Hello? Hello!? Preparing for Phone and Skype/Facetime Interviews

I work with many students who are interviewing with companies all over the United States (and internationally).  A common occurrence within internship and job searches that cover broad distances is to have a phone interview.  Employers are also conducting interviews via videoconference, Skype and Facetime.  Aside from understanding the job, reviewing information about the company, and other preparation tactics (see here for a complete review of how to prepare for an interview), here are a few ideas to help you specific to phone and virtual interviewing:


  • Take a little time to practice – (well) in advance of your interview, try to replicate the scenario as authentically as you can.  Have a friend call you and ask you a few questions in preparation for a phone interview, or turn on your webcam and (if possible) record yourself answering a question or two.  This will give you ideas as to how loud you may need to speak; if your speech sounds clear and concise; where you should look if using a webcam to seem most natural; if you are smiling appropriately and showing good posture; and other such factors.
  • “Dress” the part – while you can certainly conduct a phone interview in your pajamas – and really, doesn’t that seem like a perk!? – it may make you feel and seem more prepared and focused to dress professionally – and of course dress if the interviewer can see you.  Do your best to understand the dress code for the industry and the type of employer with whom you’ll be interviewing and choose appropriate attire (at least from the waist up!).
  • Check your setting(s) – Make sure your environment is conducive to a successful interview.  Do your best to ensure you’ll have relative quiet and a good connection or signal for phone conversations – if you will be home, notify housemates of your interview so they can be quiet, and try to close pets out of the room to avoid distraction.  If the interviewer will be able to see you, make sure your backdrop and anything else that can be seen from your webcam is appropriate (your roommate’s unmade bed, a messy desk, or even if your back is to a window on a sunny day and your face is in shadow, may not be helpful).

During the interview:

  • Don’t forget to smile – even on a phone call, a smile can be heard.
  • Stay present during the call – remember that your interviewer over the phone can’t see a nod or know intuitively that you’re following along – try to interject some “listening sounds,” such as “hm” or “yes,” as your interviewer speaks – this also helps to clarify that your connection is working well.  Avoid any distractions that could take you away from the call – instant or text messaging, alerts, alarms, or doing anything at your computer other than engaging with your interviewer.
  • Don’t be afraid to help yourself – put up post-it notes, have your resume, cover letter and the job description in front of you, perhaps a few notes about recent news and current events around that organization, and have your list of questions all written out or typed out on your screen – not to the degree that you’ll be reading answers to questions, but as a helpful reminder of talking points you want to be sure to address.
  • Address any technical issues immediately – If you’re having difficulty hearing, think the connection is poor or otherwise need to make an adjustment, address it politely and as early as possible with your interviewer – it’s simple to hang up and click off and reconnect, and may reflect well on your problem solving and initiative!

For a few more helpful ideas, be sure to visit our site:  http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/interviewing.html#phone

Author: Jamie Grant

Jamie Grant is Associate Director of Career Services for the School of Engineering and Applied Science.