Using Skype like a professional

IEEE-USA Today’s Engineer published a practical article by John R. Platt , “Tips for Effective Skype Job Interviews“, which is worth reading by anyone who needs to videoconference with a laptop or mobile device for professional reasons. Three takeaway messages are

  1. Practice and fine-tune your Skype setup and manner with a friend until you look professional and can hear and be heard clearly.
  2. Sit no more than an arm’s length away from the camera with your face centered on the screen and the camera at eye level in front of an uncluttered background.
  3. There’s more delay than on a voice-only phone call and it may be made worse by bandwidth issues.

Here are some excerpts from Platt’s article

The first challenge is to think about where … It should be a nice, quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted or bothered … If your house has the potential to be noisy, make sure that people know you need a good hour of quiet and privacy.
Take a few minutes to make sure the room has good lighting and lacks visual distractions. You don’t want the person on the other end of the Skype call to struggle to see your face if it is shrouded in darkness. … Bare walls or an office-like setting are best … “If nothing else, buy a screen and put it behind you,” …
Next, think about how you’re actually going to set up your device. Whether you’re calling from a desktop computer, laptop or other mobile device, you want to make sure that your camera is set up at eye level. This ensures that the video feed is captured at a natural angle (not pointing up your nose) …
Also, make sure the camera isn’t too close to you or too far away from where you’ll be sitting. … You should sit no more than an arm’s length away from the webcam … and then be centered on the screen.
Give proper consideration to the audio, too. Do you want to just use the microphone and speakers built into your device, or do you want to wear a headset? You want to make sure that the interviewer can hear you and you can hear them. …
Of course, all technology is fallible, so test everything out well before you begin your interview. “The biggest challenge I see over and over is candidates do not test their microphones before connecting,” says software engineer Sid Savara. “It is a huge, huge professional mistake in my opinion. …”
Savara suggests “showing up” 30 minutes early for the interview and trying a few test calls with a family member or friend to make sure that everything is working properly. This helps to make sure that your broadband connection is working well enough to handle the video. It also gives you a chance to make sure that the audio sounds crisp and clear and that you didn’t miss anything hiding in the background behind you. (We all go a little “blind” when we’re looking at something we see every day, so an outside set of eyes might see something that has become invisible to you.)
If you’re not a frequent Skype user, it might take more than 30 minutes of practice. Make sure you know how the chat, screen-sharing and other features work. You don’t want to be stumbling around during the interview. If you can use Skype with confidence, you’ll be more confident in your interview and be better able to showcase your skills. …
You’ve already spent some time making sure your video and audio work, so now you need to make sure you look good on camera. “Sit up straight, and don’t treat it like a regular, chilled-out Skype call with friends,” …
Figuring out exactly when and where to look at the camera can be difficult. In an in-person interview, it’s easy to make eye contact. That’s impossible on a Skype interview. Spend a good portion of your time looking directly at the camera, since that is “the best way to simulate the type of eye contact that happens in a live interview,” … On the other hand, “don’t stare at the camera, because that will make you look weird,” …
Posture and body language matter. “Sit forward in your chair so your energy is in your body,” … “Keep your feet planted on the ground to enable gesturing.” Gestures are important because they help bring you to life on the screen. “The animation will be projected into your voice and show your energy and enthusiasm,” …
Even though you have practiced, understand the limits of the technology. “You need to take artificially long pauses on Skype interviews … There is always a little more lag than you think.”




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