Blog Post

How to Interview a Job Prospect - Over Skype

Cornerstone Editors

Marissa Mayer's get-your-butt-in-the-office-if-you-want-to-work-for-me attitude aside, the number of remote workers in the United States is climbing steadily. Today's employees of the BYOD era can work pretty seamlessly together even when they're physically apart.

This means no more flying in for every important meeting when you've got conference calling and screen-sharing. For hiring managers, it also means no more flying in every job prospect for an interview when you've got Skype open on your laptop. A job interview over Skype isn't such a crazy idea these days -- in fact, it's become a norm in many company's hiring processes. The challenge is knowing how to successfully conduct the interview.

According to Skype’s Global Staffing Manager James Gould -- who literally wrote the manual on Skype interviewing for the company's hiring managers -- a Skype interview can (and should) be like any face-to-face meeting. Yet there are some obvious roadblocks, especially when introducing a prospect to your workplace. Nevertheless, Gould says that Skype can help sidestep these issues and even offers some new techniques that can better help hiring managers. Here are some pointers for getting the most out of the experience.

Take a Few Minutes to Set Up

Don't rush. Set aside a few minutes to test your microphone. Wear a headset to cut out any background noise if necessary. Test the video and your internet connection. Dress appropriately. Check the lighting and background.

As with an in-person interview, it's also important to book a room in order to eliminate distractions and interruptions. Be sure to close down all other apps on your laptop so you can focus exclusively on the interview. You won't get away with trying to multi-task, either. As Gould says, "The candidate will be able to see if you are responding to an e-mail or answering an IM, so stay engaged."

Be Transparent

If you are going to be taking notes during the interview, let them know ahead of time. Unlike a face-to-face, the candidate won't be able to see you if you are writing things down -- they'll just see your forehead, instead. Be aware of your surroundings and take some time to ensure you are both comfortable before you dive into questioning.

"There's an even greater need to establish rapport because you don't have the advantage of being in the same room," Keith Wolf of Houston-based recruiting firm Murray Resources says. "Don't skip straight to the interview without allowing for a couple of minutes of small talk."

Share Your Screen

Use other options that Skype offers in order to better iterate to a prospect exactly what working at your company will be like. Many interviewees might ask what their typical day looks like. During a Skype interview, HR managers can actually show them. Share your screen and walk them through a mock day-at-the-computer -- the operating system they would use, for example, or even what a project work-flow looks like. In order to pull this off effectively, make sure you prepare ahead of time. The candidate will notice if you're fumbling with a software or don't have a working knowledge of the position they are vying for. The point is, replying to standard interview questions "doesn't have to be a stale one-on-one video conversation," Gould says, you can engage the prospect, as well.

Give Them a Tour

Hiring managers won't be able to sell the company culture in the same way they would during a face-to-face interview, but they can take advantage of Skype's mobile features to help paint the right picture. Set aside some time to take candidate on a virtual tour of the office -- with your tablet or mobile device. Gould says introducing the candidate to current employees will help the candidates get a better sense of the workplace. Even if they might be working remotely, introducing the candidate to the space will give them important insight to the kind of culture your company implores --- which, presumably, reflects on the kind of work your company does.

"It's key to give them a feel of the environment," Gould says. "The mobility piece gives you the option to walk around and showcase your location. Don't limit the interview and think that because you're on Skype you have to stay where you are. Get up and get that person immersed in your workplace environment."

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