Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Prepare for a Skype Interview

I am moving to Connecticut in a few months and for the first time in decades actually have to think about details related to a new job search, including preparing for an interview. I've been quizzing colleagues who have been interviewed on Skype to get their input about how to prepare for a Skype interview (should I ever have to do one), along with my own thoughts as a Skype user ...

1. Be a Skype user long before you actually have to use it for business so you know what you’re doing; get accustomed to seeing others and yourself on a screen in a conversation;

2. Be sure you know how to work the audio and microphone on your computer, and test them the day before and the day of the interview. Have step-by-step how-to instructions on index cards on how to reset audio and the microphone if necessary. Have a back up computer ready to go in the event you have a computer crash or disaster immediately prior to your interview time;

3. Practice with someone and record mock interviews on Skype. This will prepare you for how you want to position yourself for the interview. You won’t want your face to look distorted or take up the entire screen. If you’re a headset user, weigh sound quality against looking like you’re at a radio control center;

4. Consider use of other materials. Some who interview by Skype put sticky notes on their computer, index cards with key points on the table near the computer screen, or have notes on flip chart paper taped on the wall behind the computer. Be sure it’s not really obvious that you are referencing something;

5. Consider the background. What is on the wall and in the room behind you will be seen. Not a good time to show a liquor collection, unkempt counters/desks, or busy street outside a window;

6. Put your pets far away from the camera. I watched a Skype interview once where a cat jumped on the person’s shoulder in the middle of it. It’s also possible to hear dogs, babies and other sounds in the background; and for god’s sake unplug your telephone and turn off your blackberry or iPhone (which are bound to ring);

7. Have water available if you need it, but not too close to the computer keyboard;

8. Dress as if you are at a live interview, because you are. Certain jewelry that flashes may be more obvious and flashy on camera than in person. The search committee on the other end of your interview probably has you broadcast on a large screen - remember they will see every dark circle or flaw, so think about yourself magnified. Eye contact is important even with technology - so look as if you are making eye contact.

9. Like all interviews, listen to the question and answer it. People screw that up all the time, whether on Skype or not. If they give you a limited time for the interview, be mindful of it and plan accordingly when you answer questions – especially very open-ended ones;

10. And finally, technology can go wrong at the search committee site too. You can always offer to continue on a conference call, but those who were able to Skype are likely to have an advantage. It's okay to ask for another Skype interview.

Any tips you have that aren't included?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Office Technology: More to worry about

Are your meetings being watched via your videoconferencing equipment without your knowledge? An article in the New York Times gives that a big maybe. Apparently hackers can often easily get into those video conference systems - thus into the board rooms that host the equipment - and can then watch and listen to everything that happens in those rooms. The article also mentions that the US Chamber found that an IP address in China may have accessed them via an apartment thermostat and office printer. Seriously, did we need more office equipment to worry about?

Here are a few more things to think about:

1.) If someone who leaves in a board room during executive session, but an open laptop or activated device remains, could he/she (or someone remotely) be taping or listening to the discussion?

2.) If you don't collect devices before a hearing, could the parties listen in to the deliberation if an open phone line that remains in a room? (Note to REALTOR Association Execs - the Professional Standards manual has a section devoted to collecting devices at hearings)

3.) Could your presentations or meetings be taped via a phone or laptop without you expecting it? I was once asked after doing a presentation if it could be uploaded onto YouTube. I didn't even know I was being taped - it wasn't remotely obvious.

4.) Is your laptop set to prohibit remote access?

Remember the good old days when the only concern was whether office equipment worked or not ... Now we have to be suspicious of any equipment obvious or concealed in any meeting room too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Creating Additional Value at a Committee Meeting (in 3 minutes or less)

If a committee meeting is adjourning early, do you (or should you) take 3 minutes for professional development?

At the end of a meeting, a chairman asked an attendee (before we adjourned) if she could tell the group in two minutes about the top two business apps she uses on her iPad. Two others gave their top app too. It all took a total of about 3 minutes. Everyone was writing the info down (including me); and when we reconvened the next day the pre-meeting chat was all about those apps.

Sometimes we miss easy opportunities to learn from each other - even if only a 3 minute burst of opportunity. If the meeting was ending on time, or heaven forbid running over, it's not appropriate to extend for any reason. And had it been more than 3 minutes I'm not sure that would have been fair to the group either - as so totally off-topic. But it was short, and great.

I thought that was 3 minutes well spent; and definitely of interest to those who attended. The chairman knew she taught a class on that topic, and we all benefited from her knowledge and presence unexpectedly.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Your Association Staff: The Beneficiary Check

Do you have any idea who you designated as the beneficiary on the life insurance policy provided by your association? Do your employees still remember who they designated?

Many years ago, an association employee passed away and one of her children called because the family was really surprised about the beneficiary to her life insurance policy - it was totally inconsistent with everything else noted in the will. But it didn't matter - the beneficiary is the beneficiary; and the determination was between the insurance company and the employee.

Especially with longtime employees who may have had significant life changes during their many years of employment, one thought may never have been to check or change the beneficiary on the life insurance policy provided by the association. Wouldn't it be a big surprise to an ex-husband or a nephew to later find they are the beneficiary of an insurance policy because the employee never changed that information?

Contact your association's life insurance provider and ask to provide beneficiary change forms to provide to your staff - or ask if there is a number employees can call to verify who they may have designated.

Employees really don't think to make that change when their life has changed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reminder Note ...

If you really need to remember to do something after work or when you leave the office - write it on a post-in note and staple it around a purse, bag or briefcase handle. It's harder to miss than other ways you may leave a note.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

6 Reasons your Association should Sponsor a Sports Program

The association that is our Connecticut counterpart is a sponsor of a Division I University's basketball games. There are 6 reasons they do it ... that are each good reasons for you to consider sponsoring a team/program in your area/state too:

1. Popular tickets for fundraising events and/or prizes: Their sponsorship includes season tickets to the men's and women's home basketball games. Those have been used as prizes at meeting/events and for fundraising efforts (like their scholarship fund and Foundation.)

2. Way to support local association events: Their season tickets are shared with their local boards for them to use as prizes or for fundraising efforts on the local level. (They say this alone has been "an awesome benefit.")

3. Member Appreciation Days - and Member Savings: They are also able to offer "Member Appreciation Days" at select football and basketball games - with tickets available to members for as low as $10. Members have saved several thousands of dollars from regular ticket prices. Plus, members have fun.

4. Public Announcements with Key Messages: They have two public announcements during basketball games at the large home game arena that are tied to their public relations campaign theme; along with a video board display during the announcements. They have the same thing at the campus arena, but also two signs over the tunnels with their public relations campaign logo.

5. Supporting a State University: Members feel good about providing support to a state university program.

6. Target Demographic/Audience for PR Campaign Message: They found it's a great opportunity to reach an important target audience with their target message ... specifically, the young people who attend these games, the school alumni and fans; as well as the visiting team's students, alumni and fans.

Special thanks to Beth Mecteau at the CT Association of REALTORS for providing all this great info ...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Take 15 minutes: What's going on with those links?

Our association (like many others) offered membership web pages so they'd have a "presence on the Internet" - back when we were collectively first learning about email and the Internet. We'd take photos at membership meetings to add to their page and provide guidance on how to update personal info on that page. The good: there was a lot of content put on those sites. The bad: some of it didn't get updated again ... so flash forward, we have all sorts of pictures of members that now look like high school photos; and information they put about themselves 10 or 15 years ago pretty much froze in time. The (maybe) ugly: the public can find how outdated it is too.

Recently I checked out the blogroll and links on our association blog and site. Yikes. Did the weeks turn into months turn into years - and all those sites and blogs are now gone? It took minutes for me to remove them - but how long were they wrong?!

Have you checked out the content on your association sites to see what really needs to be removed or updated; and how many links referenced in documents are long gone?

Set aside just 15 minutes today and look at all your association Internet sites. Find what you can delete now that needs to go, and just do it. Identify who is going to go through the rest of your links and site content to update, remove or educate about it.

Things have changed in the past 15 years - and some of your blogroll, links and content likely needs to change too. Although I sort of like my former professional picture (above) ... it's not exactly current.