Mastering Phone and Video Job Interviews

Phone Interview

Increasingly, phone and video interviews are used to screen applicants because they are cheaper and often more convenient for the employer to conduct than face-to-face interviews.

Many of the same principles of effective interviewing apply to phone and video interviews, but some aspects are quite different.

These guidelines, which apply to both phone and video interviews, are followed by specific tips on each mode.

Consider enlisting a friend or family member to conduct a mock phone or video interview with you for practice, using the actual mode you’ll use for the real interview.

Be sure you’re in a quiet, secluded place, free of distractions, at the time of your interview appointment.

In the real interview, avoid any behaviors that will cause distracting sounds during the interview, such as chewing gum, coughing, snuffling, sneezing and throat-clearing. Have a glass of water handy in case your throat gets dry or ticklish. If you feel yourself going off on, for example, an unstoppable coughing jag, ask if the interviewer would like to reschedule. For video, avoid visual distractions, such as a person or pet walking into the room.

Just as you should smile in a face-to-face interview to project enthusiasm, smile as much as possible in your phone or video interview. The interviewer can’t see your smile over the phone but will hear it in your voice. On video, you’ll be seen similarly to how you’d be seen in person, so smiles and other nonverbal positive behaviors are called for.

Don’t feel you need to fill lulls in the conversation. If the interviewer doesn’t respond at the end of your answer, ask a question to deflect the conversation back to him or her. Similarly, don’t be afraid to take a good pause before answering any question that throws you for a loop. Pauses and lulls seem much longer on the phone or video, but don’t let them rattle you, and don’t feel you must blurt out an immediate response. Take a moment to think and then respond to the best of your ability.

Since phone and video interviews are often initial interviews intended to screen out candidates, expect the unexpected. Not long ago, I had an interview on a videoconferencing platform in which the two interviewers were not on camera. Since they hadn’t told me otherwise, I was set up on my end to be seen on video, and I assume they were set up to view me. I found the interview a bit unnerving because they could see me, but I couldn’t see them.

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Remember that afterwards, phone and video interviews require thank you notes just as face-to-face sessions do.

Especially for phone interviews

If your cell phone is prone to dropped calls, take steps to prevent that from happening. Consider a landline or a borrowed device. Or plan to situate yourself during the interview at a venue where reception is good and calls are unlikely to be dropped.

While it’s tempting to do the interview in your PJs or bathrobe – simply because you can – dress nicely for the session, perhaps even in formal interview attire, because you will project yourself in a more confident and professional manner if you do.

Some experts advise standing up for the interview as this position also enables you to project yourself professionally and helps your voice carry. Speak clearly and ensure that you can be heard. Some interviewees even like to walk around during the interview to channel nervous energy.

While you can have the luxury of having notes in front of you during a phone interview, avoid the temptation of reading any of them in response to a question. Have your resume in front of you and organize notes about key questions and aspects of the company on index cards so you can easily put your hands on them. Your goal is brief memory prompts, not full-blown responses to be read. Have a writing utensil and paper handy for taking notes.

Especially for video interviews

Many video interviews today do not even involve a human interviewer; they are entirely automated and simply record your spoken responses to questions. Be sure you understand the instructions and time constraints for this kind of automated interview.

Obviously, the big difference in these two virtual modes is you can be seen in the video interview. Thus, all the attire and grooming advice that applies to in-person interviews also applies to video interviews. Be sure the room has good lighting so the interviewer can see you.

Test all equipment before your interview, allowing enough time to come up with a Plan B if needed. Make sure your Web cam, microphone, and WiFi connection are working and you can be seen and heard. If possible, do a test log-on to the video conference platform just to make sure you can access it. Look at the Web cam, not the screen, when you speak.

Consider a headset if your experience with videoconferences suggests you will be heard more clearly with a headset.

Close all apps, browser windows and tabs so they won’t distract you during the interview. Silence your phone.

You can have notes with you as you would for a phone interview, but you’ll need to keep them from being seen. Sticky notes on your computer’s display are a good way to prompt yourself without being obvious. As with the phone interview, it’s important not to read your notes; use them only as reminders.

You have the advantage over a phone interview of exhibiting visible hand gestures to appear animated. Set yourself up before the interview so the camera frames you from the waist or chest up. Keep gestures on a small scale, close to your body, and visible on your Web cam. Assuming you have a human interviewer, nod frequently to show engagement.

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