If you live in a location distant from a potential employer, or if an employer plans to screen candidates before offering in-person interviews, they may want to conduct a job interview over the telephone or by video. These interview methods are quite different from each other, and offer unique opportunities and challenges.
Telephone 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 words and the tone of your voice to market yourself and your qualifications.
- You can use prepared notes, either on paper or on screen, to help you summarize your most relevant skills and achievements (although it’s important not to 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.
Video interviews offer some unique pros and cons as well:
- The interviewer can see you, but you have some control over what they see.
- The interviewer can rely on your facial expression for cues, so you can make a connection more easily than in a telephone interview.
- You may be tempted to rely on prepared notes, but doing so while trying to maintain eye contact is a delicate balancing act.
Preparing for a Telephone Interview
Although a telephone interview may seem informal, it’s a good idea to prepare for it like you would any other job interview:
- Ask a friend or family member to role play the interview with you. Record the role play so you can hear how you look and sound. Rehearse your answers to help keep them brief and clear.
- 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.
- Use a land line rather than a cell phone to ensure a secure connection and reduce the likelihood of technical issues. Turn call waiting off. Keep your resumé, a list of your accomplishments, and a pen and paper nearby for note-taking.
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 also helps boost your confidence. The interviewer will hear it in your voice.
- Answer questions in short sentences. They are easier to understand and allow for more interchange between you and the employer, making the interview livelier and more interesting.
Preparing for a Video Interview
An interview can be stressful enough without the added worry of technical bugs. It’s good to make some choices in advance to ensure things go smoothly:
- Choose the best technology for the job. It can be a computer, tablet or smart phone. Pick one you’re comfortable with and make sure it’s reliable.
- Think about the best location. Choose a room that is clean and uncluttered, preferably with a plain wall as your backdrop. Use soft lighting to prevent glare or shadows.
- Consider what the interviewer will see. They should be able to see you from about the waist up. They should not be able to see anything messy, personal or unusual that could distract their attention from what an excellent candidate you are for the job.
It’s also a good idea to run through the interview an hour or 2 before the start time to make sure your equipment is working as planned.
During a video interview:
- Turn off any apps or software that could interrupt the interview.
- Maintain eye contact. Look directly at the camera instead of at your notes.
- Pause before speaking. A weak connection can cause a minor time delay. Make sure the interviewer is completely finished speaking before you start.
Think of a Virtual Interview as Your First Step Toward Employment
While both phone and video interviews can seem more casual than in-person interviews, they can also be key steps towards being hired. Prepare for them with the same focus as you would for a face-to-face interview. It will help you make a strong impression and increase your chances of getting the job.
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