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I have been offered the choice of a phone interview or a Skype interview for a software engineering position. I've heard Skype is generally better because you can see the person's face. But I am a 200 pound woman who wears glasses and I'm not very attractive. Given this, do you think a phone interview would be more advantageous?

I'm also worried that if I take the phone interview, it won't help me in the long run, since I'm interviewing with people who would be on the same team as me, and when I show up for work on the first day they will be able to see that I'm fat, and treat me accordingly.

If it matters, I've already passed all the technical parts of the interviews, and my last remaining interview is for team fit/culture fit.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Oct 8 '16 at 15:39
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    Just FYI - I work at a company where we had a candidate that "couldn't do" a Skype interview, did a phone interview, and we're 99% sure the person who showed up on the first day of the job wasn't the person who did the interview. I'd take refusal to do more than a phone interview as something suspicious. – McCann Oct 9 '16 at 14:49
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    I'm curious - what's the glasses thing about? Are there some cultures where wearing glasses is considered unattractive? (for context I'm in the UK) – stripybadger Oct 10 '16 at 8:20
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    @McCann You employed someone on just a phone interview? – camden_kid Oct 10 '16 at 16:18
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    @camden_kid It wasn't my call, but yes. The powers that be learned their lesson from that one. – McCann Oct 10 '16 at 16:20

16 Answers 16

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When I went to my first job interview, which was in person, I was a 190 lb woman who wore glasses. I've always had pretty low self esteem due to my looks, but I didn't once feel like they had any impact at all on the interviewers impressions of me.

Instead, I focused on things that did matter to the interviewers - an enthusiasm for the job and company, an interest in learning and a bit of confidence in my abilities. I think these are more important. Don't focus on what you look like! Instead focus on what positives you have to offer, like skills, a good attitude, and a passion for what you do!

I got that first job, and after a few months working there I came to the realisation that if you do good work and if you earn the respect of those you work with, you will be treated with respect and treated well no matter what you look like, (or what your gender is, in my case - I was in a male dominated environment too!).

As for skype vs phone call, video allows for nonverbal communication and I like to see facial expressions, etc, so I would pick video. However, if you wouldn't feel comfortable with video, then pick what will work for you. Ultimately, either will be fine and I doubt anyone is going to judge you on your choice. I don't think a video call will lessen your chances, because you're not being chosen for your looks.

Addressing the comments:

I don't deny that everyone will have inherent biases. However, It is a sign of a professional to put aside those biases and consider the important criteria instead. I expect this of the people I work with and I have encountered this the vast majority of the time I've been in the industry. It is a sign of maturity to look past the appearance of someone. As such, if someone is unable to do so then I will think twice about my willingness to work for them.

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    +1 "if you earn the respect of those you work with, you will be treated with respect" – I'm not paid to think Oct 7 '16 at 19:49
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    The last paragraph is really the key here. Even if other people will not judge you for your appearance, if putting yourself out there, where it can even be a possibility in your mind, destroys your confidence, then that will affect how you are perceived in an interview. Do whatever you are the most comfortable with, as that gives you the best chance to present the most confident you. This same advice could apply to people with social anxiety and I am sure many other things that wreck your confidence. – Kik Oct 7 '16 at 21:49
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    Additionally, if the interviewer(s) does/do judge you on your appearance, you might be better off not working for that company. Do you really want to work for a company that judges you based on your appearance over your skill and enthusiasm? You're interviewing them (is your company a good fit for me) as much as they're interviewing you :) – Doktor J Oct 7 '16 at 21:53
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    @I'm not paid to think: But you have to get the job before you can work with people and earn their respect. I've had, I think, similar problems in face-to-face interviews (since I look like a guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley :-)), and my best jobs have been where people sought me out because of stuff I'd done, without seeing the person who did it. – jamesqf Oct 8 '16 at 4:30
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    @DoktorJ Judgement from interviewers might not be conscious. They might not even realise it but it might affect their decisions. On the other hand, this would be more pronounced if it were to happen on earlier rounds. Since OP passed technical part, she obviously impressed them already and any impact caused by appearance should be minimal (if any) and I wouldn't worry about it too much – Lope Oct 9 '16 at 5:41
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As a direct answer to your question, if you will feel more confident with a phone interview then request that. What really matters in the interview is presenting the best you possible. If you being on Skype is going to undermine your confidence then request an alternative.

Ultimately if there are any conditions of the interview that will undermine your confidence you are best off requesting reasonable accommodation.

Based on your second paragraph, it seems likely that you are struggling with confidence in general. For your overall happiness I'd recommend some counseling. Life is too short to spend it feeling bad.

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    +1 for knowing yourself and working with what you've got. If you believe you're unattractive that is an issue and addressing it will lead to healthier self image. But don't let having that issue now stop you from getting employment. Cope with it the way that helps you to move forward. Getting a job can boost one's security in a way that many other things don't for some people. Sure, looks "shouldn't" matter, but they do. Sure, we "shouldn't" take it personally when people criticize our looks but we do. Take care of yourself in a way that allows you to grow at your pace. – benrifkah Oct 7 '16 at 20:58
  • +1 for suggesting that she just ask for what's most comfortable - I've had a number of candidates ask for a phone interview over a Skype interview, sometimes they give a reason (like they are calling from their parked car), and sometimes not, and we've always accommodated them. But we've never made a final decision without a live face-to-face interview (including a group lunch). We don't make decision on appearance (it's a job interview, not a date), but on cultural fit (i.e. how well the candidate gets along with the team). – Johnny Oct 8 '16 at 21:47
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I personally think that you should go for the Skype call with video. I'm concerned that if you choose a phone interview because you're worried about your appearance you won't have an opportunity to resolve that fear.

Best Case with Phone Interview

If the phone interview goes smoothly you're probably still going to be concerned about how they will react to your appearance.

Worst Case with a Video Call

The worst that can reasonably happen is the interviewer makes an off color comment or you get some vague rejection later from an HR type saying they aren't interested in hiring you. Both of these outcomes are actually a gift even though they might not seem like one initially. The off color comment shows you that this isn't an environment that you'd feel welcome in, and no one has time to waste in a hostile work environment. The vague rejection letter lets you focus on other companies that truly value what you can contribute.

Best Case with Video Call

The interviewer is completely unfazed by your appearance and you move forward in the interview process. Now you've eliminated your appearance as a concern, and can concentrate on how you can add value to the organization.


I really think that the phone interview will just leave you with a Sword of Damocles hanging over your head. While the video interview might be a bit more intimidating for you initially it will allow you to nullify what seems to be a big concern of yours. Always remember that you are interviewing them as much as you are interviewing you. Finding out if they will react negatively to your appearance is something that you should discover as quickly as possible so you can make a more informed choice. At the end of the day you want to work somewhere where you can be both happy and successful. A video conference can be one easy way to separate the chaff from the wheat.

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    +1. The point of an interview isn't to get this job, or to hire this person. The point is rather to have more conversation before making the mutually expensive decision. Skype usually provides more conversation per minute than audio unless it stops working on the day of the interview. Which is why the candidate is asked which tool is more likely to work smoothly wherever they will be. – Jirka Hanika Oct 8 '16 at 12:56
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Presentation and confidence is important in an interview! However, attractiveness is not.

As a hiring manager of software developer's at my organization, I can assure you that a person attractiveness has never factored into their integration into our culture. If you are polite, seem responsible, explain your expertise well and represent your skills appropriately, you're a potential fit for us.

That being said, why would you ever take such a negative opinion of yourself? If you walk around thinking your "fat and unattractive", you give off the aura of someone who is, well, just that. A person, regardless of race, religion, color or creed, who smiles, is engaging and carries themselves professionally will much more often be considered for employment opportunities than those who are disengages or disingenuous.

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    This is a good answer, but could you add something that addresses the actual question asked - whether to select Skype or phone interview? – David K Oct 7 '16 at 18:38
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    @DavidK - I think the point here is it doesn't matter. – user8365 Oct 7 '16 at 20:13
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For a culture/fit interview, a Skype call is way better than a phone call.

"First impressions" isn't a buzzword, it's an aspect of psychology. People make judgments about a person when they meet them based on personal biases. Even a self aware and mature individual can only recognize and mitigate their own biases, not completely avoid them. This is a well documented phenomenon, and there are even online tools to see if you may have any biases yourself.

The concern that the interviewer will have a bias that hinders your job hunt is legitimate and worth consideration. If the interview was purely technical or HR fact checking, the phone interview could be a good way to make a favorable first impression without worrying about the other party's biases.

However, this is a fit/culture interview, and video calls are simply far better at communicating this sort of information. The phone interview would be more likely to hurt you by putting a barrier between you and the team than any biases they may have against you would. Your best option is to take the Skype interview, do what you can to be more presentable, and relax. Confidence and charm will outweigh any bias they may have.

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    You state that self aware and mature individuals can recognize and mitigate their own biases, but the online tools you link to about implicit bias rests entirely on the psychological observations that the opposite is true. People are often completely unaware of their own biases, and it is disturbingly difficult to fully mitigate them even when you are aware of them (and requires that you actually want to mitigate them, which is its own can of worms). Most of your advice is otherwise good, but you state an overly optimistic reading of the literature, and that leaves the conclusion questionable. – BrianH Oct 7 '16 at 18:55
  • @BrianDHall What I was trying to get at is that even if the person is aware they have a bias, they will not be able to act as though they had none. I have tried to make my intention more clear in the answer. – MackM Oct 8 '16 at 0:54
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    @BrianDHall: I generally agree with your comment, but the body of psychological studies on detecting subconscious biases that most people are unaware of does not rule out the possibility of sufficiently self-aware individuals noticing those biases in themselves, nor does current literature give us any conclusive quantification as to what extent sufficiently careful conscious cognition can or can't mitigate those biases (either on a case-by-case basic, or in general). In short, I think you correctly note the significant difficulty, but swing a little overly pessimistic in your own reading. – mtraceur Oct 8 '16 at 23:38
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    @mtraceur I think the key is that if you acknowledge and accept that you have biases then you can at least scrutinize your own behaviour in an attempt to reduce their effects - even if you aren't fully aware of what those biases are. – Ant P Oct 10 '16 at 8:28
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    @mtraceur I don't so much mean to be pessimistic, so much as wishing to avoid dismissing the legitimate danger of bias, as they are generally difficult to counteract, universal, and too often unknown to us. But so long as the dangers are made clear and concerns about bias not dismissed (giving people too much credit to be unbiased, especially on categories that many people don't even try to avoid bias against), then I agree we shouldn't be overly negative either. – BrianH Oct 10 '16 at 18:58
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I would think the Skype interview is the best. None of us can help how we look beyond making the best of what we have. So there's no point trying to hide your weight or features. You are correct in that it can be a factor in hiring, but confidence is as well.

It also depends on the job and office culture which you have no real way of knowing, being fat and ugly might be an asset. I know a whole finance department of a major business that is fully staffed with overweight unattractive ladies, great people. But they are hired partly for their physical attributes since the bosses wife prefers women like that and sacks any who don't fit the bill working near her husband.

I'm brown and heavily tattooed including a small tattoo on my face and others that cannot be hidden, so I know that appearance definitely makes a difference. But you just soldier on through it and don't let other people's biases worry you too much.

Despite what people will say on here, looks do matter. When hiring a saleswoman you prefer a good looking one, a bouncer for a public bar, a big intimidating man, a trendy club a big pretty boy, a female in a room full of young men, you want an older mature type etc,.

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    The comment about an entire department staffed with overweight unattractive women is a terrible point. It is irrelevant, as this is an anecdotal hearsay of the hiring practices of one department in a completely different field, as well as it reinforces the OP's fear of being pigeonholed based on her looks. – user56713 Oct 9 '16 at 0:03
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    @chell OP isn't a little kid living in a fantasy world, she's come to terms and recognises her shortcomings and strengths. So why beat around the bush? – Kilisi Oct 9 '16 at 4:41
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    You can make a pretty educated guess that an overweight woman is going to be facing an uphill battle. I'm not going to devalue the OP's read on the situation by throwing out a lucky anecdote to the contrary. Upvote btw since the point of your answer is clearly in that vein, I just found the anecdote side point a little harmful. – user42272 Oct 9 '16 at 7:00
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    I've been in a lot of interview reviews. You would be surprised I think at how often it would actually work in her favour depending on the role and specific company. – Kilisi Oct 9 '16 at 7:18
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    @chell I have interviewed plenty of them, they are the preferred candidate for many positions. I personally would hire one over a pretty single lady who would distract my men for an admin or dev role all else being equal. But I also know many who would choose the prettier one. – Kilisi Oct 9 '16 at 23:05
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I work in tech. When I hire, I'm looking for tabs vs. spaces. I'm looking for the ability to code and not need rewrites. Any half-decent software boss has one concern: frustration management. If you can make their day less frustrating, you can get away with a lot on the presentation front. Frankly, actual productivity matters only to the extent that it affects frustration for most software bosses. It's sad, but it's true.

All that really matters presentation-wise once you have the job is that you don't smell or have any other attributes that actively disgust, attributes that are very rare. If the boss cares about more than that, it's a bad sign. Either the company's priorities are bad or the boss' are. It's just not worth it.

With that said, people can be stupid. Looks matter. If you're hot, you get the job. If you're useful, you keep it. That's the way it generally goes. If you can find a way to get a job you want, find a way. If you're genuinely unattractive, that could hold you back. It's good to be aware of areas that could be problematic. It's also possible that body image issues are exacerbating the stress that comes naturally with finding a job and you don't look the way you think you do. Regardless, it's only an issue because people are generally bad at hiring. Get the job however you can if it's a good one and your skills will keep you there.

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    tabs vs spaces as a hiring criteria? – enderland Oct 7 '16 at 19:31
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    A good text editor will make the tabs vs spaces a moot point. – user5621 Oct 7 '16 at 19:44
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    Tabs, obviously. – Laconic Droid Oct 7 '16 at 19:51
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    @TheBlastOne: You got that the wrong way around. One tab = one level is the epitome of portability. Encoding a fixed number of blanks is inappropriate and annoying. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 8 '16 at 13:24
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    @enderland: Candidate A: "I will use tabs because I like it". Candidate B: "I will use spaces because I realize I will work in a team, and not everyone reading my code - including for code reviews - will have exact same editor as me with exact same settings or ability to convert tabs to spaces". Guess which one I will hire on the spot no matter how well either one knows the language? – user13655 Oct 8 '16 at 15:40
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Remember that skype interview != video call.

It's quite easy to refuse the video call and just opt in for audio call. Usually you just need to say you don't have a possibility of doing a video call (also, believe it or not there are still computers - most often desktop ones - that do not have camera - I have one like that).

You can also quite simply state that you'd prefer an audio only interview.

Good luck on your interview.

  • Yes, I own several of those computers :-) And if I did wind up with a machine that had a built-in camera, I'd put a piece of tape over it. – jamesqf Oct 8 '16 at 4:33
  • The question says Skype call vs phone call. I think that suggests the Skype option is video. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 8 '16 at 13:24
  • Yes. I understood that's implied, and that's assumption many people make. But that's not always the case. I have quite terrible cell reception at home so I often ask people to call me on skype vs. mobile, without implication that it'll be a video call. So wall I'm saying is don't panic when someone asks for a skype interview. You can quite easilly op out of video part. – Marcin Raczkowski Oct 10 '16 at 0:13
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    For this, it might be a good idea to point out to the interviewer beforehand that you'd be happy to have the conversation over Skype, but for whatever reason prefer not to do it as a video call. If the interviewer expects a video call and that gets rejected for seemingly no reason, and only then finds out, that might leave them with a poor impression of OP's professionality, which certainly can influence a hire/no-hire decision. – a CVn Oct 10 '16 at 20:59
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Being fat and unattractive is mostly a hinderance to you for a short amount of time, before your teammates have formed impressions of you based on your character and work ethic. (I say mostly because some people may continue being prejudiced towards you, and there are also subconscious biases towards the obese that pretty much everyone is guilty of.) Not everyone will get over your appearance in the duration of the skype interview and your obesity may impact their impression of you negatively. As an interviewee the etiquette for you seems to be to minimize the number of potential strikes against you, so concerns in your question are well-founded.

It might be to your advantage to opt for the phone interview. Your teammates will not will not give you bonus points for conversing with your face to face but they will probably also not form negative opinions of you based on your looks. Depending on how much you think your appearance negatively affects others' opinions of you, it might be worth making this trade off. This decision is something you need to gauge for yourself, since most friends and acquaintances will undoubtedly underreport the extent they think your appearance matters.

Once you have your foot in the door, you need to work hard to dispel any negative opinions your team members may form. As everyone now realizes the reason for you opting for a phone interview, some people might feel duped even though you are under no contractual obligation to appear a certain way. Make an extra effort to forestall others from forming mental associations between you and unpleasant characteristics often associated to fatness, such as unhygenic or laziness. It's unfair, and in an ideal world people should only judge you by your work ethic, but in a tech company in the real world as who is a woman and obese, there are commonly-held prejudices that are counting against you.

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Ouch. One of those questions that makes me admit the uncomfortable. Yes, this is a form of sexism1 and it is prevalent in the tech industry, and unfortunately the onus is on you to overcome it. BUT on the bright side, it's a pretty meritocratic industry as well, which at least suggests it is possible to overcome.

  • Often a phone screen just tries to answer the question "can you code." If this phone screen is of that nature, they will care little at all whether you prefer audio only, and I'd like to hope will not judge anything but that in an interview question.
  • Take seriously looking your best. Plus-size2 fashion is growing including business attire. I took a google and found this article with links to plus-size interview attire. Buzzfeed, which I usually follow for cute dog pictures, has a plus-size fashion section. Fat or skinny there is a burden on the interview candidate to "look sharp." It might be harder as a "fat" person but the fashion movement is growing.
  • Beyond that I really suspect you just face the same challenges in tech as any woman. It is demonstrated that diversity statements fail, because they encourage non white male applicants to not whitewash their resumes as much. This is abhorrent and I do not think tech companies are exempt. Speak up but don't be "abrasive". Etc. Etc. I'm not sure if that's comforting or not, BUT I think if you read up on personal stories of women and forget the "fat" modifier you will find the same challenges. Fat discrimination is all but a subset of sexism3.
  • Kudos to you for keeping your guard up. I think it will help you succeed. I am a man and do not face these problems. This is the best advice I could come up with in 20 minutes. I felt it was very important to post an answer affirming your read on the problem. (Instead of listen to men aggrandize themselves for not being sexist despite industry evidence to the contrary).

1. I'm sure OP is very familiar with sexism and I do not need to first prove its existence to talk about it.
2. I'm not positive the term "plus-size" is good but the industry has coalesced around it.
3. Yes, men deal with it too, and you can check out r/menslib for a discussion of men's issues informed by feminism.

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What are you more comfortable with?

Unfortunately, yes, it's not big news that people are going to have biases for reasons that shouldn't matter. But, if you do get the job, you'll have to appear in person anyway.

Do what you're most comfortable with, but cut out your physical appearance as a determining factor first. It seems that you may be struggling with confidence issues anyway, since you mentioned you feel as if you are unattractive. I think that lack of self-confidence is going to have more of an impact on your chances of success than looks, anyway!

In my opinion: go with the Skype interview. You may be uncomfortable, but if you end up getting the job, it may lessen the discomfort you experience the first day of work. Plus, it will be a small step toward building more self-confidence.

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There are two options how the interview would end.

  1. You will be interviewed/assessed regarding your skills and abbilities. No matter how you look. (Suppose you do not look like Lindsay Lohan or someone who came from sewers recently...).
  2. You will be interviewed/assessed regaring your look. You really do not want to work for them.

In both scenarios, the result works for you. So, don't worry and keep calm and be yourself.

  • (2) includes so many seemingly upright companies though. – user42272 Oct 9 '16 at 6:55
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As a male involved in hiring at a male-heavy tech company, I don't give a rat's patootie what you look like. I don't care what your gender is. Can you code? Can you get along with everyone? Can you write a little? Can you express an opinion? Can you take criticism without collapsing? Can you give criticism without fear? Are you resilient? Are you mentally nimble?

Skype and if your looks matter to them, you don't want to work for them, anyway. They'd be doing you a favor.

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All answers are pretty good but I may have a few to add.

First, if you are not confident with how you look make sure you do not see yourself on the monitor (not sure if with Skype you can turn it off). When I am on a video chat I often glance at myself and that distracts me a lot.

Second, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. You want to see them. You want to see their body language. This gives you a lot better idea of who you are going to be working with as well as it helps your communications with them!

Lastly! In a male dominated environment being a woman can be a negative factor no matter what. I would have the same thoughts even if I was pretty. It is easy to find negatives against a pretty woman too... like 'she will just use her looks to get ahead' etc... Focus on what you have to offer to a team! Show them your technical abilities, a healthy confidence and passion for engineering! I guarantee you no-one cares beyond that. If they do, you do not want to work for them!

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Most often the Skype interview is proposed by headhunters who want to make the interviewing call from they office in another country, even if both you and and your potential job are located in the same town. It is way cheaper for them this way. If you agree, you have been pleasant, this may help if the interviewer is on the boundary of deciding something.

However once the interview is already proposed, I have never had experience of it being cancelled just because of the need to switch from Skype to phone.

I just cannot take a long Skype call at my working place, during business hours, with all the team watching.

-2

A really gut-wrenching question. I think you are judging yourself much harsher than I would judge you. You are a thoughtful person, you care about other people. I would overlook lots, to accept you. Why? You are going to be humble and open to advice. You will not bully your coworkers. You will work hard trying to fit in. You are not a "hotshot superstar" that is going to revamp the whole system in a week. You have passed 75% of my criterion already.

Go with the video skype interview, keep good eye contact. Let your humility come out naturally. Be polite. Show them you have courage, that you face problems rather than run away from them. I do not like creative shirkers.

How much you know ain't all that important. Are you willing to listen to me and your coworkers, are you willing and capable of learning? I think so. In a sense you were favorably interviewed right here in this forum. So, unless my brother needs a spot on the same day as you, I will accept you. Hope this helps and good luck!

protected by Community Oct 7 '16 at 23:41

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