Phone and Virtual Interviews

With such a large number of applicants, many employers will conduct their first round of interviews by phone or virtually and will only bring their top candidates in for an in-person interview. Some employers may conduct their entire interview process virtually. By following these tips, you can be sure to make a great impression during your next phone or virtual interview!

Regardless of whether you’re preparing for a first-round phone interview or a third-round in-person interview, your goal is the same: you're demonstrating why you’d be an excellent fit for the open position at their company. You should prepare for phone and virtual interviews in the same way that you prepare for an in-person interview.

Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are generally the first round of interviews, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as serious as in-person or virtual interviews. During a phone interview, you may have to work even harder to demonstrate your confidence and personality to the employer, as they can’t see your smile or shake your hand. 

Put your Best Voice Forward

Follow these 6 tips to stand out of crowd and ace your next phone interview.

  1. Arrange the call for a time that is convenient for you: If it’s a scheduled phone interview, be sure to choose a time that allows you to be in a quiet place, where you can’t be interrupted or overheard. However, some employers call at random, catching you at work, during class or at some other inconvenient time. If this happens, explain your situation and ask whether or not the interviewer would be able to reschedule, ideally for later on the same day or the next day. Pay attention to the interviewer’s response and if they seem hesitant to reschedule, you may consider proceeding with the interview. Generally, first-round phone interviews are no more than 15 minutes.
  2. Create a quiet environment: Be sure to situate yourself in a distraction-free environment where you can really focus on what the employer is saying and how you are responding. You only have approximately 15 minutes to give the employer the best impression of yourself, so you want to keep their full attention the entire time. If you live with someone, let them know that you’ll be in an interview so they can keep quiet. Along with eliminating background noise, turn off anything on your phone that could interrupt the interview. A tone or vibration from an incoming text message or email can be heard by the employer, as can any alarms that may go off during the specified time. These sounds could lead to both you and the employer getting distracted.
  3. Have a “cheat sheet” prepared: Print a copy of the job description and resume so you can and highlight phrases that you would like to mention or allude to in your answers. Similarly, you should also make a “cheat sheet” that includes any important points that you want to make during the interview so that you don’t forget anything you wanted to say. It can be tempting, but we don’t recommend writing in complete sentences, as reading your responses will make you sound too scripted.
  4. Have answers prepared for common interview questions: Using the STAR method, come up with stories and examples you can use for common interview questions. Write out your main points and ideas so that you don’t forget what you wanted to say and avoid reading your answers off of a script as it can come across as disingenuous.
  5. Focus on your language and voice: Speak clearly, stay upbeat, and, even though it may seem silly, smile! Smiling while you’re on the phone will naturally lighten the tone of your voice and make you seem more engaged in the conversation. Make sure you’re adding verbal cues where you would ordinarily provide visual ones: say “Yes” instead of nodding, etc. Keep your voice clear and easy to understand.
  6. Ask about the next steps and confirm contact information: If the employer doesn’t mention what the next steps are in the interviewing process, you should ask! It’ll show that you’re eager about the opportunity and serious about your application. Also, try to collect an email address that you can follow up with in case you have more questions. This will allow you to send a thank you note following the interview, as well as ask any questions you may have in the future.

Things to Avoid

  • Avoid extremely short or one-word answers.
  • Don’t make too many jokes. They generally don’t translate over the phone, because they aren’t aided by facial expressions.
  • Avoid questions about salary and hours unless the employer brings it up first. Phone interviews are usually first-round interviews, so these questions can be asked and answered at a later time.

Virtual Interviews

Interviews through video conferencing tools combine aspects of both phone and in-person interviews because you’re able to communicate with an employer face-to-face, but still have to control your surrounding environment. As an interviewee, it’s important to be able to communicate your skills and assets to a potential employer as easily in a virtual setting as you can in person.

Put your Best Face Forward

Follow these 6 steps to prepare for your next virtual interview.

  1. Create a quiet, tidy environment: In a sense, phone interviews and video interviews are very similar. In both cases, you must carefully control your environment, and eliminate any possible background noise and distractions, including closing all other programs that may be open on your computer. 
  2. Test your setup the day before: Make sure your “background” is neutral and simple, making you the focal point of the screen. Make sure the camera is set up so that you’ll be at eye level. You can add a stack of books under your computer until you reach the best height. Test your setup the day before your interview, when natural lighting will be approximately the same. Try to get a friend to join you in a video chat to give you feedback on your setup.
  3. Work out technical difficulties before the interview: Make sure you have a strong and consistent internet connection. For the best connection, use an ethernet cable, as they are much more stable than a wireless connection. Or simply move to a place where you are sure to have the best connection. If you’re using headphones, make sure to adjust the volume and microphone settings on both your computer and video conferencing tool beforehand. Try to familiarize yourself with the video conferencing tool you have been asked to join — different organizations use different apps. Even if you take these precautionary measures, there is still a chance that a technical difficulty may occur. Make sure that you remain calm and collected, and don’t allow technical issues to cause you unnecessary stress for the remainder of your interview.
  4. Dress for success: Even though the camera will only show your upper body, be sure to be completely dressed. You might be tempted to dress in business professional attire on top and casually on the bottom, however, by dressing in complete business attire, you will be prepared if something happens that requires you to stand up. Many people feel more confident and in an “interview state-of-mind” when they dress in a professional outfit as well. Avoid stripes or busy patterns as these will be distracting to the employer onscreen. 
  5. Look at the camera, not the screen: Just like in an in-person interview, eye contact is very important. However, during a video interview, it’s more difficult to keep. Make sure to look at the camera, not at the screen. Even though it’s much more natural to look at the employer, it will appear to them that you’re not making eye contact. If you find yourself looking at the employer and not the camera, don’t worry too much — just readjust your focus to the camera.
  6. Focus on your body language: During video interviews, you can focus on a few things to make sure you look confident and collected to the employer. A large majority of their opinion of you will come from non-verbal cues, so make sure you sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and try to avoid fidgeting.

Practice, Practice and Practice!

Sounding natural and composed is as important as preparing your answers. It’s very natural to be nervous before an interview and that’s where practice helps: phone or virtual interviews may feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, and it’s important to be comfortable with them before your actual interview.

Since phone interviews are short in duration, be sure to be mindful of the position of the person on the other end. Knowing who is interviewing you can help you determine the extent of details to go into. For example, if it’s a recruiter without a lot of knowledge of the specific subject matter, they’re likely looking for other qualities such as soft skills, your perception of the company/job and if you meet the qualifications for the position. 

For a video interview, set up your camera exactly how you plan to set it up during the interview and practice beforehand with a friend. Make sure you know where to position your notes, how to maintain eye contact and what to do with your hands. It’s recommended to record your practice interview so that you can review your responses and body language before your interview. You can make changes beforehand, so that you feel confident and prepared when it’s time for the actual interview.

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Big Interview

Big Interview is an excellent platform for you to use to practice before your next interview. It allows you to participate in mock interviews with AI-generated feedback, review common questions and how to answer them and evaluate your responses.