Phone or video interviews are often used as a way of screening applicants for a role, helping to narrow down the number invited for an in-person meeting. They can also be useful when applicants are out of town during the interview period, or when recruiting to remote working positions. Of course, recruitment agencies use them as standard too, to help them whittle down suitable candidates to then be put forward to the hiring managers.
They’re not going away any time soon, so it’s a good idea to know how to ace a digital interview and impress your would-be employer from the comfort of your own home!
1. Do your research
As with an in-person interview, you need to know your stuff and come prepared. Be ready to talk through your CV and professional history, make a list of the key facts or achievements you want to make sure you mention, jot down some prompters on likely questions (like your strengths and weaknesses and why you want the role etc.). Brush up on the company and, if you know who is interviewing you, Google them or search for them on LinkedIn so you know their position and experience in relation to the role. In short, do exactly what you’d do to prepare for an in-person interview – just because this is on the phone or laptop doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less professional or demanding.
2. Confirm the logistics
Make sure you triple check the date and time of your interview, as well as the method of communication - is it voice or video call? Do you need to install a specific piece of software? You don’t want to sit down five minutes before your interview to realise it's going to take 15 minutes to set up and install the connection you need. We also suggest you clarify the interviewer’s name and position, and the anticipated length of the interview (so you know how long you need to set aside in ‘interview mode’). One last tip – make sure you know who is calling who, so you’re not sitting there perfectly on time wondering why your phone hasn’t rung when they’re waiting for your call...
3. Prepare your environment
Unlike a face-to-face interview, where the employer is in charge of the venue and set up of the room, doing an interview by phone or video means you need to make sure your surroundings are perfectly set up to suit the situation. You’ll want to charge your phone or laptop (or, better still, have it plugged in during the call – this will also stop you from getting up and walking around if you’re on your mobile). Turn off audible alerts from any equipment or devices near you and find somewhere to position yourself that has the strongest connectivity or reception. If you’re home alone, you might want to put a note on the front door asking people not to ring the bell. If there are other people home, make sure they know you have an interview and ask them not to disturb you – we've all seen the guy being interviewed on the BBC whose baby bursts in the door in her walker and is then dragged out backwards by his wife crawling on her knees to (unsuccessfully) avoid being seen! It’s an extreme example, but you get our point. We suggest you sit up at a table (resist the urge to slouch in comfort on the sofa – it's all about mindset), have your CV and other notes clearly spread around you with a blank piece of paper and a pen ready to make any notes. You might want a couple of extra pens too, in case they run out of ink or you drop them! Obviously if it’s a video call, you need to think about what they can see behind you too – find something blank or neutral to sit in front of (like a wall or a plant) so there are no distractions for them while you’re doing your thing.
4. Know your phone interview etiquette
The temptation is to kick back in your PJs and not make an effort with your appearance (unless it’s a video call, of course!), but, psychologically, you might want to get ready as if it’s a face-to-face interview. Okay, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to get totally suited and booted, but we would highly recommend you wear something clean and smart and put your shoes on! It sounds a bit unnecessary, but going through the motions of preparing for an interview really does get you into the right frame of mind. If it’s a video call, resist the urge just to ‘dress’ your top half – we knew one person who was beautifully interview-ready from the waist up and then had to stand to plug her laptop in mid-conversation and forgot her bottom half was in baggy old grey shorts! Remember to let them finish asking their question or making their point before you respond – in person, it’s easier to naturally pick up on the social cues to speak, but it’s much harder when you’re communicating digitally. If in doubt, wait an extra second, just to be sure they’re finished. If you’re panicking, ask them to repeat or rephrase the question – you'll buy yourself enough time to come up with your response. And lastly, whether it’s video or phone, make sure you’re smiling throughout (even if you don’t feel like it!) – we sound totally different when we smile and it comes across strongly on the phone.
5. End on a high
Many people heave a sigh of relief when it’s clear the interview is wrapping up and start to relax or get distracted during the closing small talk. Don’t fall into this trap! Treat it like you’re doing a salsa on Strictly Come Dancing – you have to keep your energy and enthusiasm right up until the very last second! At the end of the interview, thank them warmly for their time and interest in your application, reiterate how much you’d like to be taken forward to the next stage (if this is true, of course!) and clarify when you can expect to hear back from them. Only collapse into a puddle once the call has definitely disconnected!
6. Follow up
If your interview was set up by a recruitment agency, call or email them immediately with your thoughts – your general impressions of the company, interviewer and role; how you feel you came across; any questions you’ve suddenly thought of that you didn’t ask, etc. Remember that your recruiter is representing you to the employer so you should treat your interactions with them as an extension of the company itself. If your interview was arranged directly with the employer, follow up within an hour or so with a thank you email – you can include any key information you didn’t have a chance to say in your interview (or forgot to mention!) and let them know you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon. Keep it short and sweet - a sincere thank you really does help to keep you front of mind and top of their list, but a long, detailed follow up might undo some of your good work from the actual interview.
Lastly, remember – your goal is to be invited to a face-to-face interview so you just need to do enough to achieve this!
If you’re not quite at the interview stage yet and need some help finding the right local opportunities, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re looking for full time, part time, temporary, permanent or contract work, we can help you to find the right role. Please have a look at our current vacancies, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01932 355000 to get started.