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I have an interview soon for a programming job. I was told that we'd have a call with screenshare at 5pm.

For anyone who has had a screenshare interview, how did the interviewer use screenshare to interview you?

If you have interviewed with screenshare, what where you looking for on the screen?

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    Also, if you really meant the interview is 5pm today please come back later and provide an answer for the future. And good luck. :) – SpaceDog Apr 13 '15 at 10:22
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    good luck broheim! take some deep breathes :D – easymoden00b Apr 13 '15 at 19:12
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    Here's hoping it went well :) – Brian Apr 13 '15 at 21:32
  • @SpaceDog thank you, but from my recent experiences with 3 or so employers from careers.stackexchange.com, They seem more selective than many other companies I've interviewed in the past. I mean, the company sends a 3-4 paragraph message saying they want me for some position, and in an hour they can change their mind. I can only speculate the reasons why, but 1 thing comes to mind which I'll try to post a question about. – user2973 May 7 '15 at 21:53
  • @Brian thx for saying that, but the above post to SpaceDog attempts to explain the outcome. – user2973 May 7 '15 at 21:55
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You don't specify what sort of job this is for, and hopefully you can come back and post what happened, but I can give some general answers, although I've never done interviews via screensharing before I do work with people in other offices this way. I'm tending to assume it's for a programming job but I could see other jobs using it too.

They're using screensharing because they either want to show you something, then want you to show them something or they want to collaborate (or any combination of those).

Things they might show you: A generic company presentation, details of the job / project, illustrations to help them ask technical questions (i.e. a code snippet or some other example).

Things they might want you to show: A sketch of some design in response to a question (they may given you control of their drawing program), some example code or text, some of your existing work.

Collaboration: Is a mixture of both where you may work together on something -- code, design, drawings, documents, etc -- so the interviewer can get a feel for how you work.

One of the tricky things on phone interviews is to get a feeling of the interviewees thought process, since there's no way for them to sketch out the interim steps and people tend to either stay silent while thinking on the phone or try and rush to an answer. This allows a phone interview to play out more like a face-to-face one.

But don't worry if they setup the shared screen and never use it, perhaps they do it by default just in case it's needed (always better to prepare in advance than waiting for someone to get it up and running).

General tips for a shared screen situation:
From my experience in using it, also applies to presentations

If you can, setup the software in advance and test it. Things go wrong all the time with sharing software (i.e. audio settings get messed up, firewalls need disabled). Always check in advance (with the same setup your going to use) if you can.

Shutdown all other programs, including e-mail, etc -- unless you need them. If you're sharing your computer this will stop you accidentally switching applications and showing something you shouldn't. In particular what for e-mail and IM programs that pop-up notifications -- there's nothing worse than seeing a random IM from a friend pop-up while you're trying to be professional.

If you're sharing -- and the software allows it -- share only the window(s) that are important to avoid the situations above.

Make sure your desktop background is appropriate ... and that the icons and programs that are visible are appropriate.

Be careful with anything with history if sharing it (i.e. browser history, file history).

If you're sharing remember they can see what you're doing -- think before you type.

And finally, if you're sharing, make absolutely sure you've stopped sharing after the interview before switching to doing anything else ... (this is the one I see most often, people forgot that they're sharing or assume the other side has disconnected.)

  • I tried actually running Skype on a clean Windows 8.1 Hyper-V machine. For unknown reasons Skype's screenshare won't work. Before the interview we had planned, I created a dummy Skype account on my Windows 8.1 notebook and ran Skype for Desktop, and did the same with my "real" Windows Skype account on my PC. Screenshare worked and it was worth the exercise. Yes if the machine running Skype has a microphone or webcam, I quit Skype entirely. – user2973 May 7 '15 at 22:05
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I use screen sharing tools a lot at work. I've never used it in an interview - but I've done a bunch of interviewing on both ends, so combining my interview expectations with screen sharing experience...

Preparedness:

The equivalent of being 5 minutes early for an interview in person is to have the following up and ready:

  • Have the Screen sharing tools installed and tested - often you can test against a test site provided by the service.
  • Have a portfolio and resume ready - if they haven't told you to prep anything, that's the material most relevant to your situation.
  • Be in a quiet location where you won't be interrupted
  • Assume that this is a video session and dress appropriately, and have your general appearance looking well-groomed.
  • Be someplace with plenty of bandwidth - have a good phone connection handy in case you can't do video and audio on the same channel - often a quick backup is to go to phone for audio and mute the video.
  • Have your computer plugged into a power source.
  • Have the video tested and aligned at least somewhat to where you want to show it - take a quick look and make sure that you are not backlight (that's painful to look at) and not in a very work-inappropriate location - a blank wall or a wall with tasteful art is a win - simple and not distracting.
    • close other applications - you may want an email window, any documents to share, a browser and the video/sharing software and that's probably all you want open.
    • turn on your sound so you can hear them if they are calling
    • Have a work appropriate background on your desktop
    • Use trusted equipment - this is not the time to use an untried computer, video camera, headset, etc.
    • Have a way to take notes - don't assume that your computer will be convenient - it is doing the screen sharing so juggling between windows may be difficult.

Know the context:

Just like if you were coming in for an interview - it's fair to ask the agenda and context of the discussion. It's not wrong to say "I've never used screen sharing in an interview and I want to be prepared - what's the context that will be sharing? Should I be prepared to present anything or will I be watching the interviewer present?"

It's even fair to ask what they are trying to evaluate so you can tell what the most important element of the sharing is. I'd expect that it would follow the same format as an in person interview, where I'd expect that the sharing is like giving a presentation... so it's both verbal presentation skills, and the content of the presentation itself. The nature of what the interviewer cares about will be largely connected to the field of the job.

During and After

Because I Skype and screen share a lot, I find that I've got a pattern now - starting from the preparation steps above:

  1. Dial into the call, if the call hasn't started, put yourself on something hands free and start up your computer. If the call has started, introduce yourself and your purpose. If it takes a while to get everyone assembled, go on mute.
  2. Log into the sharing site while closing your email system to make sure that you won't get annoying email popups while presenting.
  3. If using video, adjust the video as soon as it comes up to make sure you are in the frame the way you wish to be.
  4. Make sure you can be heard - if you didn't hear people say "hi" to you when you logged into the call, say "can you hear me?" and make sure you are not on mute.
  5. Verify that sharing is working - if you are sharing, set up the sharing to the application you are presenting... check in verbally and say "I've shared now, can you see it?" before launching into any presentation. Or - if you are the recipient, verify with the presenter when you are able to see the presentation. Often audiences will say "I see XYZ on the screen" to let you know exactly what is being shared.

Do the presentation/discussion... and after...

  1. Thank the audience, get any questions - you may want to leave the sharing live so you can point out key areas of your presentation during Q&A.
  2. When finished, stop sharing immediately and give control back to the originator.
  3. Say a nice good bye, or continue with the next section of the interview.
  4. At the end of the interview, disconnect from sharing, and turn off audio.
  5. Set up your computer/phone/house back to it's normal state so you don't get confused later. :)

All these steps seem mind numbing, but I found that having a set routine that I was comfortable with takes the stress out of presenting in high stakes situations. Because I've done a lot of screen sharing presentations over the years, I found that comfort with my process and having a nice set order really helped me to look professional and to focus on the content over the frustrations with the tools.

  • Know the Content jumps out at me the most, because I've tried asking the interviewer what purpose the screensharing serves here. No answer though. +1 – user2973 Apr 13 '15 at 15:56
  • That's just a bit frightening... I suppose the blithe way to look at it is - if they can't describe why you'd need it ... then being ready for anything and prepped for nothing is totally appropriate. Saying "I have nothing prepped, because when I asked you what to prepare you gave me no info" is totally fair. – bethlakshmi Apr 14 '15 at 19:14
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Just minor adds to SpaceDogs excellent answer

  1. This will most likely be a video interview so make sure your webcam works well. Make sure that your room, physical background and lighting conditions look okay. Make sure you yourself look okay given the camera angles.
  2. Make sure the audio is good. Computer speakers and build in microphones can be very bad. You could were a headset, but that looks dorky. Best would be a good USB hands-free speakerphone (I use the Jabra 510 and it works great, no endorsement intended). If that's not feasible a set of good ear buds with a build in mic is probably your best choice. Good compromise between sound quality and appearance
  3. Test drive the whole setup with a friend. Practice how to get this fired up, debugged, poke around in the settings menu and discuss after the session how it looked and sounded
  4. Another useful tool might be www.groupboard.com. It's a virtual whiteboard that both parties can sketch on, great for technical question and discussions. It's free (I think)
  5. If you really want to get fancy, put groupboard on a tablet and then you can scribble on this with a touch pen while still doing screen sharing and talking.

Now this all may seem like overkill and a lot of hassle. However, I think it's worth the effort. It shows the interviewer that you have thought this through, are well prepared, and that you are reasonably tech savvy.

It's a good investment anyway: getting this all figured out is great for most day time jobs as well. After you've done it a few time, it becomes second nature and can increase your communication productivity substantially.

  • 2-3. I haven't been a Skype user (until now), so I had no contacts to call and test out screenshare. But I have a desktop PC, a notebook/tablet, and a Hyper-V virtual machine running Windows 7. If I can find a way to create a fake Skype account on any of these machines, then maybe screenshare can be tested by 1 user with 2 Skype accounts. 1. My interviewer is O.K. that I don't have a mic, we'll talk on our cells. He didn't say anything about a video chat, just a screenshare. But what to do if the interviewer also wants video chat? I switch from running Skype on PC to my Surface Pro. +1 – user2973 Apr 13 '15 at 16:00

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