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Phone Screen and Video Interview Preparation

Lesson 14 Module 6

The following two types of interviews are very popular, especially the phone screen interview. They are very similar except the video job interview requires important, additional preparation. In addition, the video interview has a greater potential to either move you forward in the selection process or not.

Click on the + below to expand this lesson for specific details.

The Phone Screen Interview Preparation

Acing the phone interview/screen is your ticket to get into the game!

Most employers now use some form of a phone interview (also called a phone screen) to narrow down the slate of potential candidates to a short-list that will be invited to an in-person interview.  This is a critical step you must get right

  1. Interview Preparation
  2. Telephone Etiquette
  3. Interview Questions.
General Etiquette

Answer the phone yourself. Let others know you're expecting the call and be in a quite place without interruptions.

Listen carefully to the interviewers question. If you need clarification, ask for it and take a moment if needed before answering.

Charge your phone. If using a cell or cordless phone be sure it is charged with enough time for the planned call.

Have a professional voice mail. In the even you happen to miss the call, or the employer calls you for other reasons when you're not expecting the call, you want a professional voice mail message.


Confirm the scheduled time. Be sure you are clear on the time for the call and set alarms on your computer and/or phone so you're ready.

Know who is calling you. Before taking the call spend time researching the bio/background of the person calling you. One of the key places to do that is on LinkedIn. Your interviewer might also be listed on the company's website, or on associations or societies they belong to. You should also use Google to do a search and see what appears.

Have the correct version of your resume available. You should always consider tailoring your resume and having the version available you sent to the employer who is calling you.

Research the job and have a copy handy. If you've answered a job ad/post have a copy handy for reference during the phone interview. If you're interviewing without a specific job, located people in the company with backgrounds similar to yours. Note their experience and any reference to work similar to what you've done. For example if they mention specific projects and/or products you should research those and think about what you've done that's comparable.

Research the company. Be sure to spend time before the call researching Internet properties devoted to the company.

The Interview

Prepare your list of good questions. Based on what you've discovered about the job and related research, be sure to have a list of questions. When asked, "do you have any questions" this will be your chance to ask them. If you only get the opportunity to ask one question make it this, "If you were to hire me, what would I have done or accomplished that would make you say after my first year that you're glad you hired me?" This can be your biggest clue to what's most important to the hiring manager allowing you to focus on how you can demonstrate your value!

Ask about next steps. Never leave the call without asking what the next steps will be! This confirms your interest. While you're at it, also include, "is there any additional information I can provide that would assist you in considering me further?"

Follow-up in a timely manner. Wait about a half-hour or so and send the interviewer a 'thank you' email. Never wait beyond 24 hours to send this email! Be sure to pick a highlight of something that peaked your interest. It is also a good time to add a tidbit about something you've done that answers the best question stated above.

Mastering interview preparation is critical for you to do well during this initial phone interview. Remember, you will not be able to give visual clues to your interviewer, and conversely neither will you be able to receive visual clues from the interviewer. That means that the success of your phone interview will depend upon the quality of your answers to their interview questions. 

The Video or Web Conferencing Interview Preparation

Everything in the Phone Screen interview also applies to this interview, however there are additional steps you must take when you're going to be on camera!

Pay Attention to These Additional Steps

Step 1 – Choose the right location

Choose a spot for the interview where you can control the surroundings. If at all possible, take the video interview in your home, but anywhere quiet with a good internet connection is a viable option. Avoid taking the interview in a coffee shop or similar location where you cannot control the environment.

Step 2 – Check your technology and your camera

Check your lighting. Natural light is best, if possible. Facing your light source is better than coming from the back. Adjust your light to avoid one side of your face being darker, or in a shadow.

Be sure your Internet speed is adequate and reliable.

Set up your computer so that the camera is close to eye level.If you're using multiple monitors, place your camera on the one right in front of you. Tip: Put the window with the interview in it as close to the camera as possible, to help you mimic eye contact with the interviewer.

Frame your camera view before beginning the interview. Don’t sit super close to the screen—you want your head and shoulders visible. Choose a simple background with no distractions.

Using headphones helps prevent disruptive echoes, and if your headphones have a microphone on them, that will make it easier to hear you.

An important difference between a phone interview and a phone interview is body language. Treat this the same way you'd do for an in-person interview. Don’t forget to nod and smile when it’s appropriate.

Step 3 - Plan for the unexpected

Technology can sometimes fail at the most inopportune times. When your Internet connection goes haywire, you must be prepared. Before you begin a video interview, be sure to give the interviewer a phone number where you can be reached, just in case.

Step 4 – Dress appropriately

Prepare for your phone interview the same way you would if you were going into the office. Business casual is typically OK, unless your particular job typically requires a tie. It's better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed. It's not T-shirt time, for sure. Be prepared to look as good as you can on camera.

Step 5 - Referring to written information

It’s smart to have a copy of your resume nearby, just as you would during an in-person interview, but don’t be tempted to have a cheat sheet in your lap, such as a list of answers to common interview questions.

There can be a few exceptions. Perhaps you're asked about a particular project that you worked on and the interviewer asks about certain detailed fact and statistics. Just say, "I'm have the project details close by, give me a moment to get the information in front of me."

Be sure to study in detail the general job interview preparation which will not only provide substantial detail for these virtual interviews, but will also prepare you for in-person onsite interviews.

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