Phone & Skype Interviews

What is it?

A phone interview is often the first step in a job interview process, initiated by the employer as a sort of pre-screen process. This can last as little as ten minutes or as long as an hour - it is best to be prepared! You should treat this interview seriously as it will, in all likelihood, determine whether or not you will be invited to continue to the next step in the interview process.

One major challenge in the phone interview is that, as an interviewee, it can be difficult to gauge how the interviewer feels about your answers as you are not able to pick up on visual cues. For example, there may be a pause in the conversation and you may not be able to figure out why. It could just be the interviewer has paused to take notes, but you are unable to determine this. The point is, it is often more difficult to tell how a phone interview is going compared to an in-person interview. You should be prepared ahead of time for this potential ambiguity. If an interviewer sounds "cold" or takes lots of pauses, don't assume that the interview is not going well. You should remain poised and confident as you may still be invited to the next step in the interview process.

One alternative to a phone interview that is being utilized more frequently is a videoconferenced interview using software, such as Skype. As with a phone interview, you should prepare yourself as if you are conducting a face-to-face interview. Dress accordingly, prepare ahead of time and conduct yourself the exact way you would if you were going to the business to interview.

If you need a quiet place to conduct a phone or Skype interview, stop by the Career Center to see about reserving an interview room.

Before the Interview

  • Print out the job description and a copy of your resume. Be sure to write down the interviewer’s phone number in case you get disconnected and need to call the interviewer back.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person interview; wearing professional clothing can change the way you act. If you are using Skype, we recommend wearing dark clothes with a pop of color (e.g., tie or blouse). Keep in mind that some clothing details may not look good on screen; avoid stripes and tight-knit patterns such as houndstooth as the distortion might be distracting to look at. Do dress in a full professional outfit, so that if you should need to stand, you are not seen wearing your pajama bottoms.
  • Find a quiet place where you can speak at a reasonable volume and get there at least 15 minutes before the scheduled call time in case you are called earlier than expected. If you have roommates, pets, or children, ensure they are elsewhere during your interview. If you are using Skype, make sure the room is well-lit and that the area in view of the camera does not have anything in it that you do not want an employer to see (inappropriate posters, for example).
  • Avoid technical difficulties by making sure your Internet connection is reliable. If you are using Skype, familiarize yourself with Skype’s features in advance (and choose a professional-sounding username). Make sure your headphones are securely in the jack and that your Ethernet cable is connected for extra security in case your wireless connection fades out.
  • If at all possible, use a landline for phone interviews; te sound quality will be better than on a cell phone and you are less likely to experience delays or dropped calls.
  • Disable extra features and programs. If you are using a phone, disable extra features such as call waiting, texting or an answering machine for an additional phone line to prevent distracting noises. Most phone companies let you disable and reactivate these features on a self-service basis. If you are using Skype, the only websites you should have open are the company’s homepage and the service which you are using to teleconference. Turn off all programs that might pop up with an alert, such as email or instant messaging. Also, remember to sign in to Skype so that you are not viewable to other users. This will prevent you from being interrupted by friends or family during the interview.

During the Interview

  • Answer the incoming call with your name. This lets the interviewer know they have the right number and person. You should also practice in advance how how you will greet the caller and start the conversation.
  • Smile! Smiling when you speak brings energy and excitement to your voice.
  • Pay attention to your body language. We recommended you sit with good posture, regardless of whether anyone can see you. This is because when you sit up straight your voice is likely to project better. Also, do not be afraid to use your hands to be expressive if that is normal for you.
  • If you are using Skype, look directly at the camera (NOT the image on the screen) and lean in slightly towards it to convey interest.
  • Pause a second or two longer than you normally would before answering a question to make sure the interviewer has stopped speaking. That way, if there is a lag, you can avoid interrupting the interviewer.
  • At the end of the interview tell them you would appreciate the opportunity to meet in person. This conveys your interest and enthusiam for the position.

After the Interview

  • Unlike a face-to-face interview, there is no commute afterwards. Therefore, you should plan on sending a thank you note within an hour or two after the interview. In this you should reiterate your interest in meeting the interviewer in person. If you are unable to send a thank you right away, be sure to make notes about the call. These will come in handy when you send a thank you note later that day.
  • Be sure to check out our "After the Interview" page for more suggestions!