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Skype Interviews: Your Webcam Setup

1. Simple video optimization

  Do not use your monitor as the light source, which is the most common mistake. You would look like a zombie. This is what happens when your face is lit by the computer screen. You are going to need a separate light, your desk lamp for example.

Before / After
(Samples by Strobist®)

  Tape a sheet of paper over the bulb to diffuse the harsh light. You will notice that the camera will automatically adjust the color and exposure for a more natural look. You may need to play a little with the lamp to find the best position.

  If you wear glasses, turn down the brightness of your monitor to eliminate the reflection. It is much nicer when people can actually see your eyes.

  Put on a white shirt. White does not cast any color hues onto your face. Your camera also needs a patch of white for a proper color balance. Finally, white is the most appropriate color for job interviews.

  Position yourself behind a bare wall, or at least clean up the background. A collapsible background is really helpful. For example, we use an old projection screen for slides.

  Make sure there are no lights or windows behind you.  Otherwise you camera will use them for exposure and color balance, which will screw up your image (samples below).

  Turn down sharpness to 2 or 3 for smoother skin tones. It will also kill the "glowing edges" effect.

2. Sound

  For Skype interviews, sound is even more important than the video. (If your webcam freezes but the sound works, you can still go on with the interview, just like on the phone. But if it's your sound that breaks down, the interview is over!)

  Don't use your built-in mike for serious situations - you would probably need to shout, or to get really close to the webcam.  Both are unprofessional. Procure a headset with a dedicated microphone and test it at the comfortable distance from the webcam for sound clarity.

Do not use your webcam to take pictures for your personal recruitment webpage.

Webcams are not made to be cameras, they are designed for you to communicate over the Internet and see the person you are talking to. 


The Interview

As Murphy's law states, “If anything can go wrong, it will”. Unless you are prepared!  Here's your checklist.

Dress up. International schools expect teachers to look professional, which means a suit and a tie for men, conservative attire with little / no jewelry for women. Personal appearance can't be stressed enough. If in doubt, overdress.

Avoid busy patterns in clothing, including shirts and ties. They cause moiré and other problems. A plain grey, blue or black jacket with a white shirt will work great. During the interview you may need to stand up to get something, so make sure your lower body is appropriate.

Turn off your phones and lock the door. You may need to post a note: Job interview in progress. Do not disturb.

Don't be square. Position yourself at a slight angle, with one shoulder a little closer to the camera.

Look straight into the camera, especially when the other person is speaking. This simulates live eye-contact. (Most candidates stare at the picture on their screens. To the interviewer, it appears that they are looking away. If the video box distracts you, cover it with a PostIt note. Again: look into the camera, not the video box!

Warm up. Call a friend and have a little chat just before the interview. You will also be able to verify your connection speed and sound quality.

When the interview starts. If you are nervous, explain that it's your first Skype interview. Most recruiters will understand that. It also helps break the ice.

Listen carefully to what is being said. Every recruiter has a set of key questions. The questions differ depending on the recruiter's personal approach which they have developed over the years. It is essential to fully comprehend the question before you start answering it. Missing the point of the question is a big red flag. If you are not sure, ask for clarification. Most people appreciate your effort to answer with clarity.

Make sure to ask questions. Your questions will reveal your understanding and show your interest. Lack of questions from the applicant is always taken in a negative way. It is very easy to reverse the whole interview by starting to ask questions about the school.

Let them lead the conversation. You know you win when the interviewer does most of the talking to sell you the school.  Most recruiters have personally invested a good deal of time and effort in their schools. They feel proud of their accomplishments, in fact, they are eager to talk about them.

Every interview is a two-way process. You evaluate your director just as she evaluates you. It is quite possible that your impression of the interviewer will not be flattering. In fact, the main reason why many candidates attend expensive job fairs is to have this personal contact: you want to make sure that he or she is the right individual to be your director for the next few years.

Take notes. This will show the recruiter that you take their information seriously. You will also need your notes for your post-interview email. Reiterate some of the points to make sure you understand everything correctly.

Disconnect from Skype when it's over. Don't assume, make sure you are off line, before you say / do anything in front of your computer.

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