Tips for Using Skype for Meetings or Interviews

This week, my blog post about Relationship Dramas can be seen over at Coaching Confidence (click here)

So, instead this guest post was provided by Erin Palmer – a writer and editor with Bisk Education. Erin works with the online programs for prestigious universities such as Villanova University. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.


With much of the public sector facing spending cuts, alternatives need to be explored to remain productive and efficient while staying under the bottom line. Once such tool, video conferencing, is changing the way we do business by reducing travel and training-related expenses. Instead of dealing with mileage reimbursement and hotel bills, video conferencing helps to efficiently use time and energy within a lower budget.

One of the most popular video conferencing services being used is Skype. The software application provides a lot of services including free phone calls to landlines, but its video conferencing feature has grown in popularity. As is with any new endeavor, there are some tips to follow that will make your first (or next) meeting run a little smoother.

Make your environment distraction-free

With so many gadgets and devices floating around your workspace, something is bound to make a noise, light up or pull your attention away from the meeting. Remember that the other individuals participating in the meeting can see you. Remove clutter from your desk, make sure unnecessary electronics are turned off and keep people from coming into the office while conferencing. Be respectful of other’s time.

Dress appropriately

Don’t forget to look professional. Just because you’re not meeting in person doesn’t mean you aren’t making an impression. Dress as if you were actually going into a face-to-face meeting and make sure to do a spot check before you go live. Having a ketchup stain on your shirt or being dressed in pajamas is not appropriate.

Choose the right meeting time

Give careful consideration to the time you schedule the meeting. Too early or too late in the day both have their downfalls (both lend to less interaction from the group as they wake up or are winding down). If you’re working across different time zones, remember to account for the time difference and try to accommodate everyone.

Create specific parameters for the meeting duration

Letting everyone know how long a meeting is going to last will help keep everyone focused and moving forward on the meeting objectives. Be clear on a start time and sign in early, especially if you are running the show. It’s okay if the meeting runs a little long, but don’t keep everyone on if you’re only having a discussion with one individual.

Prepare materials and add contacts beforehand

Being organized before the meeting is very important. Have key statistics or data nearby that you can reference when needed. It is a waste of everyone’s time if you are trying to search for an important number or file while everyone is waiting on you. Moreover, sending an outline or other specific data to attendees beforehand will help to keep the meeting on point. This allows the other participates to generate questions beforehand and makes it easier to get lively participation.

Equally important is getting contact information, ideally before the meeting starts. Include alternative phone numbers should there be a problem with Skype or the connection. Being able to quickly reach other participants in the event of a problem will help salvage meetings and relationships.

Make sure that your speakers/microphones are in working order

It is vital to make sure everything you need for the video conference is working before it starts. Test everything with someone at the office so you know everything sounds and looks good. If you’ll be video conferencing on a regular basis, consider upgrading your microphone, getting a better camera, or buying a headset.

Listen intently

Remember that you’re on camera, so you should be paying close attention and listening to everything happening in the meeting. Be aware of your facial expressions and always be engaged. You’re on camera, so some physical cues like nodding and smiling will let the others know that you’re listening.

Skype and other video conferencing programs can really help the public sector cut down on costs without sacrificing productivity. Using proper meeting etiquette will help make video conferences just as effective and successful as in-house meetings.

These interview tips were provided by Villanova University’s online HR programs. Villanova offers human resources courses in addition to a Master’s Degree in Human Resources that is available 100% online. For more information please visit


Free Resources: Techniques for Interviewees

Recently there’s been a few requests for material to help interviewees prepare for their interviews.  Bina from @PlainTalkingHR made a request during the weekend of 15-16th January, and Emma from @onatrainagain made a similar request and blog post last weekend.

Naturally, I rallied to the call and sent some material off to both Bina and Emma.  I have been involved in a number of restructures over the years:   interview technique and CV development workshops have always been part of the programme of change.  I delivered my first workshop almost 10 years ago.  And today, Friday 28th January, you’ll find me in Plymouth on my feet delivering a similar workshop.

However, the recent call for material has made me think about how much support there is for interviewees, particularly those who are going for jobs in other organisations – what is there out there for them?

Looking on Amazon Kindle and there’s a wealth of interview tips books.  But having recently read a few of the ones that are for sale for less than £5 (for research purposes only), they don’t tell you anything that you don’t already know:  turn up on time; maintain eye contact etc

A quick flick around the internet, it’s easy to come across lots of video clips on on how not to interview.  And the serious ones are top & tailed by adverts which is just plain annoying.   (If you can get past the adverts, the short clips from Career Concierge are helpful to a job seeker).

There are websites with loads of sample questions: ones that lend themselves to hypothetical or superficial answers.  These aren’t the type of questions I like to ask in interviews.  I prefer questions that look to assess a candidate’s ability to do the job based on past experience and the ability to learn from that.  One website went as far as suggesting what answers candidates should give at interview too!

I found some good stuff too.  There’s a blog called Interview Skills.  If you like what they are writing about, you can then go on to attend one of their interview coaching courses.  I also found a website giving you a trial psychometric test. I  tried it, but had to sign up to get the results.

I thought I’d try out a free e-course.  I’ve done the first “day” and I’m awaiting my next email, which is due “in a few days”.  And I’m not entirely clear how long the e-course is?  Not sure whether this is part of the marketing strategy….but if I was preparing for a  job interview, I wouldn’t have the patience to wait.

One website claimed:

“In fact, a recent survey showed that 9 out of 10 interview candidates failed to prepare properly for their job “

And to be honest, I’m not surprised as there isn’t much information out there (for free) to help job seekers.   From my brief research, I feel there’s little material out there of any real depth……unless you’re prepared to pay for it.  And unless you’re already in a job, can you afford to?


Postscript:  If I’ve missed a goldmine of interview tips, please let me know.

How to Tell a Story

Last year I watched both of the Truman Capote Films: Capote (2005), staring Philip Seymour Hoffman who won an Oscar for his performance and Infamous (2006). Both films covered the period of Truman Capote’s life when he was researching the book “In Cold Blood”.

What struck me most about these films is how Capote would use social gatherings, parties, or dinner parties to refine his stories through orally telling his friends about the subjects of his current book. Each time he told the story he noted the reaction of the audience and this influenced his sentence construction and phrasing to enable maximum impact to the reader.

I recalled this fine art of story-telling as I prepared this week for a workshop for staff who are currently undergoing an organisation restructure. All the staff are having to apply for new posts in their department and my workshop is to support them through this process so that they are able to effectively demonstrate their skills, experience and abilities.

One of the key elements whilst preparing for an interview or any type of selection process is to practice “out-loud” the responses to key questions. We often find that we’ve constructed an excellent reponse in our minds, but frequently this response does not sound as good when we hear it out loud for the first time.

I encourage participants to find some private space – either in the car, or in the shower for example, and to use this space to recite their stories out loud. The key is to repeat the stories over and over – ensuring that the story reaches a conclusive end. Refine the story as you practice it, and the more you do, the more embedded the story will become.

When faced with a couple interviewers, candidates often feel nervous and their minds “go-blank”. With well rehearsed stories, answers spring to mind easily and the delivery is well prepared: it demonstrates the point, highlights the learning that occured and shows the interviews both the level of skills / experience as well as the ability to reflect and learn.

So, I think that Truman Capote sets us a good example. We may not be as literary competent as he is, but we can learn from his methodology about how to make the most of our own stories.