One of the most common questions I get is how to prepare for virtual interviews (i.e. Skype or phone interviews). It can be really nerve-wracking to interview with someone you’ve never met before as is, but add ever-failing technology and you’ve got a recipe for potential awkward moments. To give some background, usually video-chat or phone interviews are conducted as a first-round interview to see if the candidate is a good fit for the company. Some job interviews will then use this first-round of interviews as a weeding out process to choose who they want to bring in for an in-person interview. Needless to say, it’s really important to make a good impression during your first set of interviews, and here are my tips for tackling these pesky phone and Skype interviews:
Tip #1. Dress nice and act normal.
If you’re on a video-chat interview, remember that your interviewer can see you! So, don’t forget to dress the part; while you’re at it, put a full professional outfit on. Interviewers can also see whatever is behind you. So make sure to have a neutral background (blank wall, closed doors, or neutral paintings are always good). Having a busy background can be distracting for the interviewer, so you want to have a background that is as neutral and simple as possible.
While video/phone interviews can feel a bit more informal, remember, they are your initial foot in the door, so act normally. Put your phone on silent, don’t have your email inbox open on your computer, and definitely no g-chatting or texting during the interview. Treat this like you would an in-person interview — dress the part and be professional.
Tip #2. Find a quiet place with good internet and/or phone signal.
The last thing you want to happen is your phone cutting off or your child barging into your room while you’re in your interview. Find a quiet place in your house or office for this interview. If you’re in your office, hang a sign on your door saying you’re busy and lock your door. If you’re at home, make sure everyone at home knows that you will be busy for at least the next hour and that they shouldn’t disturb you…and lock your door.
Tip #3. Have questions prepared ahead of time.
If you know who’s interviewing you, look them up and ask questions about what their job is like, do they like the work atmosphere, what are their daily tasks like, etc. Peruse LinkedIn and see if you have any common connections and ask about them. Ask about the job you’re interviewing for: what are the general responsibilities? Would you be working on a team or mostly by yourself?
Tip #4. Know your resume.
As for any interview, the most important thing is for you to be able to talk about yourself. It may seem silly (and often when I mention this to people they give me a confused look) and it may seem ridiculous because this is your life (hello!), but study your resume and know it backwards and forwards. Have an elevator pitch prepared when they ask you one of those infamous vague questions like, “Tell me about yourself.” Have something prepared for every.single.line of your resume. Seriously, this sounds easy because, duh, this is YOUR life, but try it. Spend 15 minutes sometime before the interview and run through your resume and practice (yes, out loud) your 1-2 sentence description of your responsibilities and experiences for each bullet on your resume.
Tip #5. Use your computer wisely.
One of the first things I always tell people who are nervous about the phone interview is to use this opportunity wisely! For the most part, your interviewer can’t see you (if you’re on the phone), and they can’t see your bottom half (if you’re on video chat), so take advantage of that. If you’re on the phone, take notes during the interview (either typed or by hand), have your prepared questions and pitch in front of you DURING the phone call and type in the answers to your questions right there. If you’re on a video chat, have your questions and your elevator pitch pre-typed on your computer screen, have your resume and/or writing sample and application materials right in front of you so you can reference them if needed. Preparing this way will ease some of the nerves your bound to feel during the interview, and can help you relax if you have a brain freeze and forget everything.
One last thing…
Remember to stay positive, this is a good thing. You made it to the first round of interviews. This is a fantastic win on your part. Now is your time to relax, prepare, and tackle the next step. If you feel unbelievably awkward on the phone or computer, practice ahead of time with a friend. I know phone interviews can make many people nervous, but take this as a compliment from your prospective job – they like you enough to spend time on the phone with you! This is always a good thing.
This blog post is part 1 of a two-part series. Stay tuned for the Phone/Skype Interviews – Grad School Edition soon.