Skype disasters: 4 ways to ruin an online job interview

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 01: In this photo illustration, the Skype internet phone program is seen September 1, 2009 in New York City. EBay announced it will sell most of its Skype online phone service to a group of investors for $1.9 billion, a deal that values Skype at $2.75 billion. (Photo Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images) Getty Images

(MoneyWatch) For some weary job seekers, a Skype interview is a welcome respite from in-person job interviews. You don't have to worry about a confusing commute or the possibility of running late in traffic. And while you do need to prep your physical appearance as usual, things like fresh breath aren't an issue. But for those of us who don't have a lot of experience with the technology, there are some things to keep in mind before you log into your meeting. Here are 4 things that can instantly derail an online job interview:

Not practicing first

For all interviews, you should practice answering questions that are likely to be asked, but for Skype interviews, you also want to practice using the technology with a dry run, suggests media coach Ruth Sherman: "This will help you see the framing and whether everything -- including you -- looks OK."

Showing poor etiquette

The technology is instant, which makes it very easy to follow up with your interviewer -- but that doesn't mean you should. Sarah Cornwell, marketing manager at appbackr, says she was turned off by a candidate who repeatedly contacted her every time she logged into Skype. "I appreciated his enthusiasm, but his seeming lack of respect for my time outweighed that," says Cornwell. "Skype was the tool we used for the interview, but it's not an effective tool to engage with potential employers after." She suggests e-mail for follow-up correspondence.

Not logging off

Making sure you double-check that you've signed off will prevent the undermining of a good interview. "It gets really funny because the other party can keep watching whatever you do," says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, a consulting firm. Even if you've carefully contrived a professional environment for the interview, it becomes a wasted effort if you "lift the curtain" by forgetting to log off.

Letting your animals roam the room

Animals have no place in a job interview -- on or offline. "I was once interviewing a candidate via Skype who was perfectly presentable with regard to her physical appearance, but her cat kept walking across the background," recalls Jennifer Johnson Scalzi, founder of J. Johnson Executive Search Inc.  In addition to making sure your pets aren't entering your interview space, you'll want to keep human distractions out, too. "I even encourage people to put a note on their door saying 'Do not knock' or something similar to keep the FedEx guy from inevitably ringing the bell at the wrong time," says Scalzi.

This is Part One in a 5-part series on job interview disaster control. Check back tomorrow for Part 2, "Sneaky Ways Social Media Can Cost You a New Job."

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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