By Nara Schoenberg, Tribune Newspapers
March 29, 2011
One of my husband's students recently interviewed for a TV journalism job several states away.
The good news: she never had to leave Chicago.
And, for those of us who don't relish the opportunity to appear on camera, that's the bad news, too.
Interviews via Internet-based videoconferencing services such as Skype can be scary for the uninitiated, but they're increasingly common and it's easy to see why they appeal to cash-strapped employers: You get a live, face to face conversation, without springing for that pesky plane ticket.
Already, the Skype interview is popular in academia, according to Stephen Winzenburg, a professor of communication at Grand View University in Des Moines who recently wrote about the topic for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
"It seems like in the past year and a half, it's really burst through. Everybody's pretty much using it now," he says.
We asked Winzenburg, who recently underwent four Skype interviews, three of which were successful (he advanced to the next stage in the application process), how to meet the challenge.
Among his tips:
Adjust the webcam. You know how you have good angles in photos? That's true on video, too. Experiment a little to find out what angle works for you. Should the camera be slightly below your face? Above your face? "I found that my best angle was having [the laptop] propped up on a box, [with the web cam] looking down at me," Winzenburg says.
Do a trial run. "It's crucial that you do a practice run with someone and they give you honest feedback about how you look on your web cam," Winzenburg says. That means setting up Skype, or whatever service you're using, and having your honest critic do the same. If you learn that you look washed out, try toning down the lighting. If your face is shadowy, the culprit may be a light source located behind you. Reposition the light (or yourself) for a more flattering effect.
Dress appropriately. On camera, this generally means foregoing the all-white shirt. It's going to reflect light and may make your face look washed out.
Clean up. The area behind you should be interview appropriate. In Winzenburg's case that meant removing dog toys and straightening up bookshelves.
Make eye contact. In a one-on-one interviews you should mostly look directly into the web cam when giving an answer. It's fine to look at the screen when the interviewer asks a question. If you're being interviewed by several people at the same time, you can look at the screen while answering. (This gives you a better sense of how your interrogators are responding.) Feel free to look into the web cam during portions of a group interview.
Stay calm. Winzenburg's dog started barking, loudly, during one of his interviews. He was embarrassed, but he knew the situation would only get worse if he looked at the dog, which would have required turning away from the camera. He kept answering questions as if nothing was going on and, much to his surprise, got an invitation to move on to the next stage of the application process.
Office Hours appears weekly in TribU. If you have a work-related question – and remember, no question is too serious or too silly – send a note to Nara Schoenberg at email@example.com.
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