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Why Teens Should Master the Skype Interview

These days, connecting with admissions officers, coaches, and potential employers via Skype (or FaceTime) is becoming more and more common.

Video interviewing represents a new "life skill" that high schoolers should embrace and practice sooner rather than later.

Most of my mentoring sessions with PrepWell students are held via Skype (or FaceTime) to maximize efficiency.

Not only does this help me stay in touch with them, but it allows them to practice this important skill in a non-intimidating setting.

I'd rather that they learn and make mistakes with me, than with a college admissions officer, coach, or potential employer. I'm their mentor and part of my role is to provide praise and constructive criticism where appropriate. 

I even mentor my own children via Skype when we are in the same house.

PREPARATION STILL WINS THE DAY

Just because an interview is conducted remotely, doesn't mean it's any less important. First impressions count whether in-person or online.

Students should prepare for a remote interview as well as they would for an in-person interview.

Here are some tips for remote interview success:

  • Location. Don’t set up shop at the local Starbucks. This will annoy both the interviewer and the Starbucks customers. If your house is too noisy, find a room in a friend or neighbor's house. Don't use your bedroom if it's a cluttered mess.
  • Reliable internet connection. If you're doing a video interview, make sure you have a strong and reliable Wi-Fi connection.
  • Attire and grooming. It's tempting to show up for a video interview in ripped sweats and bed-head. Will anyone really notice? Bad idea. Not only do you risk looking unprepared and disheveled, but you will not be in the right mindset to have a serious conversation. Dress as you would to an in-person interview. This demonstrates professionalism and respect. 
  • Be on Time. Be ready 15 minutes prior to the call. Stand or sit in front of your computer, check the internet connection, double-check the Skype ID, re-check the background, and confirm who is expected to call who. It's never good when both parties think the other is supposed to initiate the call and you both end up sitting around. Confirm this ahead of time.
  • Have your stuff ready. If there are items that you may need to reference during the call (e.g. resume, college course catalog, PrepWell Journal, phone numbers, etc.), make sure they are available. Have a pen and pad available for notes and a bottle of water.
  • Speak clearly and deliberately. While this is important in person as well, it's more important in a video interview. Even with the best internet connection, mumbling or fast-talking will make for a poor experience for the person on the other end.
  • Be Extra Attentive. Long, awkward pauses don't play well during a video interview. Use ample non-verbal and verbal cues to demonstrate that you are paying attention (e.g. "yes, that makes sense", "Sure", "Got it", as well as head nodding or other facial gestures).
  • Be Prepared for Small Talk. Small talk is the chit-chat that precedes the "official business" of the call.  Topics typically include weather, sports news, holidays, or local events. Scan the headlines in the local newspaper or college bulletin to familiarize yourself with potential topics of interest.
  • Body Language. Sit up straight (or stand up tall) during the interview. You do not want to look like you're slouching in a chair or on the couch. Standing helps you look more engaged and projects more confidence. Especially in a video interview, make sure you smile often.
  • Where do you look? It may feel awkward at first, but you should focus on the camera lens, not on the other person's face on the screen. While this may feel impersonal to you, it looks correct to the person on the other screen. If you try to look at the person on the screen, it will appear as though you are staring down at the keyboard. Place a little post-it note with an arrow next to the camera aperture that reminds you where to look.
  • Lights, Camera, Action. Spend a few minutes "testing" what the lighting looks like on camera. Conduct a "test call" with a friend and get feedback. Can the friend see you clearly or are you sitting in the shadows? Brighter typically trumps darker.
  • Limit distractions. Do your best to silence phones, other devices, pets, siblings, or other potential distractions.

The more practice put in, the more comfortable and better you will become.

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Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.

Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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