How to Ace a Phone or Web Interview

Phone and video interviews are a cost-effective and time-effective strategy to screen candidates in the initial stages of the hiring process—and they can also be nerve-wracking for a job candidate.

What to wear, who calls whom, where to lookit can feel like uncharted etiquette territory. But don’t let worries about managing phone or video logistics add to your nerves over navigating an interview.

I recently connected with certified interview coach and career strategist Dalena Bradley, who lays out the manners and etiquette for phone and video interviews so you can focus on the questions and nail the interview.

For a Phone Interview

Set the stage

Do some groundwork in advance of your interview to make sure you’re ready to answer the call in a quiet location with solid cell service. Good options are your home, an office with the door closed, a private room in the library, an empty conference room, or even your car (parked in a quiet location away from construction zones or heavy traffic).

Take time to think through possible interruptions. Are you expecting an Amazon delivery? Seat yourself away from the doorbell and situate your pets so they won’t distract. If you’re at work, block out your calendar so others know you’ll be unavailable. 

Be sure to silence alarms and notifications or any other phone features that could become interruptions.

Stand up 

This common technique allows your voice to project and sound more confident. Movement creates energy and engagement.

Don’t give in to temptation to multitask by unloading the dishwasher or running waterit will be distracting and diminish your focus on the conversation.

Watch your tone

On a phone interview, you’re working without benefit of body language, so you must be especially careful to deliver positive and polished answers with energetic tone and inflection.

Many job seekers become nervous and stressed out during telephone interviews and have the tendency to mumble or speak too quickly. Speak clearly and pronounce words with precision.

Pay attention to your tone of voice. You’re going for confident and assertive, but not manic. Keep your tone upbeat and matter-of-fact. Mirror or match the energy level of your interviewer.

Don’t interrupt! 

Again, because you’re working without benefit of body language cues, do NOT interrupt your interviewer. Let them finish their questions in full before you respond. 

For a Video Interview

Manage logistics to minimize jitters

By far the biggest mistake people make when video-interviewing is that they allow fear of the technology and the process to create anxiety, tension, and discomfort that come across in the interview. Manage the interview logistics in advance so you can focus on presenting yourself in a positive, authentic, energetic manner. 

Control the technology

The goal is to put all your mental focus on your interview, not your webcam. So make sure your equipment is operating properly well before the interview.

Do a few practice runs with friends or family to work out any kinks and to make yourself more comfortable with communicating via webcam. Have them call you on Skype or Zoom or whatever platform your interviewer will be using. Practice answering the call smoothly. Check your volume levels. Figure out where to look. Check your camera angle.

And if despite all your best efforts technology works against you, keep your cool. Most interviewers won’t blame job seekers for equipment failure and unavoidable tech snafus.

Frame your shot

Angle your camera to frame your head and shoulders in the screen—a happy medium between your FACE filling the screen and looking like you’re sitting across the room.

Take a critical look at everything in the background. Keep your background clean and uncluttered. Remove extraneous objects and check for posters or objects that are unprofessional or compromising. A wall or bookshelf makes a good background.

Dress to impress (at least from the waist up!)

A video interview is an opportunity to make a good first (or second or third) impression. Based on your job type, industry, or even the interviewer, be mindful, strategic, and intelligent in determining the most appropriate dress for the interview.

A good rule of thumb is to dress one notch up on the formality scale than your target job calls for. So if it’s a jeans and tee office, opt for a button-up. If it’s a blouse and slacks office, consider a blazer.

(For more dress-for-success tips from Dalena, head here.)

For Any Interview

And here are a few final tips from Dalena whether you’re heading for a casual coffee shop meetup, a formal office interview, a webcam session, or a phone chat:

  • Have your resume, job description, and other pertinent information on hand for easy reference. 
  • Do some research about the company so you can speak intelligently about their products, their services, and their company culture. 
  • Prepare outlines or scripted answers to potentially challenging questions that might arise. Then practice talking through your responses.  
  • Keep a glass of water nearby.
  • Use the interviewer’s name. 
  • Take notes during the phone conversation to remind yourself of a question you may want to ask or point you want to bring up later in the discussion. 
  • Keep responses short and on-topic. Aim to complete each answer in 2 minutes or less.  
  • End the interview with a hearty thank you, reiterate your interest in the position, and ask for the job!

For more interview coaching from Dalena, check out her services here. And for a stellar resume that will help you land the interview (so you can start stressing about webcam connections and which blazer to wear), visit us at Upword Resume.

Materials adapted from Dalena Bradley Career Marketing Services, Jay A. Block, and The Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.