If you’re preparing for a phone or video interview, here are all the things you should think about, courtesy of some great comments HR professionals and interviewers have sent us (for each point, I’ve also linked to the full comment talking about it):
- Make sure your camera is aligned to your face properly (link)
- Pretend like you’re there in person (link)
- To ensure your setup is working properly, test with a friend or family member first (link)
- Get rid of any clutter (link)
- Be patient (link), and be comfortable with silence (link)
- Rather than looking at yourself on camera, look at your interviewer and try to make eye contact with them instead (i.e. look directly at your webcam) (link). See if the platform you’re using has an option to hide yourself, as is easily done on Zoom for example (link)
- Choose your background very carefully (link)
- Find common ground early if you can to minimize the feeling of separation which is common in phone and video interviews (link)
- Don’t forget to smile (link)
- The advantage of phone and video interviews is you can have plenty of notes with you to refer to at any time, so make use of this (you can keep them out of sight of the interviewer) (link)
- Things will sound much better both for you and the interviewer with headphones (link)
If you’ve paid attention to all these points and you’ve also studied how to succeed in job interviews in general (see our piece on job interview tips here), you should be well prepared for your phone or video interview. Good luck!
I really can't emphasize how important it is to align your phone/pc camera to your face properly. Your wouldn't want your interviewer to be staring into your nostrils or at your forehead.
It's great practice to ensure that at least your shoulders are showing in the video and that the camera is at eye level.
While this may seem like a trivial matter. It goes a long way in determining your perceived level of professionalism.
--Jane Flanagan, Tacuna Systems
The biggest tip for interviewees is to pretend like you are actually there in-person (especially for phones interviews). People don’t realize but their demeanor and attitude can still be perceived over phone or video even if they do not realize it. The best way to combat this is to make yourself believe you are in-person for the interview. For example, if you move your hands when you talk in-person then do so over the phone or on video as well. This will allow your personality to come out a lot more natural and connect with your interviewer.
--Nicholas Bond, Renovation 320
Ask a friend or family member to do a run-through with you an hour before your scheduled interview so you can check that your audio/video works. Also verify that your face is well-lit and that your background looks appropriate. Play around with your camera angle to make sure that you are centered in the video, at a suitable distance from the camera.
--Laurie Kopp Weingarten, One-Stop College Counseling
My main advice would be to take care of yourself and your background! Remove clutter, the ruins of your lunch, and the pile you wanted to sort for six months now. Have a professional, well-lit corner in your house for video calls. Also, dress to impress, like on a real-life interview!
--Gabor Fogarasi, Linkedin Tribe
One piece of interview advice that isn't emphasized enough is patience. Especially with video interviews, there is always going to be lag time between your voice and when your interviewer hears your responses, and vice versa. The end result: it's easy to end up talking over one another or starting sentences at the same time. To prevent this from happening, remind yourself to take brief pauses after your interviewer asks a question to ensure they've finished their thought. This will ensure a smoother, free-flowing conversation without breaks or interruptions.
--Sunny Ashley, Autoshopinvoice
Do NOT look at yourself on camera while interviewing. Your goal is to be connecting with the interview panel and that is hard to do when you’re looking at yourself. Keep your focus on the panelists so you can see their body language and begin to build relationships.
--Amy Leneker, AmyLeneker.com
Choose your background very carefully. In other words, wherever you're going to do the interview, make sure the camera isn't catching anything in the background that would be taken as inappropriate, unprofessional, or drawing attention away from you. So it's best to have a plain background that provides enough contrast between you and that background. This way, you won't blend in with the background, you'll stand out from it!
Video interviews bring an added layer of separation - rather than walking into a room, shaking hands and being offered a seat, you and your interviewer will instantly pop up on one another’s screens. It can serve to make what is already a formal and somewhat impersonal conversation even more so.
The key to minimising this feeling of separation is to do as you would when meeting someone new at a pub or a party: find common ground early. Begin the interview with some light conversation, talking a little about yourself and finding out a little about your interviewer. Ask them what they’ve been up to lately, or how they came to be in their role (given that you’ll likely be in the same industry this is a great place to identify commonalities.) By finding this common ground you’ll make yourself less a 2D talking head, and more a human that just happens to be shown on a screen.
--Matt Heyes, Student Job Board
One of the biggest mistakes people being interviewed by phone and even by videoconference make is failing to smile. A smile can be heard in the voice of the speaker, and helps to project an appearance of confidence and competence. A smile also helps to relax the speaker and make their delivery sound more self-assured.
--Michael Nemeroff, RushOrderTees
The beauty of phone and video interviews is that the interviewer can only see what you want them to see. This means that candidates can be even more prepared by having their resume and notes to reference during the interview as long as they are out of sight for the interviewer. Go the extra mile by doing research and sharing your breadth of knowledge on the company, highlighting key initiatives they’ve made, having talking points or accomplishments to bring up, or preparing questions to ask the interviewer.
--Linda Qu, Jobscan
Get comfortable with silence.
Too many times people want to fill the silence with utterances while they think. This doesn’t help the conversation, and it makes you sound less capable. On the other end, when you’re asking a question, be prepared to sit quietly and listen, even for an awkward amount of time. Don’t try to lead the other person down a path. Waiting allows better answers to come out. They will answer you eventually.
Practice getting comfortable with silence ahead of time. Get on the phone (or video call) with someone you know and role play it. Have the friend or family member make up some questions and ask you them over the phone. Hold back the “ummms” and “ahhhhhs”. Then ask this person a set of questions. Tell them ahead of time not to answer right away. Practice sitting there quietly when they don’t answer in what you consider to be a standard amount of time. Let it get awkward. It’s okay. They’ll answer eventually.
--David LaVine, RocLogic Marketing
Seeing yourself in the camera can be very off-putting and quickly make you feel self-conscious about your appearance. This seemingly innocuous detail can really throw you off your game as instead of focusing on the questions you’re micromanaging yourself to try to look your best all the time.
Instead, use the “Hide Myself” option in Zoom to not see yourself (but still be seen by the recruiter).
This can definitely help you relax and focus on giving the most persuasive responses, instead of dwelling on your facial imperfections.
--Peter Bryla, ResumeLab
Something you should always do when on a phone or video interview is use headphones. You will hear things better and you will sound better to the people on the other end of the call, which will make the conversation flow better.
When headphones aren’t used for phone or video interviews, the sound can echo back into the microphone and make things muffled and scrambled. I have been on some terrible calls where people are obviously not using headphones and it makes the call that much more difficult.
Apple’s stock headphones are great (wired or Airpods) for any type of call and will help you hear and sound nice and clear. They can be used for phone interviews as well as Zoom video calls and more.
Help yourself hear better and allow the people on the other end to hear you better fo future calls and wear headphones!
--Brandi Andrews, National Air Warehouse
A important point that most people forget is to have a glass of water nearby. You'll be surprised at how fast your throat will dry in front of the camera. You don't want to have to clear your throat every three second, or look uncomfortable because of a dry mouth. It's also important to LOOK comfortable. Be mindful of how you look. Don't forget to smile. It goes a long way. At the very least, it makes you look confident. Here is another detail most people forget about. Make sure your equipment is fully charged and sit near the power bar, in case if you have to adjust anything. Most people are focused on what to say and what to wear. They forget about charging their equipment or keeping water nearby. Meanwhile, these trivial details can be just as important. Also, make sure your background view is clean and organized.
Make sure you have a solid internet connection.
If possible, get an Ethernet cable to secure a wired connection to your router. This will ensure your internet is faster and more stable, without being affected by other devices. It will limit the location that you can do the interview at, and if that's an issue consider other options.
Invest in boosting your WiFi with WiFi mesh system, WiFi boosters, repeaters or extenders. People are generally more forgiving about internet issues — but it still hurts your chances of securing that job. If it's something you can control, why not do something about it so you don't leave your internet connectivity to luck.
--Sharon Yeo, Talent Tribe
Unlike what many people think, how you look does matter in video interviews. It is important that you dress up like you would do in a face-to-face interview. Putting on something less than formal (i.e t-shirts, hats) will give off an “I-don’t-care” vibe to the interviewer.
--Nguyen, Grove HR