How to Ace the Job Interview from Home, Part 1: Phone and Webcam Interviews

By Emily Seamone and Don Goldstein

How to Ace the Job Interview from Home

Photo by Ali Yahya

Even before the current Covid-19 crisis, companies and organizations were using remote job interviewing techniques. These have traditionally included phone interviews and interviews that utilize video conferencing platforms such as Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting.

A more recent innovation is that of video interviews in which candidates are interviewed by artificial intelligence (AI) bots. With social distancing abounding and most people working from home, the use of all of these remote interviewing techniques will become more and more prevalent.

This is the first of a two-part series based on our recent webinar How to Ace the Job Interview from Home. Part 1 is devoted to the more traditional remote interviewing techniques, i.e., phone interviews and webcam interviews conducted by actual human beings. Part 2 will explore the “brave new world” of the video computer / artificial intelligence interview where candidates do not interact with actual people but rather only with a computer or artificial intelligence. Part 2 will feature the comments and advice from one of our own GC students who recently experienced a virtual interview.

Interview Preparation

Preparing for any interview, whether it’s in-person, or by any of the remote methods listed above involves the following:

  1. Re-read the job description. It will provide you with the roadmap for what questions are going to be asked.
  2. Research the organization. Read their website and LinkedIn page not only to gain information about the organization’s products and/or services but also to understand the organization’s culture and how they view their mission and goals.
  3. Review all of your submitted job documents. You need to be familiar with all of the materials that you used to apply for the position, such as your resume or CV and cover letter.
  4. Make a list of points about yourself that you want to get across in the interview. This is a proactive strategy that allows you to have more control of the situation and therefore reduces stress. You will always get questions that will allow you to get your points across.
  5. Prepare illustrative stories that address the job description and put you in a good light. Stories and examples are very powerful and are remembered by interviewers. They are very hard to think of on the spot, so prepare them in advance and look for the opportunity to share them.
  6. Anticipate questions and prepare your answers. Most interviews will start with some form of “Tell me about yourself,” so you want to have a short, fluid answer ready that will provide a strong, positive first impression. You can practice interviewing by booking a remote mock interview appointment with one of our career advisors.
  7. Prepare questions to ask the employer. At the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for the prospective employer. The worst thing you can say is “No, I don’t have any questions” because that will be perceived as a lack of preparation, interest, and intellectual curiosity. Ask questions that you couldn’t have learned yourself through research and anything that is of genuine concern to you (not including salary as that is usually negotiated after receiving an offer).

Acing the Phone and Webcam Interview

The Phone Interview

In the past, the phone interview was often the first-round screening interview that would determine whether the candidate would be selected for an in-person interview. It was generally shorter than an in-person interview, often 30 minutes. Under present day social isolation circumstances, the whole interview process might be conducted by phone.

It is important to know how long the interview is scheduled for because you will need to gauge the length of your answers to fit the available time. Seek a private place with no distractions. Use a land line if possible, but if that is not feasible, make sure you’re in a spot with good service and decide in advance with your interviewer who will call back if the call is dropped.

One of the advantages of the phone interview is that you can have your resume and notes in front of you as long as it doesn’t sound like you’re reading. You might have your computer open to the company website. Listen carefully to each question, and if you didn’t hear or didn’t understand, it’s better to ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify the question than to try to guess. Try to sound enthusiastic and avoid long pauses because the interviewer may think that you’ve finished your answer.

The Webcam Interview

There are several things you can do to prepare for your webcam interview. Test your audio and visual equipment and the platform that you will be using. Decide if you will be using headphones and check those as well. Make sure that you have all of the links to join the interview. Check your lighting and that your background is not cluttered or distracting. Make sure that you are eye-level with the camera so that you will not be looking up or down, and position yourself so that the camera focuses on your head and the upper part of your torso. And, crucially, tell everyone whom you share a space with that a webcam interview is going to be taking place.

Prepare to get on the platform 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time. Turn off all automatic notifications (such as those for email and social media). Dress appropriately—the way you would dress for an in-person interview. When the interviewer is talking, it’s fine to look at the screen, but when you are speaking, look into the webcam, which will simulate eye contact. Be mindful of your posture and body language; sit up straight and don’t fold your arms. Be sure to smile when appropriate and sound enthusiastic and energetic.

The questions you will be getting are the same ones that are asked in a phone or in-person interview:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What is your weakness or an area that you need to improve?
  • What are your long and short term professional goals?
  • Tell me about a time that you hit a roadblock in your work and how you got past it
  • How do you organize your day?
  • How do you handle pressure?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Questions that are specific to the job you are being interviewed for

The Follow-up Thank-you Note

Within 24 hours of the interview, send a thank you email to each person who interviewed you. If it was more than one person, try to customize the note to each individual. Thank them for the opportunity to have been interviewed. Reiterate that your continued enthusiasm for the position. You may add in any clarifications or points that did not come up during the interview, but only if they are very important.