Distance Interviewing

  | James Innes

On occasion, especially when you are geographically isolated from your interviewer, interviews may be conducted by phone, or by video, such as Skype. Traditionally, telephone interviewing was used as a short-listing technique, designed to whittle down a large number of applicants to a few, who would then be invited to a face to face meeting. However, as technology has evolved, and recruiters are looking to reduce the cost and time involved in the interview process, such distance interviews are becoming more common. It is unlikely you will get a job without meeting your future employer personally at some stage – but a great deal of the process may be conducted “online”.

In many respects, distance interviews are no different to a normal interview and you need to prepare as such. Research your target employer, prepare your list of questions and answers to their potential questions, find out as much as you can about the position, and the demands of the role.

With a telephone interview you have no visual clues, so body language is not important, and dress code does not matter – although there is an argument that says if you dress professionally, you will act accordingly.  In the absence of body language – always a powerful signal in face to face meetings – there is much greater emphasis on what you say and how you say it. Therefore, articulate clearly and keep your tone upbeat and confident.

Video-conferencing or web-based interviewing is just like any other interview. You need to dress professionally, use appropriate body language, look the recruiter in the eye and, generally, behave as if they were in the same room as you.

Whether conducting a telephone or video interview, there are several common rules. Control your environment. Try to hold the interview somewhere calm and quiet, with no background noise. Turn off mobile phones and other devices, and ensure nobody disturbs you during the interview – including family members and pets. Avoid eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum during the interview – although the odd sip of water is normally allowable.

One advantage of a telephone interview is that you can refer to your CV and any notes without the interviewer being able to tell necessarily. You can also make notes yourself as you go along – which you would not normally be able to do in a video interview.

Apart from that, remember some of the basics. Does the interviewer have the right telephone/Skype number, and have you agreed a date and time? With international calls, or countries such as the US with several time zones, make sure there is a clear understanding as to when they will call Also make sure you know how to use the technology, especially with a video call.

The use of distance interviews is likely to become more popular, particularly as technology evolves. Recruiters are increasingly aware of the cost and time involved in recruitment, and are eager to minimise both. Candidates, therefore, need to be prepared to handle such interviews. If you prepare for a distance interview as you would for a more traditional face-to-face meeting, you should have no problems.

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