When Mike McCormack applied for an office job two years ago, he was interviewed in his living room wearing a button-up shirt and basketball shorts.
He got hired.
Like many students, McCormack used Skype, a video-chat program, for the interview.
A graduate student at Rutgers University, McCormack used Skype to interview for an office position at his undergraduate alma mater, New York University. There were technical difficulties when his interviewer’s video would not load, but McCormack said it did not impact the quality of his interview.
The casual atmosphere did lend itself to some slight mishaps, though.
“The interviewer was impressed that I dressed up, but asked me to stand up,” he said. “I knew I would be sitting down, so I just put on a button up shirt and tie, but left on basketball shorts,” he said. And, McCormack’s mother walked in during the interview and encouraged the employer to hire her son.
His boss often joked about these things after McCormack was hired, he said.
“I was able to be funny and engaged, rather than going through the motion of a typical interview,” McCormack said. “Obviously the down fall is that you are speaking to a box, but once you get past that, it is an interesting way to seek employment.”
Skype interviews are also becoming increasingly more popular options for students studying abroad, said Judy Clare, director of the Amica Center for Career Education at Bryant University.
When Skype became more popular about three years ago, Clare said Bryant University recognized the software’s potential for helping students. “We found whenever a student was studying abroad, they were at a disadvantage for applying for jobs,” Clare said.
Often, when employers came on campus to interview groups of students, they would overlook students who were abroad, she said. Now, when employers are on campus for interviews, they can use Clare’s office to Skype students in different countries.
“Some employers are hesitant because they haven’t [used Skype], but afterward they’re always enthusiastic,” she said.
Clare has numerous examples of students who successfully landed jobs from Skype interviews. One such student would have had to wait months to interview with the employers when she returned to the U.S. By that time, the company would have already made their decisions. She was able to interview using Skype and was hired, Clare said.
Clare said she did not know of many other universities that helped arrange Skype interviews, but said she thought they would be helpful everywhere.
But, as Sara Thomas found out, not every Skype interview goes well.
She used the video service to interview for a summer internship last year and became distracted when her roommate knocked on her door and talked to her during the interview. “I think I was too comfortable sitting in my college apartment doing an interview,” said Thomas, a 2011 graduate of Loyola University Chicago.
Thomas said that so many things could go wrong in a Skype interview and that she thought they were not always beneficial.
“If a company is serious about you, they’ll make sure to interview you in a setting that actually requires pants,” she said.
Clare felt that Skype interviews are here to stay, however, due to convenience and flexibility. “As time goes on, I think the technology and equipment will get better and better,” she said. “It’s certainly not going anywhere.”
Judy Clare’s “11 Tips for Successful Skype Interviewing Tips”
1) Practice with Skype a few days—not an hour—before the interview until you feel comfortable.
2) Be sure your cell phone or any other phone is off during the Skype session.
3) Use lamp lighting and not overhead lighting, and do not sit in front of a window or any bright light.
4) You want good contrast. If you have a light background, wear a darker suit—and wear light colors if there’s a darker background.
5) Eliminate clutter in the background (a bookcase or piece of furniture is OK, as long as it is neat).
6) Cover your bases in advance, so you won’t have any interruptions or noise distractions.
7) Look directly at the webcam lens rather than at the screen.
8) Show enthusiasm and confidence, and remember to smile.
9) Dress professionally, as you would for any interview.
10) Consider the Skype interview not as a practice interview, but as the “real thing,” because it is.
11) Be sure you have the employer’s phone number ready in case Skype doesn’t work.
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