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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Doing Job interviews online

So what should you do if you're asked to interview by Skype — or even brave enough to suggest it yourself?
Here is some advice from the experts:

First off, realize that we perceive people differently through a camera than we do in person. Bill McGowan, a former news anchor who now trains people to go on TV, starts his list of pointers with lighting: whether you're sitting in your kitchen or an office borrowed from a friend, make sure there's no bright light (like from a window) behind you. That will only darken your face. When your interviewer is talking, it's fine to look at his image on the screen, but when you answer, look at the camera. That's how to make "eye contact." Avoid wearing patterns and the color white, since we notice white spots on a screen first — you want your interviewer drawn to your teeth and eyes, not to your shirt. And don't forget that what's behind you is visible too. "It's best to put away the Mad Men bar," says McGowan.

Next, think about framing. Sitting flush with a plain white wall will make you look like you're in a police lineup, so angle your knees to the corner of your computer screen, and then turn your head slightly back to look at the camera. Sit tall in your chair, but not too close to the camera: the first three buttons of your shirt should be visible, or else you risk looking like a floating head, counsels Priscilla Shanks, a coach for broadcast journalists and public speakers. Most important, do a dry run with a friend to check your color, sound and facial expressions — neutral often comes off as glum onscreen. (See pictures of vintage computers.)

After all that, don't forget that this is still a job interview. Even though you're not meeting face to face, dress as though you are. When you "walk in," have your résumé ready — this time, as an e-mail attachment. And don't forget to do all the standard prep work. Are you ready to talk about your greatest weakness? "This adds another layer, but people will still expect you to be prepared to have a conversation with them," says career counselor Judith Gerberg.

Though that's not to say you can't acknowledge the medium. This past summer, Deanna Reed, principal of the Marie Murphy School in suburban Chicago, started doing Skype interviews and has already considered candidates from as far away as Asia. "The time difference was so great, it was like 1 in the morning for him," she says about a teacher in Japan. "I said, 'Oh, you had to get on your suit in the middle of the night?' And he said, 'No, I have my pajamas on the bottom.' He was fun — he had a real sense of humor." Even over video, it's possible to make a great first impression.

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