Are Ready for Your Closeup?

A friend recently asked if anyone had advice about preparing for a Skype interview. He was asking on behalf of an adult friend applying for an academic job, but I’m pulling together a response because it’s relevant to students embarking on a college search as well; an increasing number of schools include webcam-enabled interviews as an optional part of their college process. So, here are my ten tips:

1) Know as much going in as possible. Who will you be speaking with? Do they have any kind of digital presence that you could check out beforehand? What kind of time constraints are they working under?

2) Do a screen test. Fire up your webcam in the spot where you think you’ll be interviewing, and see what you think. If you know the platform you’ll be working with, get a friend to do a dry-run with you and give you feedback on both visuals and audio.

3) De-clutter. A bookshelf in the background? Not a bad idea. But remember that you want your interviewer to be focused on YOU, so you may want to “stage” the space behind you in the interests of that.

4) Dress to impress. You want to feel both snazzy and comfortable. If those two things don’t usually go together for you, take advantage of the limited view of your webcam… dress up above the waist, but as long as your feet are off-camera, go ahead and wear your fuzzy bunny slippers.

5) Give yourself something to look at. You’ll be tempted, as the interviewee, to look at the visual of the person you’re talking with. But in order for them to feel that, you have to look at the camera. Put a Post-It just above your camera with a note that says, “Look here,” to remind yourself.

6) Smile early and often. There’s all kinds of research out there about how we respond to smiles. It’s hardwired; make it work for you.

7) Plan for the 3 things you think you HAVE to say in the interview. Put another Post-It note up near the first one, and write yourself a little three-word reminder, e.g. “Mentor” “Service-Learning” “Philly.” Add a smiley face to the second Post-It. (See #3, above.)

8) Plan to listen actively. Think about what phrases you might use in order to draw your interviewer out. “You mentioned something earlier that got me thinking…”

9) Plan for the stumper. If you get asked a a question that is challenging for you, or that you didn’t expect, you’ll need to buy yourself a little time. Film yourself in that moment so you have a sense of what you look like when your wheels are turning.

10) Think about whether you might want to record yourself. You might find that it won’t all sink in on the first pass, and that you’d be grateful, when working on your thank-you note, to be able to refer to some of the points covered with greater specificity. (Thank-you notes are increasingly rare and a good way to stand out in a positive way.)

What did I miss? Got any tips to share?

(Added later: If it’s a “live and in person”
interview you’ve got coming up,
check out these great tips
from Carol Barash of Story to College fame.)
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Posted on January 28, 2012, in big picture. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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