Video chat interview
January 22, 2013 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I have a video chat interview tomorrow. Tips?

I applied for a tenure-track faculty job, and now the institution wants to interview me. They told me it was going to be a phone interview, but then informed me today that they wanted to do a video chat skype type interview. The interview is tomorrow morning!

I'm just wondering about tips for such an interview. I know that when I do video chat, I find myself not looking at the camera a lot (since I'm looking at the people). Is this going to be weird or a faux pas? What should I wear? They probably won't be able to see me from the waist down, I figure.

I have a fairly bodacious professor beard. Should I calm it down tonight by trimming it before the interview? I know that faculty are a little more lax on how people look, but in the interview process, you don't want to look like a scrub.

Anything you want to offer me as advice so that I come across as awesome as I possibly can without being weird? Thanks!
posted by King Bee to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Avoid busy backgrounds; I like using my (dark) bookshelf. Wear headphones with a mic to get the best audio quality. Put the camera as close to the top center of the screen as you can. Make sure you're not looking down or up at the camera to any odd degree. Keeping your body position natural will help keep your tone and speaking natural. Turn off any bandwidth-consuming apps, gadgets or computers on the network, and set your computer up to minimize distraction. Make sure the lighting is good: diffuse, front-lit, and natural, as much as possible. Make sure the cats don't yell at you while you're talking.

I do these sorts of things often. :-)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pay attention to what will be in the background when you appear on camera. Where will you sit, and what will be behind you?
posted by Orinda at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and because the background is the second-most important aspect, and the biggest one you can directly control, deep backgrounds are better than shallow ones. Looking across a tidy room is a lot more interesting and pleasing to the eye than looking at your face against a bare wall, for example.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's Skype, you can preview yourself before you start. Get set up early and play with the preview till you're happy. Also, Skype a friend beforehand (in the outfit you plan, etc.) to double check how it all is. I did that and it made me feel so much more confident!
posted by dame at 6:53 PM on January 22, 2013

Have you used the software that you'll be using for the video chat? Definitely try to do a dry run with a friend if you can. The moment before the interview is not a great time to encounter an unexpected technical problem.
posted by chrchr at 6:54 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lighting is super important. Make sure you and your surroundings are well-lit - that is, not washed out in light, but also not dark. Good overhead and front lighting (and some natural light, if during the daytime) should take care of this.

Make sure you are in a quiet environment. Your interviewers should not have to filter out noise; they should only be hearing your voice. Conversely, make sure you have a good audio system where you can hear them well.

Dress well for the camera. Wear clothes that flatter your skin tone and "open up" your face and that are, of course, interview-appropriate.

Compose your shot and stick with it for the entirety of the interview. That is, position your camera well and don't fiddle with it once the interview starts. You want to get at least your head and shoulders in the shot; some of your torso is good too.

Maintain good posture by sitting in an upright chair during the interview.
posted by krakus at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2013

This advice may be too old-school for you. I don't do a lot of video chatting, granted. I don't think I have ever used video chat for professional purposes.

But I do use the telephone for professional purposes (law), and I subscribe fully to the old-school advice that your tone sounds better if you're standing up. Moreover, notwithstanding my video-chat inexperience, oral presentation and posture are firmly inside my expertise and I can tell you that I would never give an address that mattered while seated.

So my advice would be to prop up your laptop, and to stand.

Good luck with your interview.
posted by cribcage at 7:05 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am with cribcage. I have both a sitting desk and standing desk and whenever I have an important phone call or video chat, I use the standing desk. The risk is that you start to sway or wander, but if you can be relatively still you will project a much better image and sound.

As above, background is important too. I have no idea what is appropriate for a beard in this type of interview/profession, but I do not think it could hurt to neaten it up. (It will grow back, right?)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:43 PM on January 22, 2013

Also chiming on on sound - make sure there are no weird sounds going in the background (dishwasher, music if at home; office conversation, cell phone, etc. if elsewhere; any alerts your computer may make).

Put all pets away securely (my cat snuck in and jumped in front of the computer once during an interview, that was fun).

Try to glance directly at the camera from time to time if you can remember to. It's generally not a faux pas if you don't, but it does create a nice connection if you do.

Don't frame yourself too close to the camera. A nice medium shot will work. Too close is creepy.

I don't think you should be afraid to have notes by your side as well, if it helps you remember points that you want to share, or write down info they give you - especially as they introduce each person (writing down who's who can be helpful). Just be sure to flash the pen in the camera to signal the committee that you're taking notes :)

I've had interviews where I could see the whole committee around a table, and others where the person asking the question popped in on camera individually while the others (presumably) watched over their shoulder. So just be ready to go with the flow in terms of how it's set up on their end.

Trimming up the beard wouldn't hurt. Smile. Good luck!
posted by Ms. Toad at 7:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, one more tip. Back the camera up! Being able to get your hands into the frame if you want to speak with gestures, and being expressive with your upper body posture helps a lot in reducing the awkwardness of being a talking head. Try to frame the video link a bit more loosely than a school yearbook photo.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:45 PM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: Put a post-it in the bottom corner of the screen if you will get distracted looking at yourself (I was afraid of adjusting necklace, hair, etc. if I could see it).

Try to spend as much time as you can looking into (or past) the camera, and less time looking at the committee members' faces, although it will be tempting. We had a candidate who was obviously only looking at the screen and we all felt like we never really got a good look at the candidate as a result.

Set up everything tonight if you can--lighting, background, outfit, etc. Then see how you look. You might decide you do need to trim your beard depending on how bodacious it looks on camera. For outfit, I would go with some variation of shirt and sport coat--in my discipline an oxford shirt, v-neck sweater and sport coat or jacket would be just right for this level of interview.

Backgrounds--bookshelves or other dynamic backgrounds are good, I have used my warm-toned wooden wainscoting as a background before in a pinch. No blank white walls, and NO messes. People sometimes forget to check how much of their background will be in view when they test-run setup.

I respectfully disagree with the headset advice. You will be interviewing for a tenure-track job, you don't want to look like you are ready to work in the Alumni Office calling former students for donations. A quiet environment with no distractions should be fine.

Have a lot of blank sheets of paper around and within easy reach if you need to write things down. It was nice to be able to write in huge, scrawling script without looking down, if you want to take notes or even simply jot down the questions as they're being asked.

Good luck!
posted by stellaluna at 7:50 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I got one of my sisters to try the video chat with me, and there were some sound problems (I really think they were on her end). The chair told me that if there were tech problems, we could just go back to the phone without worry. So at least that won't be too annoying.

I trimmed up the beard, and tested what clothes look OK with the camera. Thanks for all the good luck wishes too!
posted by King Bee at 10:05 PM on January 22, 2013

Tips from a mathematician who just did a search:

-Research your school thoroughly. For an undergrad program - what kinds of courses do they offer, what general education programs do they offer, do they have internal awards or special classes, do their seniors do a thesis or other project, do they have extracurricular math stuff like honors societies or math club, do their students do research or go to conferences, etc. What are the specialities of the people in the department and why do you complement them and not duplicate something they already have (assuming it's a small dept). What kinds of research/travel support do they offer, what kinds of service/committee work is expected, etc - you'll need to hear this from them directly, probably.

-At some point, they'll ask if you have any questions - at that point (and not before/out of turn), be sure to ask questions! Have some prepped ahead of time.

-Think of special things you're interested in - a course you want to teach, a student research project you could supervise - and have a little bit to say about those.

-Set up the camera with a neutral background (don't show them your dirty dishes, as one candidate did)

-Check the sound etc ahead of time - sounds like you have this covered, good.

-Make sure you can see all the interviewers, try to gauge their reactions - there should be visual clues if you have been talking too long or are off-track from what they're interested in hearing about.

-Look at the computer most of the time, not at other stuff in your room/the wall


-Avoid trying to use props, like "I want to use THIS book for my calc classes, let me show you a page"... it's distracting.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 PM on January 22, 2013

Being a person who Skype interviews contestants for shows on a daily basis, please wear pants. I cannot tell you the number of times I've gotten a screen full of bare ass if the doorbell rings mid-interview.
posted by banannafish at 11:50 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Try to turn off any pop up crap in your computer/ quit every other program but Skype.
You don't need gmail telling you that you have a new email from Mom while interviewing
posted by raccoon409 at 12:55 AM on January 23, 2013

Consider having two desk lamps pointed at you to properly light both sides of your face, TV interview style.
posted by hellojed at 12:10 PM on January 23, 2013

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