How to avoid becoming a viral internet sensation - or how to ace an interview via Skype/Video

At the bottom of this article is an awesome viral video of the BBC video interview with Prof Robert Kelly, where his kids and wife enter the room while he is being interviewed live on TV. It’s hilarious, human and a really great reminder about the importance of being really well prepared for a Skype or video interview. 

To put it in context……  

your dream role?

Maybe you find your dream role, or your dream role finds you. Your LinkedIn profile rebuild has worked and you turn up in a search that offers a chance of a lifetime role. You then send your cunning cover letter and CV that cuts through the clutter and end up with the opportunity to interview.  WOOT!  There’s only one hitch. You’re not going to be on location when they’re interviewing so they propose a video or Skype interview.

(groan .......)

How to put your best foot forward for a Skype interview for your dream role

How to put your best foot forward for a Skype interview for your dream role

I hear you!  It’s not ideal but becoming more and more normal with tele-commuting, video-conferencing and tele-meetings now part and parcel of a contemporary executive tool kit.  Plus you'll probably have remote staff management, companies reducing travel spend along with offshoring to contend with in your role, so it’s the new way of the world.

But what’s important right now is that you put your best foot forward so that you are on an equal footing for this said dream opportunity. 

What could go wrong with a Skype interview?

Anything, everything and nothing.

I have a rule of thumb that comes into play before Board meetings. This rule is "never leave any last minute printing to do on the morning of a Board meeting. The printer will 9 x out of 10 go off line."  Well the same principle applies before speaking events and interviews. Be prepared in advance so you can cope more skilfully, confidently and professionally with anything that might go wrong. 

The downside is a little overtime the night before. The upside? You might win the opportunity more easily.

So to help you avoid becoming an internet sensation like the viral Children Interrupt BBC News Interview below, here are 13 awesome tips crowdsourced from my Facebook and LinkedIn connections.  These people have been there, done that, for television and radio interviews, landing dream roles or projects and winning gigs in the USA, UK and NZ.    THANKS! 

  1. Do a test run the evening before - visual AND sound.  Familiarise yourself with your own technology and systems. Make sure it all works at your end.
  2. Connect in advance - if Skyping make sure you make the connection in advance. Nothing worse than a connection glitch where you simply can’t find each other or your Skype invitations miss each other in the ether somehow.
  3. Style the room - think about what's in the background of the shot/camera - keep it classy, clear and office like in appearance even if it's at your home. A bookshelf is a good look especially if you have some business books - and makes you look like you could possibly read business books. A win win.
  4. Reflect on camera angles - you don't want the camera looking up your nose or you don't want the camera looking down on you giving you jowls. Remember those historical items called phone books? I have a couple of old phone books that sit underneath my laptop to raise it up so that the camera angle is more flattering and so the actual camera and the image of the other other person are in alignment.
  5. Lighting is important - make sure the room is light, that there isn’t glare through a window or too much sun, or that the downlight in the ceiling doesn't make you look sinister. 
  6. Speak to the camera itself - not the picture of the person. Use a post it note or a piece of blutak to mark the camera and speak to that, not at the image of the person on your monitor. Put a yellow sticker immediately next to the camera to encourage you to "make eye contact".
  7. Look sharp - do dress up like you would for an interview, bright lipstick (if that's your gig), hair done and be your best self.  What ever you do, don't do the newsreader top only thing in case you have to stand up for some reason in a rush and forget you forgot your pants.
  8. Have a back up plan - back it up with a Wifi dongle or alternative device (like your phone) to help get through in case things simply don't work.
  9. Unplug - turn off your mobile phone and/or landline (yes they still exist) during the interview so you don't get interrupted.
  10. Take control of the room - before, during and after.
    • Before hand - brief any peers, pets or family members so they don’t come into the room.  Nothing like a cat reversing into the camera to put you off your game.
    • During - if someone does interrupt don’t simply ignore like our BBC interviewee. Acknowledge briefly and do something about it. And while ignoring is a no no, so too is yelling at the interruption, because - smile! You're still on show (!!) - even if there is a pause in the official interview while you deal with it.
    • After - do ensure you hang up and disconnect properly so you don’t say or do anything inappropriate .... like banging your forehead against your desk in frustration while accidentally still videoing or recording. 
  11. Remember the lag - don't forget to take the lag into account. Speaking slightly more deliberately and slowly helps, and remember you're appearing about one second delayed at the other side (even on fast internet). That helps avoid those awkward talking over one another and everyone pausing moments.
  12. Don't forget to move - use your body language to get you point across and show you're interested.
  13. And smile. Likability is an important factor in human connection. The other side want to know that they could actually work with the person who they are interviewing, so do smile.
  14. Bonus tip  - did I mention a rehearsal? If I did, it's worth re-iterating. Do a test run before hand. Find a trusted peer, colleague or mentor to coach you through the experience and give you feedback. 

Good luck and see you on the other side! And do let me know how you go. And do get in touch if you need help with that.

How to avoid becoming a viral internet sensation

So back to the video - here is the interview with Prof Robert Kelly with an unplanned guest appearance by his family. A great reminder to make sure you will not be interrupted.



How would a multi tasking working mum have handled it?

Jono & Ben (NZ comedians) took it one step further and demonstrated how a tongue in cheek, multi tasking, working mum might have handled the situation. In fact, it looks relatively legitimate until the chicken makes an entrance! 

And if something does go wrong?

This is how to recover and turn it from a career limiting move into a career defining moment.

Prof Robert Kelly and the BBC conducted a follow up interview which almost did better than the initial misstep. And it’s a great reminder that while you might do all you can to control the situation in advance, stuff happens. And it’s better to own it, rather than try and pretend it doesn’t happen.


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