These days you simply can’t afford for your phone or conference calling skills to fall short.

It is very common for employers to conduct first (and sometimes even second) round interviews remotely, either by phone or on a video conferencing platform – most often Skype. 

These remote interview solutions can save time and money for companies and are becoming increasingly popular methods of assessing a candidate’s ability to talk themselves up before they are invited to a face-to-face interview.

If an employer has any doubts about your application or CV, they may want to clarify some things over the phone before proceeding. These screening questions may not be difficult, but they can be an opportunity to impress – so don’t miss it.

Whether you are taking part in a phone or video interview, it is crucial to be prepared if you want to sail through to the next round.

Here is our guide to help you prepare yourself ahead of time and make the most of an interview on the phone or via Skype.

Prepare as you would for a regular interview

You would never go to a normal interview unprepared. 

Remote interviews should be treated the same way, even if they may be conducted in the comfort of your own home. 

Familiarize yourself again with your application, the CV you sent over and the job advert. Do some (more) background on the company to ensure you’re prepared to ask your own questions or answer anything specific about the job or about the wider industry. 

When you're asked what interests you about the position you are interviewing for, the best way to respond is to describe the qualifications listed in the job posting, then connect them to your skills and experience.

We’ve put together some best practice interview tips to help you make the right impression.

Choose the right place

This may seem trivial, but it is imperative to choose a good location.

If your interview is being done via video, find a quiet, neutral and (ideally) professional-looking setting. And choose a room where you can close the door. 

Be sure to inform anyone else at home about the meeting, as you don’t want to be interrupted by someone shouting on you or bursting in uninvited.

Make sure that your phone or laptop is fully charged, and that you take the call in a place where your internet connection (or phone reception) is at its best.

If you’re going to do the interview via Skype or some other video service, try things out beforehand and be ready some time in advance (at least 15 minutes prior) to make sure you are composed and that you do not have any technical issues.

Keep your resume and notepad close

Have your CV in clear view in front of you. 

Also, write down a short list of your qualifications and skills specific to the job you're interviewing for close at hand. 

A phone interview ‘cheat sheet’ with answers to the most common questions can come in handy if you tend to become nervous and lose your train of thought. (This is most useful on the phone as interviewers can’t see you consult your notes, but it is possible to make it work on a video call too.)

Keep a notepad and a pen close in case you are asked to write something down, and so you can take notes during the interview. You might also want to have in front of you any supporting materials that relate to information in your resume and cover letter, such as a description of previous positions or letters of reference. 

One advantage of a video or phone interview is that you can relax a little more, with fewer distractions and less to think about. It’s also handy that you don’t have to remember everything you want to mention. 

(Of course, you don’t want to be reading off the page verbatim, so make sure you’re familiar with your material and keep your notes organized.)

Listen carefully and don’t interrupt

Always listen carefully to the interviewer and don't interrupt anyone when they are speaking. 

If you have something you want to say, try to hold on to the thought or simply write it down on your notepad and mention it when it's your turn to talk. 

Especially during a phone interview, it is important to give verbal clues that you are actively listening. In addition to making your conversation more pleasant, this reassures the other party that the technology is functioning correctly and you are, indeed, still listening to what they are saying. 

During a video call, nod your head and avoid staring blankly at the screen. This will be enough to show the interviewer that you are not lost in your own thoughts. Do not have any other applications running on your computer and keep your phone on silent – if you get distracted or lose concentration the other person (or people) will notice. 

Remember not to stare at the screen the whole time if you’re on video. Try to look into your webcam, as this will give the interviewer the impression that you are looking them in the eye.

Ask the right questions

Like with any regular interview, prepare some questions in advance to ask the interviewer. 

As you are not physically present in the same room as the interviewer(s), it is especially important to be proactive, and asking impressive and incisive questions is one way to do this.

You may also get less of a sense of both the people and the company by not being present at the interview so questions will be necessary.

You might ask:

  • “If I was hired, how would I be interacting with you and your department, what would your expectations be, and your measures for success?”
  • “What do you anticipate would be the most challenging part of this job?”
  • “How do you find working at the company, and what is best about the working environment?”

In all cases, you will want to convey your enthusiasm for the opportunity, along with your solid ability to do the job. 

Avoid asking questions about salary, vacation days and personal benefits, as the early interviews are usually just to gauge your personality and fit with the role.

Be present

If you need a few seconds to gather your thoughts, don't worry – but don't leave too much dead air. 

Keep a glass of water close to you in case your throat feels dry. 

If the interview is over the phone, make sure to either stand up or sit straight at your desk, as it will help you focus. 

Be sure to smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice. 

Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. And be prepared to have to repeat yourself if necessary.

Dress to impress

It is vital to dress appropriately for the interview. 

If it is over the phone you won’t need to dress in full office attire, but if you exchange the sweatpants and hoodie for a pair of clean jeans and a dress shirt you will approach the whole interview with a more professional mindset. 

If you are interviewing via video, then dress exactly as you would for an in-person interview – all the way down to the shoes.

It is best to wear neutral, solid colours (shades of black, blue or grey are best) because these colours look the best on video and don’t create any distractions for your interviewer.

Follow up

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer and ask what the next steps in the process will be. 

If you don’t have it already, ask for the interviewer's email address and send out an email thank you note immediately – thanking the interviewer and reiterating your interest in the job. 

It's important to show your appreciation for the interview regardless of how the interview was conducted. If you want this job, now is the time to restate your interest. 

Here’s our advice on how to follow up after a job interview. 

Top 5 Phone Interview Tips