How to have a successful phone or Skype interview

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Many employers are now conducting interviews over the phone or on Skype and other voice over Internet protocol programs (VoIP). Not only has this method been proven effective and efficient, but it is also economical for both the company and the applicant. And as technology gets better, many foresee that remote interviews will become more common. With the average person predicted to have six to seven career changes in their lifetime, you may experience one or two of these in your future.

Preparation

If you are invited to a phone or Skype interview, you will need to prepare:

  1. Your content or what you will say. You will need to conduct research on the company and the position, as you would for a face-to-face interview. It will also be good to anticipate your interviewer’s questions and how you will answer them (to help you out, read 5 best strategies to ace that interview).
  2. Prepare your equipment and surroundings. It would be ideal to do this in advance to give you time to rehearse. Practising will help you become comfortable with the technology, especially if this is your first time to use it. Testing your software is also a crucial step because this irons out any audio, video or any other technical issues. Having the set-up out of the way will help you worry less and focus more on what you will say.

Tips for a phone interview

Phone interviews are usually conducted as the initial step to screen and shortlist applicants. It can be as short as 10 minutes to an hour or more. Its goal is to verify information on your resume and cover letter and to find out if you have good interpersonal skills. However, depending on the company and the job you are applying for, some phone interviews can be more comprehensive. To be on the safe side, you should prepare answers to more in-depth questions. You should take this interview seriously. It can determine whether you will go on to the next level of the hiring process.

To ensure a good phone interview:

  1. Have a quiet and private place to receive the call. This should be an area where you can avoid interruptions. It should also be devoid of background noise. If you expect to receive the call at home, inform everyone living with you. Tell them that you must not be disturbed.
  2. Use a landline rather than a cellular phone to ensure clearer reception. You will also be less likely to experience delays or dropped calls. However, avoid using the speaker-phone. This lessens sound quality because of background noise. Also, turn off the call-waiting feature of your phone to avoid distracting beeps.
  3. If you have access to a microphone-enabled headphone, use it. This is the best to use as it cancels out background noise and frees your hands to look at your notes or take down notes.
  4. Practice with a friend prior to the interview to check your phone reception, the tone of your voice, and to test if your headphone is working properly.
  5. When the interviewer calls, answer the phone professionally, with a greeting and your name so that the interviewer knows that he/she is calling the right number. You can say “Hello, this is Ana Lopez.” When the interviewer answers, you can reply with “Good morning Mr. Smith, I was expecting your call. How are you today?”
  6. Write down the interviewer’s phone number (look at the caller ID) in case you get disconnected and need to call him/her back.
  7. Have a copy of the job ad, your resume, and cover letter in front of you. Get a pen and a notepad too. If you’ve prepared your answer to common interview questions, place a copy near you. Practice reading it beforehand so you won’t sound fake. Also, have a list of questions you have for the company in case the interviewer asks for them.
  8. Listen intently and speak clearly. Avoid talking too fast to give the interviewer time to write down notes.
  9. Thank the interviewer before putting down the phone and note down the next step in the hiring process.

Here’s a video on “How to ace a telephone interview and get the job” from Howcast for more tips:

Tips for a Skype interview

You should treat a Skype interview as if it is a face-to-face interview. You will need to dress professionally and project a positive body language (of course, aside from answering the interview questions well). You would also have to prepare your environment and equipment to ensure that you can be seen and heard clearly.

To ensure a good Skype interview:

  1. Download and install Skype ahead of time. Test the audio and video as instructed.
  2. Choose a professional-sounding user name. Use your name, or your name and profession (ex: analopez_engineer) so that it will be easy for your potential employer to find (also, ineedajob!85 or boozelover16 may not make a good impression).
  3. Set-up where there are no distracting noises (i.e. sound of a toilet flushing, cars passing by or sirens, basement radiator, kids crying, dogs barking etc.) or possible interruptions -both by a person, or connection problems. Don’t do it at a coffee shop. If you don’t have an internet connection at home, you can ask your local library if they have cubicles or study rooms that you can use (most libraries have WiFi service).
  4. Use a headset to eliminate background noise. Whether at a library or at home, using a headset will help improve the sound for you and the interviewer.
  5. Clean-up your surroundings. Look behind you – this is what the interviewer will see. To put the focus on yourself, it will be best to have a plain, uncluttered background. Ensure that there are no embarrassing or distracting photos, posters, or dirty laundry and trash lying around.
  6. Set-up your computer and use proper lighting. Use a sturdy table to prevent wobbling. Set your table near an electrical outlet, in case your batteries fail. If you’re using a laptop, place it on top of a stack of books or a stand to get the camera at eye level.
     
    Good lighting should make you clearly visible. Experts suggest multiple lighting – one on top of your head and weaker lighting on the sides (or check out the video below from Daily Candy on “How to look good on a webcam.” It also has great tips on how to look engaging in a video). But if this is too complicated, test out available lighting in your room and experiment. You can look at your preview (on the Skype menu, click on call > video > video settings) to see which type of lighting works best.
  7. Practice/rehearse before the interview day. Ask a friend to help you out. Pay attention to the video and sound quality, and be prepared for any other technical glitches you may experience. Take note of how to fix them quickly in case they come up on the interview day.

    During your rehearsal, it may help to wear the clothes you intend to wear on the actual day to see how you will look like. Some colors (or color combinations) do not work well on the screen, as well as bold prints and patterns (houndstooth is said to come across as strobe lights on camera, so avoid it).

  8. Turn off additional program or apps, especially those that may make a sound or alerts, on the day of the interview. It may help to have the company’s website open for reference. Turn off some events that make a sound on Skype that you don’t need (go to tools > options > sounds). If you’re at home, inform everyone with you that you will be having an interview at a certain time to warn them against making noise or interrupting.
  9. Look the part. Dress professionally. Make it a complete outfit – including the bottom. You might need to stand up or move.
  10. Use proper body language. To make good eye contact, look at the webcam, not the monitor. As much as possible, avoid looking at yourself on the screen. Pay attention to your body language. Nod, make sounds and use facial expressions to show that you are actively listening. Avoid staying stationary for a long time (meaning no movements at all) because your interviewer might think that the video/screen is frozen.
  11. Sit with a good posture, lean slightly forward to show interest.
  12. Speak clearly and smile.
  13. Anticipate technical glitches. Sometimes, even if you practise, this can still happen. Inform the interviewer if you need to reconnect or adjust something technical. Apologize but be calm and address the problem directly. The interviewer will understand. This can even show him/her how well you handle situations under stress.
  14. Have a copy of the job ad, your resume and cover letter on hand. Highlight important points you wish to emphasize during the conversation. Always have a pen and a notepad handy for taking notes.
  15. Thank the interviewer after the session and express your enthusiasm for the job.

For both phone and Skype interviews:

  1. Be on time on the day of the interview. Make sure that your phone line is clear at least 15 minutes before the appointed time in case your interviewer calls you early. For Skype, you can be online 15 minutes earlier.
  2. Don’t forget to greet your interviewer warmly at the start of the interview.
  3. Smile! Even if the interviewer doesn’t see you, your voice will sound more energetic and pleasant on the phone.
  4. Send or email a thank you note. Send it an hour or two after the interview. Convey your gratitude for the opportunity, as well as the effort and time put in by the interviewer. This will also be your chance to reiterate your enthusiasm for the job and in becoming part of their company.

Sources: Ace your Skype job interview: 14 smart tips, cbc news.com; Job interviews by telephone and Skype, Cawley Career Education Center, Georgetown University.

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Community Resources

Too many steps to remember? We have prepared a checklist for a successful phone interview and a checklist for a successful Skype interview. Feel free to download and print as a guide.

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Quiz

How to have a successful phone or Skype interview

Select the best definition of each word as used in the article above.

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