
Samantha Thompson-FranklinI was on one search committee last Spring that conducted interviews by Skype (and we’re about to do it for another search committee that I’m on this summer). I think that it’s a great tool for both the candidates and the search committee members and it’s nice to be able to see the person that you’re speaking with. It was also nice when we brought candidates in for on-campus interviews because I felt like I had already met the individuals. I would say that the candidates need to approach the Skype interviews the same they would an in-person interview, so dress interview-style (no pajamas or lounge pants!) and be attentive and interactive with your interviewers.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thank YOU for reading! If you liked it then you shoulda put a comment on it.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Public

3 responses to “Further Questions: What’s a Skype Interview Like?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

  2. Megan

    Reblogged this on Beyond the Shush and commented:
    Since I’m preparing for a Skype interview . . . Here are some great tips!


  3. Pingback: Return to Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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