phone and virtual job interviews

How to Handle Phone and Virtual Job Interviews

Job interviews have evolved as much as phones have over the last hundred years or so. Just as manual rotary phones and those massive, first-wave cellular phones might look foreign to most people now, the interview process has also undergone a remarkable transformation. Gone are the days when one face-to-face interview with a business owner would lead to a handshake agreement and a job offer on-the-spot. Instead, the interview process has developed into a multi-stage evaluation tool for employers.

Why Phone and Virtual Job Interviews? 

Now, prior to in-person interviews, most job seekers will be expected to participate in a phone or virtual job interview. Employers use these remote interview options to gauge interest and enthusiasm and to gather an initial sense of fit for the role. They can also be a convenient way for hiring professionals to interview individuals who may not be able to physically attend an interview, such as out-of-town candidates.

While the idea of a buffer between job seeker and employer might help to relax some people, phone and virtual job interviews come with their own distinct challenges. From the importance of verbal and nonverbal cues to technological concerns, it’s key for job seekers to have a distinct strategy for preparing for these types of conversations.

To get you ready, we’ve gathered our top tips for succeeding during phone and virtual job interviews.

Phone Interview Advice

  • Stick to the schedule. Missing a call or being caught off guard when answering the phone immediately sends the wrong message to the person on the other line. If you need to reschedule for any reason, be upfront and honest as early as possible.
  • Update your voicemail with a professional outgoing message. While a silly sound bite might be great for entertaining friends and family, your potential employer might not get the same kick out of it.
    • Here’s an example message to make your own: “Hello, you’ve reached (First and Last Name’s) phone. Thank you for contacting me today! I am unable to answer the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I will be in touch as soon as possible. Have a great day!”
  • An equally important step for job seekers is ensuring that there is enough space available within the voicemail inbox to receive new messages. Hearing, “This mailbox is full and unable to receive new messages,” might just be enough for an employer to move your application into the “no” pile!
  • Practice makes perfect, but only if done properly. Job seekers should practice responses to potential questions on their own, as well as over the phone to a trusted friend. This allows for feedback directly-related to using the phone.
  • Location matters! Find a comfortable spot with great reception that’s free of distractions to set up for the call.
    • Common sounds to avoid that could inhibit the conversation include barking dogs, coffee shop conversations, crying children and traffic noise. As a general rule, working from a room with a door that closes is ideal.
  • Use the tools available to job seekers in this unique style of interview. Thanks to the buffer provided by phone interviews, candidates have the option of keeping documents and internet resources at-hand during the call for instant research support.
    • Some resources that may be helpful to keep handy include: Job description, company website and social media pages, interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, document for taking notes and candidate resume.
  • Keep water nearby!  
  • Dress the part, even though they can’t see you. Not only does looking good just feel good, the confidence that comes from professional dress will carry through your voice.
  • Answer professionally. Instead picking up with a casual “Hey….” followed by an awkward silence, open with, “Hello, this is (First and Last Name)” then follow-up to their response thanking them for taking the time to speak with you.
  • Smile! Tone of voice is your only tool for communicating in this setting because nonverbal cues will not be visible. Your voice will need to project the interest and enthusiasm you have in the role, and smiling during your responses will help your voice to express confidence and a positive attitude.
    • Also, make sure a smile is the only thing in your mouth. Save the food, gum and other noisy distractions for after the interview (your interview will hear it!)
  • Have questions ready to ask your interviewer. While a phone interview may be the first step in a series of interviews, it’s always important to learn as much as you can in every step, and the extra effort matters to employers.
  • Thank you messages still matter! Send a follow-up note to your interviewer expressing your gratitude for the opportunity.

Virtual Interview Advice

As our phones have evolved to do much more than just handle phone calls, job interviews have expanded into the virtual space. The rise of cheap and effective video conferencing tools has pushed employers to rely more and more on virtual interview settings. While there are added elements to this style of job interview that might be missing from a phone screen, it does present different types of challenges for job seekers to consider.

Aside from all of the elements of phone interviews for job seekers to consider, keep these virtual job interview tips in mind:

  • Employers can see the space around you during virtual interviews, so it pays to clean up before showtime. Remove any unprofessional photos or decor, and make sure to keep anything that might divert the viewer’s attention out of the frame.
    • Lighting is a key element to consider when choosing your video setting. Bright lighting that clearly shows your face will provide a better experience than a dimly-lit setting.
  • Just like with phone interviews, practice with the tools you will be using on interview day! The video conferencing platforms used for interview can vary between organizations and different devices, so make sure to do any downloading and testing prior to interview time.
  • Make sure to take the video call in a location that has a strong, consistent internet connection. When possible, plug directly into the connection, rather than relying on wi-fi, which can often be more unreliable.
    • If for whatever reason, a connection is lost or interrupted, do your best to follow-up with your interviewers immediately. If the platform continues to give you trouble, consider reaching out via a different medium, such as email or direct phone call.
  • Dress professionally! This is just about confidence like it is for phone interviews; employers can actually see you this time. Don’t make the mistake of wearing business clothes from the waist up, while wearing pajama pants for comfort (you never know when you might need to suddenly stand up!) From head to toe, be sure to look the part for the job opportunity you’re applying for.
  • Nonverbal communication matters, so remember to maintain a confident posture and avoid fidgeting.

Phone and virtual job interviews are not just a bridge for getting to in-person interviews; they are important elements of the job search that are highly valued by employers. Set yourself up for success by preparing for the challenges presented by each type of interview!

Do you have any tips for phone and virtual job interviews? Keep the conversation going in the comments section below!

4 thoughts on “How to Handle Phone and Virtual Job Interviews

  1. I have had phone interviews as well as in office interviews since I’ve been doing this field for over 17 years.

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