5 inherent disadvantages of a Skype interview and how candidates can compensate

Old people and new technology truly collide in the form of Skype interviews. Gone are the days when companies would interview non-local candidates with a phone call followed by (if you were lucky) expensive travel arrangements.

Recruiters are sold on Skype too, and rely on them heavily. “We love Skype here and it makes our job so much easier as well as allows us access to candidates that live out of the area,” said Allison*, a corporate recruiter in San Francisco, California. Allison also mentioned that Skype is superior to a simple phone interview in that it allows the hiring manager or recruiter to put a face to the name. “Recently, we interviewed one girl who sounded 100 on the phone and it was only via Skype we discovered she looks like Kim Kardashian!”

Several discussions within the LinkedIn group “The Recruiter Network”–which boasts more than 454,000 members–echo Allison’s remarks. In reply to a discussion on the use of Skype as a corporate interview tool, group member Miriam* posted, “We frequently use it for candidates who live abroad for the first interview to get a first impression. It works out really well. However, when we decide to [proceed] with the candidate, the next step is always a personal face to face interview.”

Another great post in The Recruiter Network was from Management and Employment Consultant Julie*. “If they have it [Skype] already – it says a lot…If they don’t have it and then have to ask a bunch of questions (“Where do I buy a camera?”) – says volumes.” Lesson here: Get a Skype account long before you are required to use it.

If you have never used Skype or engaged in an interview via Skype, there are hundreds of articles and blogs out there to help you prepare. Some are listed below in “Related Content.” This particular post, however, compares a Skype interview with the traditional face-to-face process, examines the differences and potential implications of these differences on the overall experience, and offers suggestions for how to compensate for this less-personal, highly-technical experience.

Here are 5 inherent disadvantages of a Skype interview and how candidates can compensate:

  1. The playing field is not level
    While a company may agree to interview you via Skype, they may be meeting with other candidates in person. These candidates have the opportunity to collect those “good impression” bonus points that are not available to Skype interview candidates, including showing up 15 minutes early, greeting the receptionist with a smile, and offering a good, strong handshake upon introductions.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: Set up your Skype account long before you need to use it and establish a professional Skype user name. Exchange Skype contact information in advance with the hiring manager or recruiter, and pre-program your Skype phone book. Be ready and waiting for their call, and dress appropriately for your on-camera experience (see below).
  2. There is a higher potential for interruption
    In a live interview, you’re ushered into a quiet office or conference room where there will be no interruptions. A receptionist or a sign taped to the door with “Do not disturb. Interview in progress.” is the typical deterrent. At home, you risk having the UPS man ring the doorbell right in the middle of your follow-up questions.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: Put a sign on your front door telling people not to knock or ring the bell. Put the dog outside, or make arrangements for the dog to be at the groomer or at a kennel during the time of your interview. Take the kids to daycare, school, or a babysitter. Silence your cell phone completely (do not leave it on vibrate), but don’t turn it off (the company you’re interviewing with may want to reach you if there are technical issues).
  3. Your wardrobe options are more limited
    Candidates planning for a face-to-face interview can certainly choose to rock a striped tie or herringbone handkerchief, but those planning for a Skype interview need to abide by wardrobe rules similar to those set for on-camera actors. After all, you will be on camera.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: You want them to focus on your face, not your clothes. Dress in simple, solid colors (pastel solids look best on camera). No all black or all white ensembles, no checks, no stripes or small intricate designs, no highly-saturated colors (like red), avoid anything that shines or reflects, and (for the ladies) brush on a little extra make-up and powder.
  4. Your voice will have the energy sucked right out of it
    That little microphone in your computer just won’t do you justice when it comes to conveying your energy or excitement for the position or project.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: To avoid sounding flat and monotone, speak a little louder and with more energy than usual.
  5. You don’t get the tour
    Candidates who interview face-to-face are sometimes offered a tour of their potential office space, department, or even the entire company. This tour not only introduces the candidate to other employees (who the hiring manager can consult with later when making their decision), but it also gives the candidate the chance to evaluate the overall office environment to see if it would be a fit for them.
    How Skype candidates can compensate: Research the company online prior to the Skype interview. Review their website, Yelp listings (including the comments section), company news (using the Google “news” search), and company images (using the Google “image” search). Also, utilize LinkedIn to see if there is anyone in your network who currently works for the company and, if so, try to connect with them in advance to discuss the company culture.



*Last names have been omitted for confidentiality.

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