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Jobs & Careers

Best phone and video interview tips

Phone or video interviews are a staple first-round option when there's a high number of applicants for a job. Here's how to stand out from the crowd!

woman on phone near laptop and man shaking someones hand

Video and phone interviews are a standard part of the recruitment process these days – especially when it comes to graduate schemes and grad jobs.

A phone interview is generally the first hurdle if there are lots of applicants. But employers sometimes choose video as the first means of contact. It gives candidates the opportunity to make more of an impression without having to travel to the office.

If you're lucky enough to get one booked in, congrats! We've put together some tips to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance of getting through to the next round.

Most of the phone interview tips also apply to Zoom. But, we've added some extra advice that's specifically for video interviews to help you succeed. Good luck!

Don't forget that this is just one part of our student jobs section. You can also find tips on how to write a great CV or cover letter, and how to prepare for an interview.

6 video interview tips

Here are the best ways to prepare for a Zoom interview:

  1. Dress to impress

    Even though you'll be sitting in your living room behind a computer screen, an interview is an interview. The psychology of dressing to impress will also make you feel more confident. It will come across well to your interviewer, as it will be clear you're taking the opportunity seriously.

    Whatever you do, don't just dress well from the waist up in the hope your pyjamas will stay out of the picture. If you get up for a glass of water or something similar, you'll give the game away. It's not worth the risk!

    Stuck deciding what to wear? We've got a guide on how to find affordable work clothes that could be just the inspiration you need.
  2. Pick a suitable location

    If you've decided to take the video interview in a public place, make sure you choose your location well in advance and test it out.

    You're quite limited when it comes to suitable public spaces for Zoom interviews. You can't have too much background noise and you'll need to minimise the chances of being disrupted.

    Setting up shop at home is definitely the best idea. Make sure your space is clean and tidy in advance. Choose somewhere that’s facing a plain wall with no distractions, good lighting and make sure there are no pants drying in the background!

  3. Look at the camera rather than the screen

    webcam on desktop computer

    Credit: Gianandrea Villa – Shutterstock

    This is actually way more difficult than it sounds and takes a fair bit of practice.

    Your natural instinct is, of course, to look into the faces of your interviewers as they appear on the screen. But since your webcam is just above the screen, it’ll look to them as though you’re looking downwards. Also, don’t be tempted to look at your own image on the screen either!

    The best way to get comfortable with the Zoom set-up is to practise with family or friends. Try to answer some mock questions while maintaining eye contact with whoever's on the other side of the screen. A trial run will also lessen your chances of a technical disaster!

  4. Be prepared for glitches

    Yes, we did say the best way to avoid mishaps was to practice in advance, but tech is never 100% glitch-proof.

    There's still the risk that you'll encounter some awkward moments where you lose sound or the video freezes. But they shouldn't last too long.

    Your interviewer will without a doubt be expecting a few bumps in the road. So stay calm, but do address the problem if it persists for more than a few seconds. If it happens repeatedly, suggest hanging up and starting the call again.

  5. Make your Zoom profile look professional

    When was the last time you had a proper look at your Zoom profile?

    If you haven't used Zoom for job purposes before, chances are that your account will need some attention. You may want to update your profile picture, name, status, etc. Make sure everything looks interview-friendly. Alternatively, you can consider opening a new account for your job hunt.

    It also wouldn't hurt to Google yourself. Make sure your online persona looks professional across all platforms, including social media.

    Once you've aced the interview, find out what to expect in your first job.
  6. Close down all other programmes on your devices

    Woman having video interview on laptop

    Credit: antoniodiaz – Shutterstock

    The last thing you want is for notifications to be going off during the Zoom call.

    You'll need to have your volume up high for your interview. So, make sure you've signed out of any messaging apps and have closed all other browser windows.

    Otherwise, any notifications that come through could throw both you and the interviewer off, and leave you feeling a bit flustered.

    The same goes for your phone – switch it off or put it on silent. Your interviewer won't appreciate your phone vibrating every three minutes.

8 phone interview tips

These are the 8 top tips for phone interviews:

  1. Don't panic

    Stay calm, take deep breaths and try to think of things other than simply the interview (as difficult as this might be).

    Do all your prep in advance so that, on the day of the interview, you'll be ready for the phone call.

    Top tip: Go for a run around the park or try and fit in a gym session beforehand if you have time. The endorphins will calm your nerves and give you a confidence boost.

  2. Get comfortable

    A major bonus of phone interviews is that you don't need to worry too much about your outfit.

    But keep in mind that dressing smartly can help you get into the interview mode.

    While it's okay to walk around the room during the call, sitting down as you would in a regular interview might be more effective. This way, there's less chance of making stomping sounds, and it'll make it easier to scan your notes while talking. What's more, you can focus on making sure your voice is loud and clear.

  3. Research and prepare

    people examining graphs and charts

    Credit: dokurose – Shutterstock

    It's good to keep your mind off the interview on the day, but preparing in advance is key.

    Not only should you be preparing some answers to typical interview questions, but you should also do some background research on the company.

    Make sure you have a good understanding of the company and what they offer. Thoroughly check their website and social media, and search on Google News to see how they're perceived in the press.

    This will put you in a great position if they ask what you know about the company. It might be worth preparing a couple of compliments to dish out, too.

  4. Keep notes to a minimum

    Preparing notes is still crucial for a phone (and video) interview. But, just as you would for a regular in-person interview, try not to rely on them too heavily.

    Some notes are helpful, but reading from them in your interview can make your answers sound rehearsed and unnatural.

    We'd recommend having a copy of your CV to hand. This way, you can glance at it when trying to think of examples of relevant work experience, qualifications or extra-curricular activities.

    You might also want to have one or two post-it notes in front of you, but that's about it.

  5. Practise with friends and family

    You know what they say: practice makes perfect. But in all seriousness, not being able to see your interviewer during the call can be a lot harder than you'd think.

    It's easy to get flustered or lose your train of thought with a phone interview. But, the best way to tackle this is to practise as much as you can.

    Ask a patient friend or family member if you can practise answering a few basic questions. Afterwards, ask them for feedback on how you respond.

    Or, you could always record yourself practising answers using your phone. You can then listen back to see where you could improve.

    Don't be put off by hating the sound of your own voice. It will always sound a lot worse to you than it will to others. Promise!

  6. Remember to listen

    Young serious man on phone at desk

    Credit: GaudiLab – Shutterstock

    During a phone interview, it can be easy to get so caught up in what you want to say that you forget to listen to what the interviewer is saying.

    Take your time, and listen carefully to the question before you respond. And whatever you do, never interrupt!

    It's best to slow down when answering the questions as well. It's more obvious that you're speaking quickly when it's over the phone rather than in person.

  7. Prepare your surroundings

    Double and triple check the time and date that the phone interview is due to take place. Also, arrange a place where you can take the call without being disturbed or distracted.

    It’s probably best to inform housemates/family members that you’ll be expecting the call. That way, they know not to come knocking on your bedroom door to see if you want a cup of tea right in the middle of things.

    To be sure that your chosen spot has a decent phone reception with no background noise, it may even be worth doing a trial call with a friend first. They can then let you know if you need to make any changes before the real thing.

  8. Treat it like a normal interview

    Although the pressure of a face-to-face interview isn't there, this doesn’t mean you should view it as any less important.

    You might be grateful that your interviewer can't see you without your make-up on. But, there's more weight placed on how you carry yourself verbally and how you answer the questions. After all, that's all the interviewer has to judge you on.

    Keep a smile on your face throughout the interview (this helps to make you sound keen and chipper) and try to avoid “umming” and “ahhing” too much when unsure of how to answer a question. Simply ask for a few seconds if you need to think about what you want to say.

    And last but definitely not least, get a good night's sleep the night before.

Have the above in order and you can be pretty confident that things will go swimmingly. Best of luck!

Haven't quite managed to click on the 'apply here' button yet? Here are some tips to get you unstuck from the application process!


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