Tips for a phone or Skype interview

Nowadays it is very common for employers to conduct first and sometimes even second round interviews remotely, either by phone or video. These solutions save time for companies and also cut down on the expenses involved in interviewing candidates from out of town. Video interviews are becoming increasingly popular to assess a candidate’s way of handling themselves and their manners before inviting them to a face-to-face interview. Whether you are selected for a phone or video interview there are some common rules to keep in mind to make sure you are called to the following round.

Prepare as you would for a regular interview

You would never go to an interview without having studied the company beforehand, right? The same rule applies for long-distance interviews. Research the job and the company so you are prepared to discuss the company and your role if you were to be hired. When you’re asked what interests you about the position you are interviewing for, the best way to respond is to describe the qualifications listed in the job posting, then connect them to your skills and experience. That way, the employer will see that you know about the job you’re interviewing for, which is not as obvious as it would seem, and that you have the qualifications necessary to do the job.

Choose the right place

You will usually not be able to choose the time of the interview, but whether your call is video or telephone, do it in a quiet, business-like setting, ideally in a room where you can close the door. Be sure to inform anyone else at home about the meeting, you don’t want to be interrupted by someone calling for you or knocking at the door.
Then make sure that your cell phone is fully charged and that you take the call in a place where your reception is at its best. If you are going to do the interview via Skype or some other video service, then make sure your computer does not have any software issues or is prone to freezing in the middle of a conversation. Remember to also make sure that the background behind you is clean and organised, the more neutral it is the better.

Keep resume and notepad close

Have your CV in clear view in front of you. Also, have a short list of your qualifications and skills specific to the job you’re interviewing for close at hand. A “cheat sheet” with answers to the most common questions can come in handy if you tend to become nervous and lose your train of thought. Keep a notepad and a pen close in case you are asked to write something down and to take personal notes during the interview. You might also want to have in front of you any supporting materials that relate to information in your resume and coverletter such as a description of previous positions or reference letters. Having easy access to the company and job information will allow you to confidently respond to questions about the position you are interviewing for. One advantage of a video or phone interview is that you don’t have to remember everything you want to mention. Of course, you don’t want to be reading off the page verbatim, so make sure you’re familiar with your material and keep your notes organised to get what you need at a quick glance.

Listen carefully and don’t interrupt

Listen to the interviewer and don’t interrupt. If you have something you want to say, write it down on your notepad and mention it when it’s your turn to talk. Especially during a phone interview it is important to give verbal clues that you are actively listening. In addition to making your conversation more pleasant, it also reassures the other party that the technology is functioning correctly and you are, indeed, still listening. During a video call, nodding your head and avoiding to stare blankly at the screen will be enough to show the interviewer that you are not lost in your own thoughts. Do not have any other applications running on your computer and keep your phone silent, if you get distracted the other person will notice. Remember to not stare at the screen, but look into your webcam as this will give the interviewer the impression that you are looking them in the eye.

Ask the right questions

As for a regular interview, prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. Some questions to ask could be:

  • If I was hired, how would I be interacting with you and your department, what would be your expectations and your measures for success?
  • What do you view as the most challenging part of this job?
  • If the person interviewing you is fairly new to the company, ask them what their expectations of the workplace were and if they have been met or even exceeded.

In all cases, you will want to convey your enthusiasm for the opportunity to interview, along with your solid ability to do the job. Avoid asking questions about salary, vacation days and personal benefits, the first interview is usually just to gauge your personality and fit.

Act as if it were an in-person interview

If you need a few seconds to gather your thoughts, don’t worry, but don’t leave too much dead air. Keep a glass of water close to you in case your throat feels dry. If the interview is over the phone, make sure to either stand up or sit straight at your desk, it will help you focus. Be sure to smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
It is vital to dress appropriately for the interview. If it is over the phone you won’t need to dress in full office attire, but if you exchange the sweatpants and hoodie for a pair of clean jeans and a dress shirt you will approach the whole interview with a more professional mindset. If you are interviewing through video, then dress exactly as you would for an in-person interview, all the way down to the shoes.
You might feel silly sitting at home wearing a suit and talking to a computer, but it will make all the difference. It will allow the interviewer to picture you in an office environment and will display your professionalism  and level of preparation. It is best to wear neutral, solid colors (shades of black, blue or grey are best) because these colors look the best on video and don’t create any distractions for your interviewer.

Follow-up

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer and ask what the next step in the process will be. If you don’t have it already, ask for the interviewer’s email address and send out an email thank you note immediately, thanking the interviewer and reiterating your interest in the job. It’s important to show your appreciation for the interview regardless of how the interview was conducted. If you want this job, now is the time to restate your interest. Don’t just say thank you but make a point of reiterating strengths and value for the position. If you interview with more people, make sure to send a thank you mail to each one, preferably referencing something of value that they said, as it will show your level of attention

Long-distance interviews are not easy to approach at first, you won’t probably know when it is most appropriate to speak and what tone to use, where to look and how to use your hands. But after some time, you will feel a lot more confident and use the advantages of a phone or video interview to your benefit, and these first round interviews will start feeling like a walk in the park.

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