6. Telephone and webcam Interviews

6.1 - Telephone Interviews


These are increasingly used as part of the recruitment process as they are a cost-effective way for companies to draw up a shortlist for face-to-face interviews so are often used for initial screening purposes. Although it may feel more informal to be assessed by phone, it is vital to prepare for them in the same way as you would for a face-to-face interview because they are equally important.

Make sure you agree a convenient time when you are able to carry out the interview. You need to be relaxed and unhurried so make the interview a priority and set sufficient time aside.


Types of telephone interviews

Someone from the company or the recruitment agency will ring you at any time. This interview will usually be short and structured with standard interview questions. The questions will be identical for all candidates so that answers can be scored and compared. If the call is at an inconvenient time, don't be afraid to say so and arrange a more suitable time with them.

You will be contacted to arrange a time when someone from the company will call you, and are likely to be briefed as to the style of the questions. There are three formats for prearranged telephone interviews:

i) Automated Interviews
You will be sent a Personal Identification Number (PIN number) and asked to telephone the company within a specified period of days, typically about seven. See Psychometric and aptitude tests for types of questions asked and assessment tools.

ii) Competency Interviews
The second type usually involves typical interview questions. You are often advised that your interview will be recorded. Questions are based on competencies for the job and your responses are normally analysed by a trained interviewer.

iii) Sales
You will receive a telephone call asking you to sell something to the interviewer.
These are often used for jobs involving selling (e.g. call centre/telesales staff) to test your sales skills and telephone manner.

Preparation tips

Whether you are using a landline or mobile phone, ensure the phone' battery is fully charged and (if using a mobile) you are in an area with good network coverage - it will be embarrassing and show that you have not prepared for it if you suddenly get cut off mid-conversation! Have a pen, paper, your CV/application form and your diary to hand in case you need to make notes or refer to it and to schedule a follow-up interview.

Sit somewhere that is comfortable but in a position that allows you to sit upright. You will feel more alert and your voice will reflect this. Don't sit at your computer checking your emails or surfing the internet - they make hear you tapping away which would be highly unprofessional and it means you are not giving your full concentration.

Ensure there is not any distracting background noise, e.g. the television or music playing. Tell anyone else who is around that you are expecting the call and ask them not to disturb you or make a noise. Do not drink or smoke as it can be heard and you would not do this in a face-to-face interview, so you should treat your phone interview the same way.

As the interview cannot assess your body language, you need to try to convey your personality through the way in which you speak. You should to be particularly aware of how you come across on the phone. Pay attention to the speed of your voice and clarity of your words (if you end up mumbling, it will be difficult for the interviewer to understand you and after some time like this you could lose their attention). If you usually talk fast, try and slow down. If you tend to speak in a flat, monotone voice, then try to lift the tone and pitch of your voice. Listen carefully to the questions asked by interviewer and ask them to repeat anything you have misheard or don’t understand.

Try to smile when you speak, even if you feel a little daft smiling to yourself! It' helpful to envisage you are physically in the same room as the interviewer as smiles are detectable in your voice and can affect the way you feel. This can be interpreted as the sign of a confident, enthusiastic and positive person.

There may be a few silent pauses on the phone which are more prominent as the interviewer may be taking notes and looking at the questions they need to ask next. It can feel more difficult talking at length without seeing the visual nodding and encouragement from the other person but try not to let that make you shorten your answers. Treat your whole interview the same way as a face-to-face.

Finally, end the conversation by thanking the interviewer and reconfirming your interest in the position and the company.

6.2 - Webcam Interviews

Job interviews using Skype or other system have greatly risen in popularity because of the numerous advantages. The world has become a smaller place and with international recruitment no longer a rarity, it offers a practical alternative to flying half-way across the world for a one-hour job interview.

Skype interviewers are more cost and time-effective for both parties as they eliminate the need for lengthy travel which is its great appeal to employers and candidates alike.

Although there are similarities to telephone interviews, it does have an added advantage as the interviewer and candidate can at least each other. However, one of the key differences between being interviewed by Skype and a face-to-face interview is that you don't have the direct physical presence which can make it more difficult to get your personality across to the interviewer. Therefore, you will need to be even more aware of speaking clearly, confidently and using appropriate body language, such as smiling.

Another benefit of Skype is that it is possible to have notes either on the screen or printed out for reference if necessary but they should be used discreetly. Also, some find that being interviewed in the privacy of their home is actually more relaxing than a face-to-face interview.

Preparation Tips

The most important tip to keep in mind is to make sure that you have set up Skype properly. If you do not regularly use it, arrange for someone to make a practice call to you to ensure everything is in order.

The environment in which you are conducting the interview needs to be quiet and you need to make sure that you won't be disturbed. This means public places should be avoided (background noise is incredibly distracting when using Skype) and children, spouses, pets or anyone else at home should leave you undisturbed during the interview. Make sure they know you are not to be interrupted as it will not impress the interviewer to see others wandering in and out of the room.

Do also consider that although you aren't physically in the same room as the interviewer, you should maintain the same levels of professionalism. Prepare as you would for a face-to-face interview by dressing appropriately and making sure you are well-groomed. If your voice tends to dry up under pressure, prepare a glass of water in advance - you don’t want to have to suddenly rush out of the room!

Remember also that the interviewer can see what it behind you so make sure there is nothing interesting or distracting in the background.

Try to be as natural and relaxed as possible but treat it as a formal interview. This would include maintaining appropriate eye contact (by looking at the camera and not the screen), being attentive to what the interviewer is saying, sitting properly and not fidgeting.

The downside of skype is that there can sometimes be problems with interference and connectivity which can interrupt the flow of the interview. If you are finding it difficult to hear the other person, it is fine to ask them to repeat the question but if the sound becomes too poor, usually calling them back will resolve the problem. Try not to let this put you off too much - use the moment of disconnection to regain your composure so you can effortlessly pick up where you left off. Make sure you always obtain their phone number in advance so that you can explain what happened and continue the interview by phone, if necessary.

There is more to think about in preparing and presenting in a Skype interview but if you have factored in the above points, then your interview should go well.