Your Office Coach: Tips to nail a job interview over Skype

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Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014 12:00 am

Q: “Jerry” and I are jointly responsible for producing our company magazine. Last month, I missed the deadline for submitting an article by one day. When I told our editor about the delay, she said it would not be a problem. After I completed the article, I was shocked to find that Jerry had instructed her to publish the magazine without it.

When I sent Jerry an email questioning this decision, he responded with a very vindictive reply stating that I deserved to be left out because I missed the deadline. Now I’m afraid this conflict is about to get out of hand. Do you have any advice?

A: At this point, your own reaction will determine whether this disagreement heats up or cools down. Responding in kind will just escalate matters and possibly create an ongoing feud. To reduce the emotional temperature, you need to remain calm and professional.

Start by initiating an actual conversation, since email is never appropriate for resolving conflicts. Expressing irritation in writing only creates more hard feelings, which is exactly what happened here. If you and Jerry are in different locations, try using a wonderful invention called the telephone.

You should also consider why Jerry is so angry. Given his intense reaction, I can’t help wondering whether you have a history of missed deadlines. If so, Jerry’s frustration may have been building for quite a while. To keep the discussion productive, acknowledge the past, but focus on the future.

For example: “Although I was unhappy about my article being omitted, I realize that I was late. From now on, I’ll try to do a better job of meeting deadlines. However, it also bothered me that the publication order was given without my knowledge. Going forward, could we agree to touch base before either one of us gives instructions to the editor?”

Of course, Jerry may point out that you also neglected to consult him before telling the editor to delay. If the two of you can agree to collaborate before giving orders, carrying out your shared responsibility will be much easier.

Q: I have a Skype interview scheduled with a prospective employer. Since I’ve never been interviewed on video, can you give me some tips?

A: Even if you’re a YouTube star, an on-camera job interview requires careful preparation. Be sure to use a high-clarity webcam, and explore different camera angles until you find one that feels comfortable. For better sound quality, avoid cellphones and use a landline.

Select a quiet location and eliminate interruptions. Close the door, banish your pets, turn off noisemakers, and instruct everyone to stay away. Determine which lighting option is most flattering, and remove anything unprofessional or distracting from the background. Dress in solid colors, not stripes or patterns, and avoid noisy jewelry.

To get helpful feedback, conduct a dress rehearsal with a friend. If you’re being interviewed at a recruiter’s office, ask if you can arrive early for a practice run. Finally, make eye contact by looking directly into the camera, not at the monitor or screen.

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