Telephone and video interview preparation
Telephone and video interviews are often used by companies, especially in the early stages of the recruitment process. You might also have to do a telephone or video interview if the company you're applying for is located in another city or another country.
Preparing for telephone interviews
Preparation is key to performing well in an interview. But a key difference of telephone interviews is that you may not get much warning. So make sure to prepare in advance and keep key information to hand in an accessible place, ideally near your phone.
- As with all interviews, make sure you've researched the organisation that you're applying to. Make sure you capture this information in a way that will be accessible to you during the interview, such as in a mind map or any company literature where you've highlighted key details.
- Understand what they're looking for - have the job description and person specification to hand and consider how you might answer specific questions that demonstrate your suitability as a candidate.
- Prepare examples of how you meet their requirements such as situations where you've demonstrated a specific skill or evidence of your significant achievements. Know what you've told them already and be prepared to discuss this and elaborate on your answers. Have a copy of your completed application to hand.
- Ensure you've prepared some questions to ask the interviewer – these should focus on the role itself, the organisation or career development. Avoid questions about salary and working hours at this stage.
Prepare your environment
- Try to give a telephone number that's only answered by you. If you're taking the call on your mobile, make sure your phone is fully charged and that you have good signal.
- Try to take the call in a room where you won't be disturbed. If necessary put a 'do not disturb' note on your door.
- Avoid taking a telephone interview outside of your comfort zone. Try to have control over where you take the call to make sure you won't be interrupted or distracted.
- If you're contacted unexpectedly by a company asking you to interview, and the moment isn't convenient, then it's okay to ask for an alternative date. Make sure you let them know you're still keen and interested.
- If you've been notified in advance, make a note of your interviewer's name.
- Just in case you miss the call, make sure your voicemail message sounds professional.
- If you miss their call, phone back as soon as possible. Be prepared to do the interview immediately or give alternative dates if that's not convenient for them.
- If you need to leave a message, make sure you give your name, the title of the vacancy you've applied for and your phone number. Make sure you let them know you're still interested.
During the telephone interview
- Answer the phone professionally – for example, "good morning, Joanna Smith speaking" will set the right tone and the caller will know they're through to the right person.
- Smile – your interviewer may not be able to see you, but psychologically it will make you feel more positive and enthusiastic and this will come across in your voice.
- Listen carefully to what your interviewer has to say and make a note of your interviewer's name.
- If you don't understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or rephrased.
- Throughout the interview, try to convey your enthusiasm for the role – remember, the interviewer cannot see you so you have to find other ways to make sure they're in no doubt about your interest.
- Remember to speak clearly – you can't rely on facial expressions or hand gestures to clarify what you're saying, so make sure you give full answers which convey exactly what you mean.
- At the end of the interview, you're likely to be asked if you have any questions. Refer to your list of prepared questions, but use only those that haven't been covered during the interview.
- Finally, thank your interviewer for their time and for the opportunity to interview for the job. Reaffirm your interest in the role and ask what you can expect to happen next and when.
- End the interview on a positive note and then send an email to say thank you and restate your interest.
Telephone interview resources:
- Jobsite UK - a blog article outlining top 10 tips on how to succeed at telephone interviews.
- TARGETjobs - offers a checklist to effectively handle a telephone interview.
- Bright Network - provides a range of guides with video and telephone interview advice and information.
Preparing for video interviews
Video interviews are conducted remotely which saves you money on travel costs. They're often used for pre-screening candidates for the next stage of selection.
Video interviews can typically take one of two formats:
- Skype/Google Hangouts/other web-based platforms – these are conducted live, face to face with your interviewer and are very similar to a face to face interviews. You're able to get visual and oral feedback from the interview and can begin to build a relationship with your interviewer.
- Recorded interviews – your only interaction is with the camera and the screen. You're likely to be asked an on-screen question and then asked to record your answer, typically after having a short while to think about your answer. You may be allowed to practice before moving on to recording your answers.
Both types of video interviews will have a different feel to more regular face to face interviews. There will be certain things you can do to enhance your performance and make a good impression, so follow our advice on how to prepare.
Prepare for the interview
Refer to the extensive information on the rest of this webpage for more details, but to summarise:
- Research the company
- Research the job vacancy
- Know the person specification
- Understand how you meet their requirements
- Prepare your evidence in the form of examples, using STAR (situation, task, action, result)
- Dress for success – don’t think you just have to dress smart for a camera that records your torso and head as you may need to stand up for something.
- Speak clearly – your recorded voice sounds different to your normal voice so if in doubt, record yourself and listen to the playback.
- Sit comfortably – you don’t want to start fidgeting halfway through, especially if it mucks up the camera settings.
- Keep eye contact with the camera – it's tempting to look at the screen but then the interviewer will see you looking away from them. Good positioning of your camera can minimise problems.
Prepare your tech
- Check your connectivity – always try to do video interviews from a device with good connectivity. If possible, avoid mobile devices as it's difficult to get a good and consistent camera angle and sound quality.
- Do a camera/video check – set up the equipment, make sure it works and make sure your face is centre screen with the camera on top of the monitor.
- Do a sound check and adjust the levels accordingly.
Prepare your space
- If at home, ask your housemates or family to be quiet and not interrupt you.
- Make sure your background is tidy, suitable and professional by moving personal items out of shot.
- Make sure your face is well lit but avoid harsh lighting – the camera check should identify any problems.
- Turn off your mobile so your interview isn't interrupted by notifications.
- Minimise distractions - close the windows, turn off the music or put the cat out.
If you're not used to sitting in front of a camera then practice and record yourself. Check if there's anything you can do to improve your technique. You can also book a mock face-to-face or Google hangout interview with the Careers and Employability Service.
Recruiters are bound by confidentiality and data protection legislation. Therefore, you can be confident that your recorded interviews won't end up on YouTube.
Your recorded responses are likely to be shared internally within the organisation. This will be with select members of staff involved in the recruitment process.
Equipment for telephone and video interviews
Telephone interviews require you to have access to a phone number and for video interviews you'll need a computer and an (inbuilt or external) webcam.
You should also prepare:
- A notepad and pen to make important notes during or after the interview.
- A copy of your completed application form or CV and any notes you've made.
- Your diary – if your diary is on your phone, keep a paper copy so you can check your availability for the next stage of the assessment process without compromising the call.
- A glass of water in case your mouth dries up.
Video interview resources:
- TARGETjobs - Performance tips for Skype and video interviews
- Prospects- offers some top tips to ensure a successful video interview
- Bright Network - provides a range of guides with video and telephone interview advice and information
- WikiJob - An overview of how to prepare for a video interview
Online practice platform
To help you practise for interviews, we've partnered with Shortlister, an online interview practice platform.
Register for free online and you'll get:
- The chance to answer industry specific questions, validated by real employers
- Coaching points and feedback reports
- Access to the latest technology that leading employers use to conduct interviews