Different Job Interview Formats


Phone Interview

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In my previous blog postings about interviewing, I assumed the situation of an in-person interview. Today, I want to discuss remote interviews where you and the interviewer are not physically in the same space as these situations present different challenges and thus demand a different approach and strategy. These are:

  • phone interviews,
  • webcam interviews (often referred to as Skype interviews), and
  • pre-recorded video interviews.

Before proceeding, however, it’s important to point out that no matter what the format, the questions are going to be the same as an in-person interview. Likewise, you will prepare just as you would for an in-person interview–specifically, by carefully re-reading the job description to assess your fit, researching the company or organization, anticipating the questions, rehearsing your answers and preparing good questions you can ask at the end of the interview.

The Phone Interview

This interview is usually a first round interview and is often used for out of town candidates or to reduce the pool of applicants who will be invited to the in-person interview. It is sometimes a bit shorter than the in-person interview, possibly 30-45 minutes. Many people don’t like the phone interview because of its impersonal nature; there are no visual cues and it is sometimes difficult to hear. Personally, I prefer the phone interview because I’m not a particularly a quick thinker so it allows me to refer to my notes and my resume. It’s fine to do this as long as your answers don’t sound like you’re reading. I might also have my computer open to the organization’s website which could be useful. Another advantage is that you don’t have to dress up or travel anywhere. Just make sure that you conduct the conversation in a private, quiet space where there will not be any interruptions or background noise. If you’re using a cell phone, make sure it’s in a place where you have good signal reception.

Two major challenges of the phone interview are mishearing and pauses. If you didn’t hear or didn’t understand the question, it’s much better to ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify rather than trying to guess at the question. Pauses in your answers can be problematic because the interviewer might assume that you’ve finished your answer. Similarly, listen carefully to make sure that the interviewer has finished asking the question before starting your reply. Your voice is very important in a phone interview. Speak clearly with energy and enthusiasm and with inflection so that you don’t sound monotone. As in any interview, make sure that you follow up with a thank you note (this can be sent via email).

The Webcam Interview (Skype, Facetime, iChat, Go To Meeting)

This interview format has become increasingly popular in recent years. It approximates in-person interviews in that the interviewer can see the candidate’s facial expressions, body language and clothing, while also reducing travel and hotel costs.

Make sure that your equipment is working well and that it’s clear as to who is initiating the call. Your camera should be placed at eye level and should show your head and the upper part of your body. In order to approximate eye contact, look at the camera rather than at the screen. Make sure that the backdrop behind you is not unusual or distracting. Proper lighting is essential for high quality video, so experiment with it and make sure that there is no glare on the monitor. Let everyone who you share your space with know about the interview and make arrangements for someone else to take care of children or dogs. I once heard about one student’s webcam interview being torpedoed by a half-dressed unknowing roommate recovering from a hangover who stumbled into the webcam interview on the way to the bathroom.

Pre-Recorded Video Interviews

This interview format is similar to the Webcam Interview in that you use your webcam, microphone and video chat software. However, you are not interacting with an actual live person. Instead you access the link that was sent to you and the questions appear on the screen or are verbalized by a human or cartoon image. Read the instructions in the invitation carefully to determine the amount of time allotted to record your answer and whether you have the option of re-recording your answer.

Companies are using this set-up because it allows them to view these interviews whenever it’s convenient for the hiring manager or team. Of course, it eschews personal interaction and spontaneity, and it may say something about the impersonal values of the company.

No matter what the interview format, we at the Office of Career Planning & Professional Development are here to help you. Conducting a Mock Interview with one of our career advisers will significantly reduce your stress, improve your performance and hopefully result in getting that job offer.