‘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.

A Simple Resume 101 for Teens and Young Adults Ages 13-20

RESUME 101 FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, COLLEGE FRESHMAN AND COLLEGE SOPHOMORES

resume writer

Photo by Juliette Leufke

Resumes at this age are pretty straight forward.  But everyone benefits from a sounding board when starting a resume. Have your child pull out their “dossier” document and if you don’t have one, see my post :

(https://entrylevel.blog/2018/02/04/for-parents-of-high-school-students-have-your-child-create-a-dossier-by-the-end-of-ninth-grade/ )  This summary document will be the basis for their resume, college application, letters of recommendations and interview preparation.

Basic Features of a Beginner Resume:

  • Use a centered header of name, address, cell number.
  • Include an email address with a professional sounding name (no cutesy addresses like: fuzicaaats@yahoo.com!!) – link the professional email to their main email or they will never check it.
  • Under the main header, use a standard resume layout.
  • Your first section should be ACADEMICS under which you list your most recent school first working backwards to your high school(s). Include la short list with bullets that showcases key classes, academic activities, academic awards, and if strong, GPA and any standardized test scores of note.
  • The JOBS section comes next (unless your child hasn’t held a job yet – at which point get them a dog walking or babysitting gig, stat!). List the jobs chronologically, most recent job first, and include 3 bullets maximum per job with a focus on quantifying accomplishments (note: if your child works a number of hours, this section can be listed before ACADEMICS).
  • EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES go last – again, make the bullets in this section accomplishment-oriented. Bullets can be listed chronologically, or grouped under italicized sub-headers such as Sports, Theater, Music, Scouts etc.
  • Lastly, if there is room, a one-line section under the header HOBBIES can help a reader connect to your child’s interests. Things like cooking, Fantasy Football, Magic the Gathering, fiction reading can go here.
  • Parent and child should write this document together then review it several times over the course of two weeks to have the best chance of correcting typos and adding missing activities.

Childhood Roots to Adult Job Satisfaction

skateboarder

Photo by Jase Daniels on Unsplash

 

Helping another adult craft a resume can be a tedious exercise of adjective selection and careful proofreading.  Making a resume with a teen can be far more exciting.  Teens run the 400.  They twirl en pointe and slalom race and scoop ice cream and care for pet raccoons at the local nature center.  Getting them to tell you about their achievements and dreams gives you a unique window into their world – theirs is a world of novelty, challenge, excitement and heartbreak.  Hear their stories. Tease out their passions.  Let them tell you everything that their hobbies mean to them.  How is it that those activities given them pleasure?  Get them to use lots of adjectives and validate their feelings by reacting with enthusiasm, even if right now they love video games and junk food and speak of these things with great delight.

Then ask about their work life – paid work, volunteering or chores around the house. Listen carefully for how the demands of the work dovetail with their preferences:

  • Is it physical energy that drives them like the skills that are used in waitressing and babysitting for younger kids?
  • Is it sustained repetitive tasks like stuffing envelopes for a political campaign or programming?
  • Are they customer service oriented, selling shoes or cookies door to door?
  • Do they patiently talk to an older neighbor or always greet people as they walk down the street?
  • Maybe they like to be paid for exercise and hard labor – do they like shoveling, dog walking or mowing the lawn?
  • Can they get themselves up early for that lifeguarding job or are they better bussing tables till midnight?

Ferreting out these truths can become the beginnings of them seeing and understanding basic patterns and rhythms that will drive their adult satisfaction in a lifetime of jobs.

For Parents of High School Students: Have Your Child Create A Dossier By The End of Ninth Grade

The Magic “Dossier” Document

Most students gather a wealth of information about themselves just prior to filling out college applications. Once the data is entered into applications’ data boxes however, that information is much harder to retrieve. Taking time from freshman year onward to help your child create and update a master “dossier” document is a step that will pay off significantly for years to come. Keep a running list of every activity, sport, job, class, leadership role. Include beginning and end dates, grades, salary, and awards where applicable. Have your child make a brief note about what they learned from each experience. Don’t forget small events like projects they have done for friends or family and trips or school projects that were meaningful. This is a document for you and your child only. These notes can become the basis for a resume, essays, answers to interview questions, and even scholarship applications and cover letters.

  • National Honors Society, Key Club, Jobs, Scouts, Camp CIT programs, and Other High School Extra curricular organizations’ applications: Have your child save a copy of each application they complete as they move through their high school career. The data on these forms should be added to their high school “dossier” document on an ongoing basis.
  • Make a Resume*: No later than second semester of sophomore year, every student has had enough experience to create a basic (one-page only!) resume that utilizes the “dossier” data. 
  • College applications: Many students find that just starting college applications is daunting. With a master “dossier” and a well-proofed resume, they will be able to block and copy many items and place them directly into the applications, reducing angst and time. Proofing every single item in a word processing document before it is placed into any application, scholarship or career site will help reduce errors. The earlier your child submits any application, even if they are applying regular decision, the better off they will be. Having a “dossier” will reduce any hesitancy and speed up their efforts.
  • Recommendation Letters: High school teachers, staff and local employers often write 10-20 college letters a season. A resume is the most succinct summary of accomplishments and will make the recommender’s process easier and more accurate.
  • College interviews: Encourage your child to email their resume to an interviewer when they confirm their meeting or share the resume in person. This will distinguish your child as someone who takes the time to prepare. Make sure they also bring a copy for themselves, and remind them to use the resume to help guide the conversation so they don’t forget to mention important accomplishments.
  • Scholarship applications: Like college applications, scholarship programs will also need details of your child’s accomplishments. Some may also require a resume.
  • Jobs or internships. A one page resume is the right length for most opportunities your child will seek in high school and in college. Before submitting a resume, make sure they read the job description carefully and tailor the resume to the employer’s needs. Order bullets with the job description in mind and include 3-5 keywords that the job description uses so that automated resume readers capture your child’s resume with their word matching algorithms.
  • Updates: remind your child to update their resume regularly – either when they have a significant accomplishment or every 4-6 months so that they are always ready to respond quickly to any opportunity that presents itself.

*RESUME 101 FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, COLLEGE FRESHMAN AND COLLEGE SOPHOMORES:

  • Use a centered header of name, address, cell number
  • Include an email address with a professional sounding name (no cutesy addresses like: fuzicaaats@yahoo.com!! – link the professional email to their main email or they will never check it.
  • Under the main header, use a standard resume layout
  • Your first section should be ACADEMICS under which you list your most recent school first working backwards to your high school(s). Include la short list with bullets that showcases key classes, academic activities, academic awards, and if strong, GPA and any standardized test scores of note.
  • The JOBS section comes next (unless your child hasn’t held a job yet – at which point get them a dog walking or babysitting gig stat!). List the most recent first and include 3 bullets maximum per job with a focus on quantifying accomplishments (note: if your child works a number of hours, this section can be listed before ACADEMICS).
  • EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES go last – again, make the bullets in this section accomplishment-oriented. Bullets can be listed chronologically, or grouped under italicized sub-headers such as Sports, Theater, Music, Scouts etc.
  • Lastly, if there is room, a one-line section under the header HOBBIES can help a reader connect to your child’s interests. Things like cooking, Fantasy Football, Magic the Gathering, fiction reading can go here.
  • Parent and child should write this document together then review it several times over the course of two weeks to have the best chance of correcting typos and adding missing activities.

For Parents: Planning for the Future Is Stressful For Teens And Young Adults

 

 

Baby Turtle
Baby makes its way to the sea. Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

Teens and young adults are bombarded with messages about “YOUR FUTURE!”  While parents, teachers and family friends ask about future plans with the best of intentions, these questions can cause undue stress and negative experiences with trusted adults. The questions often begin innocently enough. In middle school we ask kids about their abilities in sports, extra-curricular activities and academics.  By high school, most students receive frequent and pointed questions about their hopes for higher education. Once in college and beyond, job path and graduate school inquiries are ubiquitous.  How many times have you asked a teen or young adult a question while internally benchmarking their answer against your internal status calculator?

Despite our pointed inquiries, how much guidance do today’s young adults actually receive as they plan their path from middle school to high school to college to a career?  Tremendous thought is usually put into college placement, but most students have little to no concrete process for analyzing their options as they move towards their first job. Having placed over 200 senior executives in the financial services, healthcare and non-profit industries, I have analyzed the traits and skills that lead top performers to find meaningful ongoing work in today’s labor force. It’s not what you might think!

  • A student’s extraordinary academic success is no guarantee!  Look around you.  Google your favorite news reporter, ask your successful neighbor how they performed in school.  Chances are good they didn’t go to a fancy college or win a national merit scholarship.
  • Student leadership experience is overrated! Face it – students lead other students mostly in volunteer roles with few systems of checks and balances.  In most student organizations, leading consists of high performers doing the work themselves or with a very small cadre of highly competent peers.  Students rarely impact the great majority of their fellow participants.  Instead, they learn to work around them.  This is actually detrimental training for the way managerial leadership should work in the workplace.
  • High paying internships and a lucrative first job out of college are not necessarily the key to success! Not necessarily…All kinds of jobs can help a student be successful as they progress in life. A prestigious job at the beginning of one’s career can lead a young adult to skip over basic training in skills such as customer service or working in a large department with many procedures and requirements. General burnout can occur from overwork in an overly competitive environment and students quit or become depressed. Most important, the selection of the wrong profession based on prestige not aptitude can lead to lifelong career dissatisfaction and stress with terrible impact on health and one’s personal life.

If these widely held beliefs actually aren’t true, then what is?

  • Hard work and organization, not academic brilliance, carries the day when you enter the workforce.  While a student may get into a selective college based on their creativity or their ability to memorize, analyze, calculate and write, most entry level jobs only require the basic business level in these skills.  What they do need is entry level employees who are humble go-getters who are willing to follow directions, attempt to accomplish a task without too many requests for help, and take feedback on their performance without getting upset or angry.  The organized B student often is a far better candidate for these types of roles.
  • Learn Followership first, then Leadership.  Students who have learned to follow a leader are often far better leaders themselves when they get to the managerial level.  Ask your student whom they’d like to have work with them in a group setting.  Chances are that is the person who will success the most in a job setting.  Playing well in groups by knowing your role, executing it flawlessly and supporting other team members and your manager is a critical skill.  Tell your student to strive to be that person whom everyone wants in their organization or on their team.
  • Take an entry level job where you will be managed well and learn basic skills.  High pay, a glamorous travel schedule and a first job in a high visibility industry all earn bragging rights for college seniors, but many times these young adults are overworked and burnout. They also are often overpaid and learn bad spending habits that then keep them tied to a career path that make them unhappy.  These high flyers can often compensate by becoming arrogant or irresponsible in their personal lives.  In a true entry level role, with oversight from a competent manager, young adults are far more likely to learn the basic organizational skills that will support their career for decades to come.  AND they will have a bit of personal leeway to do the growing up that is required in one’s early twenties, before they determine a career path that impacts them for the rest of their lives.