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Master Virtual Interviews

How to ace your phone and Skype interviews

Phone Skype InterrviewThe goal of every jobseeker is to get in front of a potential employer. To have the opportunity to sit down and sell yourself to the hiring manager. However, you’re probably going to have to navigate two to three virtual interviews before you’re invited in for a face-to-face.

Today the hiring process most often begins with a brief phone screening by either with a third-party recruiter or a human resources associate. Whoever you’re talking to it’s kind of like a first date. Both sides are trying to learn a little bit about each other. Initial screenings usually run 20 to 30 minutes.

One of the main purposes of a screening interview is to get some basic information about you: salary, availability, etc. The interviewer also is trying to get some sense of who you are. Up until now you’re a resume and, if you’re talking to a recruiter, a LinkedIn profile.

While every interviewer has their own methods and criteria most are looking for the same things. Can you speak intelligently? Can you “talk the talk” of your profession? Are you passionate about your work and excited about the job? Are you enthusiastic?

If you make it through the initial screening interview, you’ll probably be scheduled for a more in-depth phone conversation or, in some cases, an interview via Skype.

On the surface virtual interviews seem like a good thing for jobseekers. You don’t have to sneak out of the office for several hours for a half-hour interview. You don’t have to worry about finding the office. You don’t have to worry about the interviewer catching you checking your notes.

But there are a few downsides.

It’s not as easy to engage with a stranger in a virtual setting. It’s easier to be distracted when you’re not meeting someone face-to-face. And it’s tempting to think that a phone or Skype interview is just a formality.

But, there are things that you can do to build rapport and stack the odds in your favor.

Preparing for a phone or Skype interview is essentially the same.

1. Make sure you’re in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Avoid the urge to interview in your office (even if you have a private office) or in a well trafficked area like a stairwell. The day you’re interviewing with a recruiter will be the day that your boss decides to take the stairs.

2. If you’re scheduled for a phone interview it’s always preferable to use a landline but if that’s not possible be sure that you’re someplace where you have good cell reception. It’s nearly impossible for a recruiter to conduct an interview when your voice is garbled or your phone keeps cutting in and out.

If you’re scheduled for a Skype interview test your camera, microphone, and Internet connection well before the interview. If you’re using a laptop make sure the battery is fully charged. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, losing your cell-phone connection or being unable to connect via Skype doesn’t speak well for your ability to plan ahead.

3. Research the company and the person who will be interviewing you. Spend some time reviewing the company’s website. Look at their LinkedIn page and social media outlets. When the interviewer asks if you’re familiar with the company they aren’t expecting you to mutter “no” they’re expecting some intelligent comments. Take the time to visit the LinkedIn profiles of the people you’ll be talking with. It may help you find common ground.

4. Prepare notes about the company and have them on hand for your call. Notes should include: information that you’ve gathered about the company; information about the person or persons you’re interviewing with; and any questions you have about the company and the position. Be sure to have your resume on hand to prompt you with names, dates, and accomplishments.

If you’re being interviewed via Skype make sure that your notes are not visible during the call. Also, make sure that the background is clear and uncluttered. You don’t want it to appear that you have a treadmill sticking out of your head.

5. Know your resume cold. This goes for everything you claim on LinkedIn and other social media sites as well. This is particularly important if you have your documents prepared by a professional writer. Everything on your resume and that the hiring manager can find online is fair game.

During the Call via Phone or Skype:

1. Whether you’re on phone or video, begin by trying to connect with the recruiter or HR associate you’re meeting with. When you want to sound friendly over the phone it’s essential to smile. Your voice actually changes when you making you sound happier even if you’re not. Ask a friend to talk to you while she is smiling and while she isn’t you should be able to hear the difference.

If you’re chatting via Skype make sure that you dress for the interview just as you would for an in-person meeting. Showing enthusiasm is just as important as it is during a phone interview if you speak in a normal tone you may come off flat. Also, you need to be careful about fidgeting. Twirling your hair or playing with a bracelet or looking out the window will be more noticeable during a video conversation.

2. Be excited about the company and the position. If you don’t convey your enthusiasm during the phone interview you may not make it to the next round. Stand up and walk around if you can. If you use your hands to express yourself in person try to do that when you’re on the phone as well.

If you’re chatting via Skype be sure to look into the camera not at the interviewer’s face on the screen. Also, be aware of your demeanor. When we’re listening to someone we often have a blank expression on our face. However during a video interview this may come across as a frown. Keep a slight smile on your face to avoid this.

3. Pay attention to what the interviewer is asking. Sometimes when we’re talking it can be tempting to begin formulating our answers while the other person is still speaking. This is a big mistake during a job interview. Listen to the questions before answering. If you don’t understand something say so.

4. Give detailed descriptions of your accomplishments. Try to quantify achievements with numbers or percentages. This is one of the reasons having notes and a copy of your resume comes in handy. Just having a few things available to jog your memory will help you relax knowing that you don’t have to depend on your memory. If you have an online portfolio keep it open so that it will be easy to refer to if necessary.

5. Jot down anything that the interviewer says that you find particularly interesting or may prove helpful to you going forward. This might include: duties that are not mentioned in the job description; skills or traits they are looking for in a candidate; or any problems that the hiring manager needs to be solved. Use your notes to reinforce your qualifications for the job when you send a thank you note.

Be careful when taking notes during a Skype interview. If you take too many notes you may appear distracted. Always jot down notes using pen and paper. Avoid typing on your computer during an interview.

Bonus: A Few More Tips for Skype

  1. Make sure the light is shining on your face rather than behind you to avoid looking like a silhouette.
  2. Remember, the camera adds pounds, lean in to look thin.
  3. Have a professional looking profile photo and Skype handle.
  4. Turn off notifications on your computer and close other software programs.
  5. Choose your clothing carefully. Think TV anchor not Rock Start. Try to avoid black or white.

After the Call

Even if it’s only a 20-minute chat with a recruiter be sure to follow up with a thank-you email after the call. This is an opportunity to express your interest in the company and the position, mention anything you forgot to say during the interview, and sell yourself as the best candidate for the job.

Remember a virtual interview is no different than an in-person meeting. Always, prepare in advance, practice with a friend, and conduct yourself professionally. If you don’t perform well on a virtual interview it’s unlikely you’ll be called in to meet face-to-face.


About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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