No panic phone and video interviews

With more business services roles going international, and firms looking for efficient ways in which to conduct initial interviews, there’s every chance that candidates may have to take part in an interview via phone, Skype or a video conferencing call. There’s also a growing trend for recorded automated interviews whereby candidates film themselves via their webcam answering a set of predetermined questions.

All of these formats are potentially daunting. Unlike the face-to-face interview, the nuances of body language can be easily missed on a small video screen, and phone interviews are off-putting when you are met with silence during the conversation – is the interviewer waiting for you to expand on your point or have they slipped into a deep sleep?

Be prepared

But if you take as much time to prepare for them as you would a face-to-face interview, they need not be problematic…

  • If the idea fills you with dread, unfortunately you will just have to live with it. Saying you don’t have Skype or a good enough connection are lame excuses.
  • Practice beforehand. Ask a friend or your recruiter to carry out a mock interview via the same format so you can get an idea of what to expect.
  • Check that you know how to use the technology and that your audio is working properly. If you need to use functions such as Share Screen in Skype, for example, practice that too.
  • Give clues that you are actively listening. With phone interviews, say yes or make some sound of agreement to show you are still there.
  • An advantage of a phone or video interview is that you can refer more easily to notes. Keep your CV and a list of questions to hand in a format that is easy to read.
  • Turn off any distractions such as your mobile or running Facebook in the background. Make sure that pets, partners or kids won’t interrupt you.
  • Dress smartly – even for the phone. It will get you into a professional mind-set. For video, choose a colour that will stand out against your backdrop; avoid busy patterns that can send the camera into a frenzy.
  • Look carefully at your location and what the camera will see – your washing hanging off the radiator behind you won’t impress anyone. See how the lighting looks – avoid dark shadows making you look like some kind of ghoul.
  • Keep your eyes focused on the actual camera and not at the screen. This will appear is if you are making eye contact with the other party.
  • Look at how much of yourself is in the screen – if it’s just your head you are too close. Head and upper body look the most natural and allow for some body language.
  • Avoid looking at yourself in the video screen. Crucially, do not preen, adjust your hair, or in any way use it as a mirror.
  • Make sure you have a professional Skype username.
  • Video conferencing interviews may involve several participants at the other end. Get their names so if you need to address someone in particular, you can. Unlike in face-to-face situations, it cannot be done by looking in their direction.
  • Microphones are sensitive things – make sure you’re not inadvertently tapping your pen on the desk or constantly clearing your throat.
  • For phone interviews, make a positive impression within seconds. Speak confidently and answer with, “Hello, this is [your name] speaking.” rather than just a weak “Hello.”
  • Keep calm and professional if you hit a technical glitch. It does happen. Ask to hang up the call if necessary while you sort out the problem. There can be a temptation to continue regardless rather than draw attention to an issue such as a drop in sound quality – but being able to hear the other person clearly is absolutely crucial.

With these sorts of interviews, there is the danger that even the best qualified on paper fail to amply demonstrate their skills when faced with a camera or have to rely solely on what they can say on the phone.  However, on the flipside, candidates that may not be as experienced as the others, and otherwise might not have been considered, can show themselves to be extremely capable and enthusiastic individuals that are well worth another look.

Recruiting firms are not using these tools to trip candidates up – and they will take into consideration the limitations of the format. But as an initial screening tool, they open up the talent pool allowing more candidates to get in front of the recruiter and save in time and expense for both the firm and the job-seeker. With some forethought, they can be used to the advantage of both.

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