Phone and video interviews

Why companies use phone and video conference interviews

The company’s goal

Companies look to phone interviews for their hiring needs for several reasons

  • The cost is lower than conducting in-person interviews because there are no travel expenses involved and the interview can be completed quickly.
  • The list of questions can be standardized for all applicants to ensure a consistent evaluation process.
  • Companies can quickly consolidate their applicant pool to a subset of qualified candidates, saving time and expense by screening out unqualified candidates.

If the call is strictly for screening out candidates, the caller will likely ask only clarifying questions about your experience, availability and salary requirements.

Your goal:

Since you are unlikely to win the job from a telephone interview, your goal should be to secure a follow-up in-person interview with someone who has the authority to hire for the position.

  • Provide facts and figures that support your resume, with some appropriate context about your performance.
  • Don’t volunteer anything that could disqualify you within this limited call format. Sometimes, disqualifying conditions are not as relevant once a second-round interviewer knows more about your background, passions, etc..
  • Make every effort to sound friendly and professional, and follow the interviewer’s lead. If they are very business-like and want only verification of information pertaining to your application, give them only what they require. If the interviewer is more conversational, interact accordingly and build rapport.

Phone interview tips

If possible, try to reschedule surprise interviews. Say that you have a conflict and suggest a time you can call back. When you call back, be prepared for the call just as you would for a in-person interview.

Have ready:

  • Pen, paper, a calculator, your calendar, and water
  • The job listing and the resume and cover letter which you sent in when you applied
  • A list of your relevant experience which relates to the job you are discussing
  • Short list of questions about the job, company, and position

The techniques of a pro:

  • Be in a quiet place
  • Use a landline, if possible, or at least make sure you have good reception (and your phone is charged). You want to make sure that the employer can hear all of your statements and that you can hear them.
  • Treat a phone interview as an in-person interview. Dressing appropriately will help maintain the air of formality and boost your confidence.
  • Smile – it comes through in your voice
  • Speak directly into the phone
  • Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat anything. Your interviewer can hear everything over the phone
  • Stand up to make your voice sound stronger
  • Avoid verbal utterances like: ah, er, so, um. This habit is especially noticeable on the telephone.

For a winning performance:

  • Be aware that the caller can’t see you – can’t see your hand gestures, can’t see you taking notes. Use an occasional “I see” or “I understand” to indicate you are listening.
  • Pace the call. Let the caller do most of the talking, without interruptions. Try to keep your answers to under 3 minutes.
  • Do use the technique of repeating or re-phrasing questions. It tells the caller that you listened carefully, and gives you time to think about your answer.
  • Avoid the simple “yes” or “no”; add selling points at every opportunity.
  • If you need time to think, say so. You can say, “that’s an interesting question, let me take a moment to think before I answer.”
  • Compensation issues come at the end of the interviewing cycle, never at the telephone stage. You can truthfully say you don’t know enough about the job to state a salary figure.
  • Close with a “thank you”. Graciously thank your interviewer for taking time out of their day to speak with you.

Zoom/video conference interviews

  • Dress for success – Dress how you would for an in-person interview.
  • Clear any distractions – Position yourself in a quiet and de-cluttered room with good lighting so that you are visible.
  • Conduct a trial run – Test to make sure your audio and video are working properly beforehand.
  • Look at the camera – If you are looking at the screen and not the camera when you’re speaking, it will appear as though you aren’t looking at the interviewer(s).
  • Control body language – Over zealous gestures can appear distracting to the employer and may also distort the image to seem blurry as quick movements tend to lag during video calls.
  • Keep a professional profile – Avoid username and profile information that could give your interviewer the wrong impression as this will be the first detail they see before the interview.