‘Tis The Season – Get Ready to Skype Interview

I’ve been getting a lot of questions on Skype Interviews lately, so here goes with a rewrite of a post I made several years ago. Bottom line, to do a Skype interview well, it takes some advanced preparation. We have all seen the hilarious video of the journalist in Asia whose toddler wanders in midstream. Let that be a lesson to all of us. Privacy, sound quality, professional dress, camera placement, and a pro quality microphone all go a long way to getting the Skype interview right. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure your Skype name is professional! Read through the pointers and then Skype with a friend to practice, using these 12 bullets to ask for feedback on how you appear.

Mastering the Skype Interview in 12 Steps
  1. Sound – cavernous rooms with no carpet create annoying echoes. Make sure you are in a quiet corner with a carpet and other noise blocking features such as an out of sight sofa or bed (the cushions provide the muffling). A book shelf is great – dulls the echo and provides visual interest. Alert your roommates that you need to have total quiet for the duration of your call-ask them to be aware of the noise from doors shutting, the dishwasher or any running water, any electronics; and of course no pets or children wandering in or making noise.
  2. Your appearance – Dress fully in work clothing – a neutral navy for men or women and a simple solid color shirt with a conservative neckline is usually the least distracting. Wearing a shirt and suit jacket with shorts or pajama bottoms will make you feel a bit off kilter and not set the professional mindset you will need to be effective. Jewelry, multiple earrings etc. can be distracting – less is always more. Search the company website, Twitter feed, Facebook page for casual photos of employees so you can see their preferred style. Dress slightly better than how you would if you were to work there.
  3. Camera – make sure you are looking directly into the camera NOT at the little box on the corner of the screen (That is a total giveaway of a rookie!) nor should you look down at the key board except for the occasional glance. Practice this! A post it note saying LOOK HERE next to the camera may help or you can drag the Skype window where you appear directly under your camera so if you do check how you look, it will seem as if you are looking at the camera. And …Smile (you can write that reminder on a post it as well!) – don’t furl your brow or squint as you answer! To help you talk into the camera, you can adjust the height of your chair or place your laptop on a box – but make sure the camera eye is directly at your eye height. The top of your head should be two-thirds of the way up your screen not bumping the top and certainly not above the top of your screen – check this height in advance of the call.
  4. Equipment – If you plan on having many interviews, or if this is a call for your dream job, it is worth looking into a brand name HD web camera and getting a pro quality microphone. Maybe you can borrow one from a friend or the career office at your college.
  5. Setting – make sure the setting behind you is completely tidy and neutral. A piece of art, a plant or a curtain can add interest. Make sure there is nothing too personal, collegiate or cutesy. It is possible that your school career services office has rooms for you to use.
  6. Lighting -sit at a table and face a window if daytime – a natural light source is usually the very best. If it is too bright out, pull the shade down. If it is night time, get a lamp and simulate the natural light by placing the lamp in front of you (behind your laptop screen is often an excellent spot) – too dark? move it closer; too light? – set it back a bit. Never light yourself from below or have overhead lighting be your exclusive light source – it gives you shadows.
  7. Notes – the good news is you can use your notes (e.g. have hard copy of resume, cover letter, the job description printed out, and you can also have these documents live in the background on your laptop for a quick peek). However, you want to make sure you aren’t referring to them so much that you seem to be reading or your eyes are on the paper rather than on the camera.
  8. Body Language – have good posture (place a pillow in the small of your back to help posture) but relax your shoulders and face muscles and remember – put a post it note somewhere that says “Smile!” Finally, don’t rock back and forth or side to side. Move a bit so you seem relaxed, but that pillow at your back will help keep you from overdoing your movements. Additionally, periodically interject a short phrase like, “yes” or “I agree,” so they know you are listening actively.
  9. Computer settings – close all tabs so you are not distracted by a notification from Facebook or email. Adjust the Skype settings such as brightness and volume in advance of the call and check the details of your caller, such as Skype number etc. so you are fully prepared.
  10. Addressing Technical Problems – proactively indicating there is a problem and solving it, either with a fix as you continue the interview or by calling back will be seen as proactive and confident if you say clearly, “Excuse me can you hear me? There seems to be a problem with (name problem), would you mind if I took a pause and fixed it or called you back?”
  11. Interviewer Engagement – make sure you are monitoring the facial expressions of your interviewer as you would subconsciously in a face-to-face meeting. See if their eyes light up and engage with yours. You will have a better sense of their interest level if this type of engagement signaling is two-way.
  12. Ending the call – after the thank yous, give a confident nod, and lean in a bit as you say goodbye. DO NOT attempt a fake handshake and do not get up till you make sure the call has ended. I typically suggest shutting the laptop all together just to make sure.

PS – Good luck! And have that thank you note pre-written so you are ready to add specifics and get it right out. Do not follow up by Skype Chat – many interviewers will not read the chat stream.

Authentic Hobbies Can Help Link Students to Career Exploration

Domino Creations by Lily Hevesh

Helping your child find a passion or two and for the student themselves, keeping at that passion as you get older, can be a joyous process if approached with creativity. Watching YouTube videos where the artistry of this master domino designer, Lily Hevesh comes to life – ( See this Wired Magazine Article ). Reading her words detailing the many joys of her hobby, and how it has turned into creative paid work can give us all insights into what passion feels like. She clearly engages her whole brain. She has broadened her thoughts about her art form, making associations with the greater world as her skills improved.

One technique I use in coaching is to have my students “walk 360 degrees around” any interest they currently have. Love football? How can you learn more and broaden that knowledge to link to the wider world? We can look at the business of football, we can look at sports statistics, we can look at online fantasy football and the companies like Draftkings that are using programming to monetize the organization of these leagues. Taking a hobby and using it to foster curiosity that takes you to other areas like business or programming is one way to build upon favorite pastimes from childhood as a springboard to understand the aptitudes underlying one’s interests. For families and students alike, it is a great way to foster career conversations in a low key and engaging way from the youngest of age. I’m sure many of us have read Richard Scarry’s Busy Town books to our children as well as all kinds of stories about firemen, nurses, astronauts and scientists. Approaching these discussions in the teen years with the curiosity we brought to reading a bed time story, rather than a push to have the student monetize their interests, is key to maintain their receptivity.

When done in a lighthearted way, this is a great tool that will help a student get to know themselves better and use their imagination as they grow into this necessary adult task of career exploration. Starting early with these types of exercises will help a student feel comfortable as they reach their twenties and need to make choices and actually pick jobs.

Baby Steps – Up Your Quant Skills Locally

Is your child majoring in liberal arts or bench science in college? Are you that student? Make sure you consider accessing the business learning resources in your college town. Many towns have continuing education offerings, classes at the library, a senior center, a chamber of commerce, a downtown association, where they offer classes on basic business skills. Why start with that Accounting 101 class when you can take a 3-week intro to Quick Books to dip your toe in. Interested in a possible internship for a company that does investing? Someone is probably offering a short class on managing your portfolio or buying and selling real estate so that you can get familiar with the lingo before you start down the investment company interview path. Liberal arts majors are often intimidated by classes with a more quantitative bent, and therefore they avoid taking ANY classes in subjects like accounting that ultimately will be rather useful in almost any entry level job. Sure you could learn these things online, but maybe you’ve tried and you just don’t “get” it. Don’t give up. A patient continuing ed teacher will usually spend time and effort above and beyond the class to get you over your sticking points. Better yet, the others in the class may even want to hire you part time to help them once you have mastered the topic, or they may know someone who would like to give you an internship or a job shadow locally.

Starting your networking with sympathetic adult fellow students is a great way to get better at talking to adult employed people. These local contacts can ultimately be a great sounding block or make introductions for you. Let’s face it, networking in the town where your college is is often a very overlooked resource – that’s because aside from striking up a conversation at the post office or the local coffee shop, “town-gown’ relations aren’t usually set up to link students to locals. Making the effort through an organized event or class can help you learn, and introduce you to adults in the town who can be of significant and lasting help.



Today we begin a new Series – The Great Questions Series – these posts will showcase questions you can use to get children talking and they will be encouraged to think in a positive way with an external focus. Answering great questions is a skill – and kids need practice.  Don’t grill kids with these — the questions are meant to be thrown into a conversation. Time moves on, and they will face applications, interviews, networking soon enough. Practice engaging them. The more a child can learn to hold forth on great questions, the more comfortable they will feel as they get to that stage in their lives.


Simple Cover Letter Formula

Cover Letters should be short, meaningful and additive to your resume data, not duplicative.  Here is a quick formula so you don’t get stuck on creating cover letters:

  • copy the entire job description into a word document.
  • rank each bullet in their job description using a 1, 2, 3*
  • write a response to each bullet that is ranked with a 1 (and maybe the 2s as well if you don’t have many 1s.)
  • work from your resume so you don’t forget relevant experiences.
  • Start your cover letter with a strong statement about you and your strengths. Follow with a few key things you know and like about the job and or the company.
  • use your written responses as the second, and main, paragraph of your cover letter – you will likely need to edit them to make them into shorter phrases so your cover letter stays short and on point.
  • only edit the whole cover letter after you insert all the phrases.
  • word-smithing as you go takes a lot of time so edit the transition words and filler at the very end of your drafting process so you don’t bog down with the minutiae.
  • Finish with a good selling statement as to why you are great for this job and how you can hit the ground running.

*1=I definitely have done exactly that. 2=I have done something similar. 3=I haven’t but I could probably learn it.

resume writer

The Art of the Follow Up Question

follow up questions

I can’t emphasize this enough.  When an interviewer asks you if you have questions, you need to have questions.  Once they have answered them, PLEASE delve further with a follow-up question.  Further inquiry shows you listened to what they said, processed it, and are genuinely interested to hear more.  Always engage with a follow-up question. This is where the meat of any conversation is, and it is how you build meaningful relationships.  Think of it like a tennis game with a good friend.  The rally is the best part of the game.  There is joy in the ball going back and forth. You don’t want to drop shot your friend and finish the point unnecessarily abruptly.  Use the follow up question – the who, what, when, where, why and how questions are easy to think up on the fly and interject – to perpetuate the dialogue and really get to know the person, the company and the job.

Use this technique in informational interviews as well. You should prepare 10-20 questions to ask, but you won’t have the rejoinder questions prepared.  Those will come from listening deeply to their answers and being genuinely interested to hear more.  And if you aren’t interested, be polite, fake it, and pay attention – this may not be the job or line of work for you if disinterest is your response as you talk to several people in a certain field.  Better to know this now than make a career choice based on an ideal you had about a certain career path. Listen to others, but know yourself.  Two big factors in career success for the long-term.


Great…the Enemy of Consistently Good…


When parenting children and coaching new graduates in their jobs, I try to emphasize good as the goal – good as in good enough — as in your things are on time, reasonably clean, and your mind is clear and your conscience is unblemished. “Great” is like those Japanese salt/sesame/seaweed mixes – it’s a seasoning – you sprinkle it – you never let it overwhelm your commitment to good – you will work your whole life to get that balance.  Consistently good trumps sporadically great every time.