How to have a successful phone or Skype interview

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Phone interviews

Phone interviews are usually conducted as an initial step to screen applicants. It can be as short as 10 minutes to an hour. Its goal is to verify information on your resume and find out if you have good interpersonal skills. However, some phone interviews can be more comprehensive. In this time of pandemic, phone and online interviews have become the norm.

If the recruiter did not indicate how long the interview will be, prepare answers to more in-depth questions to be on the safe side. It can determine whether you will go on to the next level of the hiring process so take it seriously.

To ensure a good phone interview:

  1. Stay in a quiet and private place to receive the call. Choose an area/room where you can avoid interruptions and noise. If you are receiving the call at home, give your housemates advance notice.
  2. Use a landline if you can. Landlines tend to have clearer reception. You can use your mobile phone too, just don’t put it on speaker. This lessens sound quality because of background noise. Remember to turn off the call-waiting feature and other notifications to avoid distracting beeps.
  3. Use a microphone-enabled headphone if you can. It is ideal to use as it cancels out background noise and frees your hands for note-taking.
  4. Practice with a friend. Practice before the interview to check your phone reception, the tone of your voice, or to test if your headphone is working properly.
  5. Answer the phone professionally.Start with a greeting and your name so that the interviewer knows that it is 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. Check the caller ID and note it down (or save it in the device) in case you get disconnected and need to call the interviewer 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. Note down or prepare a list of questions for the company. Chances are, the interviewer will ask if you have questions towards the end of the interview.
  8. Listen intently and speak clearly. Avoid talking too fast to give the interviewer time to write down notes.
  9. Thank the interviewer. Make sure to thank the interviewer for their time (and for the opportunity) before putting down the phone. 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 it as if it is a face-to-face interview. Dress professionally and project a positive body language. 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.
  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 internet connection at home, 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 (watch the video below from Daily Candy on “How to look good on a webcam” for more tips). If this is too complicated, test out available lighting in your room and experiment. You can see a preview of yourself (on Skype: click on the three dots beside your name > settings > audio & video > webcam settings) and test out or adjust to see what works best.


  8. 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. Know how to fix them quickly in case they come up on the interview day. Better yet, have a back-up device ready in case your main device conks out.
    During your rehearsal, it may help to wear the clothes you intend to wear on the actual day. Avoid colors (or color combinations) or bold prints and patterns (houndstooth is said to come across as strobe lights on camera) that do not work well on the screen.
  9. Turn off additional programs or apps, especially those that have alerts. 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 (click on the three dots beside your name > settings > notifications > disable chat notifications). Inform people at home that you’ll be in an interview to keep noise at a minimum.
  10. Look the part. Dress professionally. Wear a complete outfit from head to toe. You might need to stand up or move.
  11. Use proper body language. To make good eye contact, look at the webcam, not the monitor. Avoid looking at yourself on the screen often. 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.
  12. Sit with a good posture, lean slightly forward to show interest.
  13. Speak clearly and smile.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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 should be online 10-15 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.

Article updated November 3,2020.
Sources: Ace your Skype job interview: 14 smart tips, cbc; Job interviews by telephone and Skype, Cawley Career Education Center, Georgetown University.

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How to have a successful phone or Skype interview

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