Coaching Candidates for the Skype Interview

Our Executive Search work is done primarily in Software, Mobile, and Interactive media and as such we’re often engaged in nationwide searches that require a Skype or other Video Conference call. With each virtual interview that we facilitate I offer coaching and general pep-talks to our candidates prior to their call so as to leave them well prepared for what is naturally an awkward venue. Below I’ve shared some common concerns and natural insecurities that people share, especially those who aren’t regular users of video conferencing.

Please hold, we’re having technical difficulties:
Nothing will create a feeling of anxiety and cause a candidate to lose focus on the task at hand more than a broken stream or technical difficulties. I recommend using a wired internet connection where possible and your best hardware. Don’t pull the 2002 Dell Dimensions out of the closet and hope for it to perform with 2011 Software applications. Most importantly, test your equipment AND your Skype software prior to your meeting.
Smile at the camera…Or not? “Where do I look?” We field this question more than any other. It’s an unnatural feeling, especially when your Webcam is mounted somewhere other than on your monitor. As an engaging person with good manners, you want to make eye-contact with a person as you’re speaking so as to read their body language, exhibit confidence, and generally speaking, do what your momma taught you when you’re talking to others! The catch is this, by looking at someone’s face on the monitor, you’re actually looking away from your camera and consequently, looking away from your interviewer. My suggestions are:

1) While talking, look into the eye of the camera, and while listening, look directly at your counterpart.

2) Make smooth and consistent transitions looking from camera to monitor. While there’s a need for some movement of your eyes, you certainly don’t want to look shifty.

3) Keep relevant documents in front of you so that you can refer to them when need be, sometimes it’s a bit of a relief to look away from the camera to refer to data that you have on paper.

4) Mount your webcam as close to the spot of virtual eye contact as possible

5) More than anything else, practice using your webcam prior to your virtual interview. Try talking to someone less intimate than a friend or relative, ideally a professional peer.

My home office is also where I sleep, should I clean my room? Many people avoid Skype videoconferences altogether because they work out of less than traditional offices. Set your work station up in a place with a relatively clutter free table in front of you and a blank wall behind you and make sure your lighting is decent. Also, have a loved one watch the dogs or keep your cats in a separate part of the house. With these meetings, especially for those who don’t do videoconferencing on a regular basis, it’s all about removing distractions. Prepare for a worst case scenario, if your dog only barks when the mail carrier comes around, and the mail carrier isn’t due for another 3 hours, assume that the mail carrier is running early or that the call is going to run 3 hours. Do not take the risk of having to halt your meeting to silence the sound of your beloved Beagle’s vocal siren.

What do I wear? Seems obvious enough. You’re going to a job interview, dress accordingly. Comb your hair. Brush you teeth. Lay off the spray tan. And despite the fact that your Skype counterparts won’t see anything from the waist down, wear pants.

Practice, practice, practice: Get to know Skype intimately. If you’ve tried it in the past but didn’t love it as a result of tech problems, or just didn’t feel comfortable with it, you absolutely must resolve these issues prior to your videoconference. Interviewing is about being prepared, being confident, and focusing on navigating the challenges that the interviewer is posing to you. That’s a big workload. Don’t add to it by entering the meeting with the potential for self-inflicted technical wounds that will cause you to perform at a level less than 100%.


orignal text by Tyson Spring, Sr. Executive Search Consultant, at

Views: 407

Comment by Amber on September 23, 2011 at 1:41pm

I just recently have done a few Skype calls with candidates, and thank goodness they were informal! I would be a little uncomfortable personally if I was being interviewed for a job. I hope to work out a few things, but what you mentioned about where to look is definitely the biggest challenge right now. I have an external webcam perched on my monitor. So if I look at the candidate on my screen, to them I am looking at their tie - very glad none have been female as my point of view would probably be inappropriate. So this weekend I will be messing around with the camera location, practicing with my brother so he can tell what I'm looking at from his end and improving my background and lighting.


Question: What do you do if a candidate does not have access to do a video call?

Comment by Jeremy Spring on September 23, 2011 at 1:50pm
Yeah, good question Amber.  If a client absolutely insists on the video call, that client will most likely receive a candidate's inability to facilitate the call as a strike against them. In their defense, a cheap USB webcam can be found just about anywhere these days. And Skype, et al are free services.  But with most organizations the videoconference interview has not become standard protocol yet, leaving good space for a recruiter to mitigate that situation, I think.


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