How to...do phone and video interviews well
Telephone and video interviews are often used in the early stages of the screening and interview process (and especially during this COVID crisis). It can feel that they are more informal than a face-to-face interview and, although they are subtly different, you want to make sure that you put in all the preparation as if you are meeting face-to-face. So, how do you go about making sure it goes as well as possible?
First – although you are at home – make sure that you arrange a convenient time for the interview, so that you can be relaxed and not be clock-watching throughout the conversation. You’ll also need to make sure you are able to sit somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, so don’t be afraid to ask for an alternative time if the given time really is inconvenient.
For phone interviews, make sure that your phone battery is fully-charged and you have good signal (or the best possible); for videos, choose your best wi-fi spot, and make sure your device is either fully charged, or plugged in.
Make sure you have a comfortable place to sit, where you can sit upright (rather than lounging on a sofa) – you’ll concentrate more, feel more professional and then put this across in your voice and answers.
Make sure that anyone else at home knows that you are interviewing and ask them to give you some quiet time. Can someone else look after the children and keep them occupied with their tea or a film? You want to make sure there is no distracting background noise if possible.
- Do have a pen, paper, your CV, job description and any notes you have handy, so that you can refer to them if necessary.
- Do have a glass of water next to you in case you get that dry-mouth-can’t-talk nervous thing half-way through.
- Don’t have a bag of crisps on the go – it’s not going to sound nice over the phone.
As for all interviews, regardless of format, preparation is key – being able to talk about your CV, the role, the company, the hirer, why this is the right role, preparing some questions beforehand, all help to put your mind at ease and maximise your chances of success in an interview.
If you’re on the phone, the interviewer won’t have any body-language to assess from you, and they will be relying on answers, and your voice. Make sure that you are clear in your answers. Often, when we’re nervous, we talk quicker, so try to slow it down if you can, and certainly avoid mumbling. Listen carefully to the questions and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat if you have misheard. If you can, smile; this will come across in your tone, and will be interpreted positively.
Of course, if the interviewer can’t see you, you also can’t see them, which means you’re not getting any visual feedback either. Don’t panic – a pause might be them thinking, taking notes or checking questions. It can be off-putting not seeing any head-nodding or encouragement from your interviewer – but don’t be put off and end up shortening your answers – make sure that you say all that you need to in response to the question. Don’t be afraid of a little bit of silence.
There are a wide range of video interview options available now, with the most common currently being Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google meet, Skype and sometimes even a WhatsApp call.
At least you and the interviewer get to ‘look each other in the eye’, but it’s still not quite the same as face to face – so again, make sure you speak clearly and use appropriate body language.
Before the video call, make sure that you have tried and tested the software being used, especially if it’s a system you’re not familiar with – we’ll do a trial call with you if you’re unsure.
As for phone interviews, make sure you find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and also think about your background – using one of the available backgrounds on the software if you need to block out an untidy room, is fine.
Dress as you would do for a face-to-face interview, sit comfortably but professionally and aim to look at the camera to answer questions if you can, to try and maintain eye contact (this is hard – so maybe try to practice it first with a friend).
Be prepared for any wi-fi problems, by having their phone number to hand so that if you have connection problems which disrupt the flow of the conversation badly, then you can continue the interview with a phone call.
So – a few extra things to think about, but making sure you’ve covered the points mentioned should help to ensure your interview goes as well as possible. Good luck!