The Business of Show Biz: Skyping It In
Monday, October 21, 2013
By Velina Brown
Q: I have an audition coming up that will be over Skype. I've Skyped once before, and it was a little awkward, which makes me nervous. Are there any tips you can offer to help me put my best foot forward, so to speak, since this is a job interview? I've got good entering-a-room-with-confidence, making-a-good-impression mojo when I meet people in person, but I'm not sure I'll maintain my mojo over Skype.
| Actor and career consultant, Velina Brown.
A: It is easier to make a great first impression in person than remotely. But with preparation it can be done. First of all, I suggest you practice with Skype a few times, so that your interview isn't only the second time you've ever Skyped. Give a friend a few questions to ask you. Record the practice interview so that you can review how you're coming across and make sure you're maintaining your mojo. Two primary concerns are looking the part and clearing all distractions.
1. Prepare your space. Move any clutter or anything that will be distracting from view. You want to be in front of an attractive but not eye-catching background. Piles of laundry, pizza boxes, posters, et cetera need to go. A bookcase or maybe a plant behind you can warm up the space without looking messy.
2. Prepare your housemates. Let everyone know when you will be interviewing and that you cannot be disturbed or interrupted. Feed and walk the dog ahead of time. Ask a friend or hire a sitter to help with small children.
3. Prepare your computer. Turn off distracting applications such as e-mail, Facebook, texting, etc. And turn off your phone.
4. Make sure you have good lighting for your face. Remember, if it's too dark they can't see you. Back lighting will create a halo effect. Overhead lighting will make you look creepy. Use a goose neck lamp that you can adjust to help you find a flattering light.
5. Dress from head to toe the way you would for an in-person interview. Just because you are interviewing from home does not mean you can be in your pajamas. A blazer on top and boxer shorts below won't work. What if you have reason to get up? Don't wear white. Wear a top that is solid, bright and a good color for your complexion, no busy stripes or patterns. Pull your hair off your face. No flashy jewelry.
6. You may need to put your computer on top of some books to raise it up to an optimal height that will allow you to look directly into the camera, not down. See #7.
7. Look at the camera, not yourself. It will feel a bit unnatural at first. However, when you look in the camera you will appear to be making eye contact with the viewer, which is key to making a good connection with them. Also, it may help if you can picture a friend in the camera to help you keep your expression warm and friendly.
8. Stay as still as possible. Flicking your hair, big hand gestures, rubbing your face and playing with jewelry are distracting and make you look nervous and twitchy.
9. Be prepared so that if things go wonky with the signal and the call must be redialed during the interview you won't get thrown. You want to be able to pick up where you left off easily and stay relaxed and in good spirits even if tech issues arise. Also, at the beginning of the interview ask who will call back if the signal gets dropped.
I realize, as it becomes more common, we'll probably all have to interview over Skype eventually. Therefore it would behoove us to start practicing our Skype skills now so we can avoid scrambling and get stressed about it later.
There are a few resources out there to help you prepare. There's As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Have It Stick by Peter Meyers and Shann Nix. In it a chapter called "Using Technology" has advice on how to masterfully use the various communication technologies to connect and engage with people in high-stakes situations. Certainly a job interview would qualify as high-stakes. Barbara Kiviat for Time.com and Catherine Carlock for MarketWatch have posted video reports offering clear illustrations of the above tips available on YouTube. Debbie Swanson of Forbes.com shares excellent guidance in her piece called "7 Tips to Nail a Skype Interview" as well.
Sure, factors beyond our control can effect hiring decisions. But it will feel great to know that fuzzy slippers and spooky lighting didn't blow your interview before you even said a word. Here's to "maintaining your mojo" in every medium. Break a leg!
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.