Initial interviews by phone or Skype are more common than they used to be. It’s a cost-effective way to screen candidates in the initial stages of a recruitment process. As hiring becomes more global, both for employers and candidates, video interviewing is a way to expedite the interview process.
At Expedia, we use phone and video interviews all the time — the first interview is almost always conducted over the phone. I use video Skype all the time to talk to my international clients, as well.
I know from experience that many job seekers find video interviews quite intimidating. They think it’s hard enough to interview face-to-face, let alone in front of a camera and microphone! However, with a bit of advance planning, the video interview is not very different from an in-person interview.
Here are some tips that will help you prepare for phone and video interviews:
1. Make sure you won’t be interrupted, and be sure to charge your phone in advance. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion that a candidate’s phone battery died during the interview because they forgot to charge it. That’s not a good impression.
2. Do your research and prepare your answers to typical interview questions, as you’d do for an in-person interview. While many phone interviews are just brief phone screens with a recruiter, you might find you’re on the phone for well over an hour and are expected to answer detailed questions about your previous roles and achievements. Make sure you have relevant examples prepared using the STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Take time to think about your answers, and if you don’t fully understand the question, ask for clarification.
3. Smile when you talk — you’ll sound more confident and relaxed. Use a headset for phone interviews if you can. It doesn’t hurt to look in the mirror when on the phone — are you being lively and enthusiastic? Make sure you sound enthusiastic, like the sort of person they might want on their team.
4. Moderate your pace through the beginning of the call. If you’re nervous, you might naturally talk quicker, so deep breathing before the interview will help.
5. Don’t interrupt the interviewer. I’ve heard many hiring managers complain about that. You don’t want to sound like if you’re impatient for them to finish.
6. Don’t drone on. One of my hiring managers told me a candidate took 25 minutes to answer two questions — we did not take her through to the next stage. You want to give details, but too much information is bad.
Lastly, as you obviously can’t judge reactions in the same way as when you’re face-to-face with an interviewer, it might be useful to ask questions such as, “Do you want me to go into more detail?”
More and more companies now are using video for job interviews. Some may invite you to their office to use video conferencing facility (we used to do it for interviews with U.S. based hiring managers), but video Skype interviews are also very popular.
Your aim is to prepare and be comfortable with the video interview format so no technical challenges distract you from making a great impression. Here are some tips for acing the video job interview:
1. Make sure your user name and profile picture creates the right impression. You don’t want your profile picture to be a topless holiday photo, as was the case with one of our candidates for a Software Development Engineer role! Also, your user name should be professional. PartyGirl85 won’t cut it. You don’t want the interviewer to misjudge you at the start of the interview.
2. Dress like you would for a normal interview. I’ve heard of someone who wore sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt for his Skype interview. It seemed like he couldn’t care less.
3. Avoid any unprofessional or distracting background. You don’t want the interviewer to see a pile of laundry behind you. Elaborate backgrounds can be very distracting, too.
4. Test your Skype connection before your interview. Check that the Internet connection works and that the lighting is flattering. You don’t want to look washed out or shrouded in shadows. Test the sound and close all other Internet applications that could interfere with Skype.
5. Be aware of background noise. The microphone picks up all noises, so avoid typing or shuffling papers during the interview.
6. Make eye contact. That means looking directly into the camera most of the time, not at the screen or the picture screen of yourself.
7. Sound enthusiastic and energetic, not bored or uncomfortable. You should try to come across as passionate about the job and the organization in any interview, including a video interview.
8. Prepare a two-minute pitch about yourself. Really think about how you want to come across and what sets you apart from other candidates.
9. Act as if you’re in the interviewer’s office. Good posture is important; sit up straight and try not to slouch or fidget.
Don’t forget to spend time preparing to answer the interview questions. Looking good on webcam is important, but your answers to the interview questions are even more important.
Remember to also ask them some good questions and send a thank you note after your interview to reiterate your interest in the role.
Recruiters and hiring managers, what other tips would you give candidates preparing for a phone or video interview?