Skype and Google Hangouts Interviews: How to Prepare, and How They Differ From In-Person

In a recent polling of HR managers across the the nation, over 50% said they used video interviews very often, as opposed to only 25% who said they never used it at all.  With broadband speed increasing and video conferencing software becoming increasingly better and more affordable, studies show that most millennials actually prefer to work from home.

Taking all of this into account, it’s clear that the use of video for job interviews is here to stay.

With all the conveniences afforded by a simple skype interview, it’s no surprise that industries are embracing them as an alternative to the in-person variety.  Let’s take a moment to find out exactly what is driving this trend.

Why Video Interviews Are Taking Over

 For job seekers, video interviews streamline the process and reduce the cost and effort associated with finding a job:   

  • You schedule a specific appointment and stream right into your hopeful employer’s office.  

  • No travel, no parking, no waiting.  

  • The moment you close your Skype window or Google Hangout, the interview is over and you’re alone, in the comfort of your own home.  You can crack open a beer and let off some steam, having averted that anxious drive home.

Still, don’t get caught in the assumption that just because it’s a video interview doesn’t mean it’s any less formal.  All the classic rules apply.  Dress to impress, look them in the eye, and act (fake) like you know exactly what you’re doing all the time.  But the real trick is being able to master the new variables, along with the old.

Mastering the New Variables

Skype & Google: Which Will You Choose?

It’s best to get familiar with the two primary platforms that you will be using in the video interview process.  

Microsoft’s Skype is free for anyone to download online.  One-on-one video conferencing is free, but you will have to subscribe to the 4.99 per month Skype Premium to activate the group calling feature.  Skype allows for screen-sharing and file sharing, as well as integration with Facebook and outlook.  When it comes to cross-compatibility on different devices, Skype is the landslide winner, but it is known to have more issues with quality and connection that the other platforms.

Google + Hangouts are available to anyone with a Google Plus account.  Up to 10 people can join in a single video conference, and like Skype, Google  + offers screen and file sharing.  Hangouts can also be integrated with all of Google’s social networks (Google+, Google Drive, and Youtube).

Facetime is Apple’s video communication platform, which means, like anything from Apple, it functions exclusively with Apple products.  It also only supports one-on-one video conferencing, so the options are limited at best.  That being, assuming both parties can gain access to Macbooks, Facetime offers a higher quality connection than it’s lead competitors

The caveat to all of these is that they are not cross-compatible.  You can’t join a Google Hangout using Facetime or Skype.  For this reason, you’ll want to be set up and familiar with both, allowing you to accommodate whichever platform your prospective employer requests.  

Make sure to have all your technology in working order

The first thing you want to do when preparing for a video interview is to make sure that your tech is in order.  If the camera or built-in microphone have proven unreliable in the past, new equipment would be a wise investment.  When your image is fuzzy or your sound quality is harsh, that reflects on you.  

By investing in a Skype certified webcam, such as the Logitech HD C615 or the Telylabs Tely HD, you can rest assured that your hardware will be compatible with your communications platform.  

The Skype Store is also a great place to find the best microphone or recording device. whether it’s a headset, like the Logitech Headset H800, or a standard mic, like the Blue Microphones Yeti.  You’ll have to customize to suit your comforts and technical requirements.  Present your digital image with focus and clarity, and your personal image will be conveyed accordingly.  

Make sure you have a strong connection.  If the wifi in your apartment is slow or unstable, ask a friend if you can borrow his or her place for the interview.  Free wifi spots are not an option because the connections are generally slow and it’s an environment you can’t control.

But anyone who lives in the 21st century knows, sometimes technology just fails.  You can have top-notch recording equipment and ultra-fast bandwidth, but come interview time, Skype may still decide to litter your screen with pixels and blips.  If this happens, the best course for action is to call it out. You can always say something like:

“I’ve noticed that Skype is acting erratically.  I think if I shut it down and start it back up, it should fix the problem.  Would you mind postponing this interview for a moment?  I wouldn’t want these problems to hurt our communication.”

More often than not, the person on the other end with understand and value your commitment to doing things right.  By pausing to address the issue, you show your employer that you are a problem-solver, who won’t settle for unsatisfactory results.

On the other hand, if you choose to ignore problems during an interview, you risk sending your potential employer the opposite message.  Then, if you proceed to misunderstand each other, due to a poor connection, that communication breakdown is on you.

What does your environment look like?

Another new variable in the equation is the venue from which you present yourself.  In the conventional interview, environmental factors were neutralized because every candidate comes to the same place to conduct the interview. Now, the interviewee has the added responsibility of dressing their backdrop.

Now, before you start filling your walls with every certificate and accolade you’ve ever earned, know this: simplicity and humility go a long way.  If your backdrop reads like a selling point, interviewers are going to suspect that you’re compensating, and let’s face it, you probably are.  Your answers, both verbal and non, should do all the work.

The goal of your backdrop should be to work back toward the neutralization of the classic interview. Take down posters and avoid flamboyant decor.  Plain, non-provocative colors like blue, gray, or tan, are most functional in the background, as they are the least likely to drive attention away from you, and that’s where you want to keep their eyes at all times.

For that same reason, you should take every possible step to prevent interruptions.  Ideally, you would want to have a house (or apartment) to yourself, but if that’s not an option, shut yourself in a quiet room and make sure that your roommates or family members know not to come in.  The same goes for pets.  You may believe you have the world’s most charming cat, but your interviewer is less inclined to agree when it’s walking right in front of the camera.

Distractions come from the computer as well.  Make sure that all unnecessary browsers and applications are closed out before the interview starts.  Messages and updates can wait until after the interview.

Stay calm and keep your composure

If you think you can just wash your face, throw on a button-up, and be ready for a video interview, you might want to think again.  All of the appearance rules from the old ways of interviewing still apply.  If anything, there’s added pressure because you haven’t had to brave the elements to get to this interview.  It’s more important than ever that you look competent and professional.

If you want to act professional, you need to feel professional.  To feel professional, you need to look professional.  This means more than just the waist up.  Those pajama bottoms carry with them a certain slacker’s fatigue.  If you’re going to get your head in this interview, you need to dress the part from head to toe.

Take the time before the interview to frame yourself in the camera.  Know where you need to sit, and how you need to position yourself to maximize your presence.  Once the interview starts, close out the box that allows you to see yourself.  If you don’t, that little box will have your eyes for the duration of the interaction, and the person on the other end will notice.  

Maintaining eye contact is easier than ever, as it can be achieved by simply looking into the camera.  That being said, it’s important to be able to gage your interviewer’s reaction the things you say.  For that reason, it’s advised to arrange your camera and on-screen interface in a way that facilitates a steady eye line.  If your gaze is darting every which way to cover all your bases, the person on the other end will likely read that as insecurity.

Lastly, while it’s tempting to let yourself get comfortable in your own home, you need to view this virtual space as a professional setting.  Sit up straight, focus your attention, and speak with authority.  That comfy couch behind you can wait until the interview is over and you’re back in home-mode.

For all the pros and cons of  video interviewing, you, as the interviewee, have one great, home-field advantage, and that’s the resources at your disposal.

Unlike old interviews on-location, when you might bring along a resume, a portfolio, and a few letters of recommendation, you have the ability to store everything you might possibly need within arm’s reach.  Odds are, you won’t use, or need, any of it, but if you do need it, you’ve got it.  There’s no reason to prioritize what you can and can’t bring with you to this interview.  Have all the materials easily available on your website or online resume.  If you don’t have a website, set up a Dropbox link where you can easily access all of the materials you’d like to share during the interview.

It’s a good idea to take notes, even if you don’t use them.  Do some research on the company you’re applying for and have a cheat sheet available just out of the frame.  Even if you don’t reference it, that cheat sheet will act as a safety net to dispel unnecessary anxieties.

What can we expect from the future of video interviewing?

As technologies become more available and implemented, video interviewing is only going to become more prevalent in the hiring world.  

For any job hunters, it’s important that you secure access to either Skype of Google Hangouts (preferably both) as they will most likely be the media of choice.  The services are free and quick to install, so if it’s worth taking the time to set it up and become familiar with the interface.  It could make all the difference in getting hired!






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