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How to Ace Your Phone or Online Interview

To land that job, it helps to know the unique opportunities and challenges phone and online interviews offer.

Phone or online interviews are ideal if you live far from a potential employer. Employers also find them useful if they plan to screen candidates before offering in-person interviews.

Phone interviews

Phone interviews differ from person-to-person interviews in 2 key ways:

  • You can't see or be seen by the interviewer, so you have only your words and the tone of your voice to market yourself and your abilities.
  • You can prepare notes, either on paper or on screen, to help you summarize your most relevant skills and achievements. But don’t sound rehearsed.

While a virtual interview can seem more casual than an in-person interview, it can be a key step towards being hired. Prepare for the same focus as you would a face-to-face interview.

Online interviews

Interviews conducted on the screen of your smart phone or computer also offer pros and cons:

  • The interviewer can see you, but you have some control over what they see.
  • The interviewer may display their questions on-screen to make it easier for you to think about your response.
  • The interviewer can rely on your facial expression for cues. This will help you make a connection more easily than in a telephone interview.
  • You may not be able to use prepared notes if you also want to maintain eye contact.

Preparing for a telephone interview

  • Follow the 4Ps of all job interviews, even though a phone interview may seem informal.
  • Confirm the time of the interview and the telephone number you want the employer to use.
  • Plan to have the interview in a quiet room away from distractions and noise. Close the door during the interview. If you will be at home, tell your family not to come in if the door is closed.
  • Turn off call waiting on your phone. Make sure the speaker and mic are both working well. Make sure the phone is completely charged.
  • Keep your resumé, a list of your achievements, and a pen and paper nearby for notes.

Preparing for an online interview

An interview can be stressful enough without the added worry of technical bugs. Make some choices in advance to ensure things go smoothly:

  • Choose the best technology for the job. It can be a computer or mobile device. Pick one you’re comfortable with and make sure it’s reliable. If you’re using a mobile device, use a tripod or set it up securely on your desk or table so your image is steady. Don’t hold it in your hand.
  • Ask what platform the interviewer will use, and make sure you’ve downloaded it and know how it works.
  • Think about the best location. Choose a space that is clean and uncluttered. If you can shut the door to keep out children, pets, or distracting roommates, so much the better.
  • Ensure you have good lighting. To prevent unflattering shadows, the light should fall on your face, not behind, beside, or even on top of you. If you can, sit facing a window to use natural light. Otherwise, use a ring light or position two table lamps slightly to the left and right of your computer.
  • Think about camera height. Too low or too high can emphasize unflattering facial features. You may have to prop books under your laptop. Set your device up so your head and shoulders are framed in the interviewer’s screen.
  • Consider what the interviewer will see. The backdrop you present will help form an opinion of you. Keep it plain or choose items to display that are professional and project your brand. Virtual backgrounds can be distracting and unprofessional. You don’t want to distract your interviewer from seeing what an excellent candidate you are for the job.
  • Plug in your device or charge it fully.
  • Turn off any apps or software that could interrupt the interview.
  • Test your equipment with a friend an hour or so before the start time. Know what buttons to push and what the sound levels are.

During the interview

  • Give the interviewer your full attention. Don't drink, smoke, or eat.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person interview. It will make you feel more confident.
  • Smile! It will help you relax and boost your confidence. The interviewer will hear it in your voice.
  • Answer questions in short, easy to understand sentences. This will create a livelier, more interesting interchange between you and the employer.
  • During an online interview, maintain eye contact. Look directly at the camera instead of at your notes or at the screen.
  • If your phone or internet connection is weak, pause before speaking to prevent minor time delay. Make sure the interviewer is finished speaking before you start.
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