Way back when I was taking TV production courses at the University of Florida, they drilled us on camera placement, lighting, audio quality, how to sit and what to wear on camera. Who would have dreamed that now, a lot of years later, the same issues can make or break your job interview. Many global, national and even regional companies are looking for a less costly alternative to flying in job candidates for interviews. Thanks to video chat technology, more and more interviews are being conducted on Skype. It's easier for the interviewer, certainly cheaper for the company, and it can be more convenient for the applicant. But, before you turn on your webcam and set up that all-important "on camera" interview, take some time to prepare. Here are some tips that will help you look and sound as you should.
You're on the air
This is a job interview that is being conducted on TV. In many ways, sitting in front of your webcam is very similar to sitting at the news anchor desk in a TV station. How you look, how you sound and the quality of your image all play an important part in how you are perceived. In fact, these factors may sway the interviewer more than what you say.
Look professional. Generally, you'll be seen from the waist up. Put on a dark jacket (this goes for men and women). Comb your hair, and if you are a woman, wear enough makeup but keep your look natural. Wear simple and understated jewelry that doesn't clink and clatter as you talk and move.
Don't put yourself in front of a plain, white wall. The contrast can make you look like a ghostly shadow. Warm up the background with something like a bookshelf with books and/or a carefully placed plant (not positioned so it looks like it is growing out of your head!).
Add some lighting that brings out your face but doesn't make you "glow." Perhaps a floor lamp tilted down from the left side of the webcam or a tall desk lamp that provides extra lighting for your face.
Don't look directly into the camera. Try sitting at an angle and then turning your head to the camera. You will look more attentive, the position will help you sit up straight, and it should help with the lighting.
Make sure the interviewer can see your hands. Use your hands as you would in a face-to-face interview, but try to keep them away from your face.
Scan in examples of your work beforehand and send a copy through Skype, if you are going to include samples.
Keep eye contact with the camera, not the screen. Remember, the camera is the eye of the viewer.
Limit distractions. Put the dog and cat in another room, get a sitter for the kids, turn off your mobile devices and tell your spouse to leave you alone during the interview. There should be no noises that can ruin the mood.
Make sure your equipment is in good shape. Think how it would be if the sound or picture went out in the middle of your interview. Also, do an audio and video test beforehand by using Skype with a friend or family member. A dry run and a critique by someone who will tell you the truth will help you tweak everything before you go "on camera."
Do your homework
Even though you can't see the other person, this is a job interview. Prepare your answers in advance, do your homework about the company and the job and act as if you were in the same room as the interviewer.
Relax and enjoy the experience. It beats fighting security at the airport and can be just as effective as being interviewed in person. Good luck!
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business trends and employee motivation consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website: www.howtomotivateemployees.org.