“Remote” Interviewing

Jamie Grant, Associate Director

If you’re considering an internship or applying for full-time positions, chances are you’ll have a phone or video interview at some point in the process.  Don’t worry – preparation is really not all that much different than for a face-to-face, in-person interview.  Here are a few ideas to help you through, and a great on-campus resource for a quiet interview spot!:

Before the interview:

  • Practice – 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, or turn on your webcam and (if possible) record yourself answering a question or two (try InterviewStream for this- http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/interviewingadvice/practiceresources.php#InterviewStream!).  This will give you ideas as to: how loud you may wish to speak; if your speech sounds clear and concise; where you should look if using a webcam to seem most natural; are you smiling appropriately and showing good posture; and other such factors.
  • “Dress” the part – while you can certainly conduct a phone interview in your pajamas, it may make you feel more prepared and focused to dress professionally – especially if the interviewer can see you.  Do your best to understand in advance 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 settings – 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 ensure both participants that your connection is working well.  Avoid any distractions that could take you away from the call – instant or text messaging, or doing anything at your computer other than engaging with your interviewer (they can hear you typing!).
  • 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, have your list of questions all written out or typed out on your screen.
  • 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 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 initiative!

room 70Need Interview Space for your Phone or Video Conference?:

  • Please feel free to inquire with the receptionist in our office about reserving our dedicated video/phone conference room, “Room 70,” for your interview!

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

Interviewing Tips for Special Cases

By Sharon Fleshman

You enter an office.  The person sitting on the other side of the desk gets up, comes forward to shake your hand, and invites you to sit down.  While this would be considered the typical scenario for an interview, there are alternative settings that you should prepare for as well.

Phone Interviews One advantage of a phone interview is that you have an opportunity to establish rapport without the initial pressure of a face-to-face encounter and you can refer to notes as needed. However, it is critical to understand that since the interviewer can’t see you, you do not have the advantage of using visual non-verbal cues to reinforce your answers and convey enthusiasm about the position. Therefore, you must make sure that your tone of voice is as energetic as possible. Making sure that you are well-prepared and well-rested before the interview will be helpful in this regard. It is often said that smiling and having good posture while you speak enables you to maintain a natural and upbeat tone without becoming monotone in your pitch. While notes may be helpful, do not become so relaxed as to read them verbatim. This can make you sound stilted and less engaging to the employer.  If an employer calls unexpectedly and you are not prepared or in a good location to interview, always feel free to suggest setting up an appointment to have the discussion at a later time.

Video Interviews Video conferencing is a great option for employers who are on travel restriction, or otherwise cannot travel to campus to interview students. For video conference interviews, make sure that the space that you are in is not cluttered and does not distract from the conversation. You should be dressed professionally since the interviewer will see you. If you plan to use Skype, try to do a practice run with a friend to make sure you work out any potential technical glitches before the interview. Penn Career Services now offers video conferencing (ISDN, IP, Skype and GoToMeeting) to allow employers to interview students remotely. Students interested in reserving the equipment should go to: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/reservingspace for further instructions.

Panel Interviews For panel interviews, you are interviewed by multiple people at the same time and will likely be seated around a table with your interviewers.  This setup may seem daunting, but don’t let it intimidate you. The key is to engage everyone in the room so make sure to offer eye contact to all of your interviewers.  For instance, while answering a question, look at various people and as you wrap up your answer, make sure you are once again looking at the person who actually asked the question. If you are able to get the list of interviewers before the interview, try to memorize their names and learn about their duties and backgrounds ahead of time.

Group Interviews During group interviews, you are being interviewed along with other candidates. This usually takes place by way of an activity that requires a group discussion, perhaps leading to a group presentation.   Often with these interviews, employers are trying to sense how you would operate as part of a team. To that end, you need to strike a balance by making meaningful contributions to the discussion without dominating it.

Additional interviewing tips and resources for students and alumni from undergraduate and graduate programs are available on the Career Services website.  Best wishes for interviewing success!

Cubicle with a View

by Lindsay Mapes

As an administrative assistant I do not have a corner office with a view of Locust Walk.  Instead I have a corner cubicle with a view of every move you make before your settle in with your counselor or advisor, and sometimes it’s not pretty.  The scenery doesn’t change much when I head down to OCR to check in employers and students for their interviews, either.

Etiquette starts when you pick up the phone to schedule an appointment or interview.  Make sure it doesn’t sound like you’re not standing in the middle of a six lane highway or while you’re leading a kindergarten class in a sing-along. You should also have your calendar handy when you call.  Similarly, when you have an appointment or interview over the phone find someplace quiet, with good reception and free from interruptions.  We actually had a student call for her scheduled phone appointment while she was on a bar crawl.  Not only is it disrespectful to who you’re speaking with, but it hampers the quality of your appointment and what you get out of it.

Whether you’re interviewing in OCR, meeting with an advisor at Career Services, or headed to an unfamiliar city for an interview, make sure you know where you’re going.  That doesn’t mean having an address scrawled on a wrinkled piece of paper. Career Services is tucked away in the basement of the McNeil Building.  Tons of students show up late for interviews in OCR or appointments in Suite 20 because they don’t know where they’re going. Google the address before you go.  Also, administrative assistants are happy to give directions! If you had an interview in Manhattan you wouldn’t just show up at the train station, then try to figure it out on your own and call 10 minutes after your appointment begins breathless and lost?

If you are going to be late, call as soon as you know.  If you’re not going to show up at all, you should also call or email as soon as you know.  As redundant as this advice seems, it’s surprising how many students simply do not show without advance notice.  I notice and so do the advisors, especially the frequent no-shows. Interviewers and advisors are very busy, as are you, so if you let them know well in advance they may be able to accommodate you for another time.  Blatant no-shows do not guarantee any accommodations.

When you do show up on time to your interview or appointment you should know what company you’re interviewing for or who you’re meeting with.  This prevents you from sounding like a disorganized person who doesn’t want to be there.  There’s no Anne Redstorm or Ted Rothum here.

Be aware of your surroundings when you’re in the waiting area, especially in OCR.  Sometimes when people get nervous they get chatty, and then they get loud.  Other students (and interviewers) may not want to hear how your last interviewers thought you were perfect.  People also probably aren’t interested in hearing a phone conversation about how much you drank over the weekend.  Be considerate. If the three people in the waiting area with you are exchanging looks and rolling eyes at each other, you might want to stop playing Angry Birds with your sound on.

Administrative assistants and receptionists are here to help you from the moment you pick up the phone or come in to make an appointment.  Do not hesitate to ask for directions, to call when you’re running late, or to see if we can schedule you for a different day.  And Lifesavers! We have Lifesavers!  Could someone with a basket of Lifesavers steer you wrong?

Tips for Phone Interviews

by Peggy Curchack and Kelly Cleary

(courtsey of samantha celera via Flickr)
(courtesy of samantha celera via Flickr)

Tis the season for many employers to conduct phone interviews for internships and full-time jobs. Phone interviews, and even video interviews (through Skype and more formal videoconferencing equipment), are becoming increasingly popular with employers since they are a great way to conduct first rounds while saving time and money.

So, how do you prepare? In many ways, particularly related to the content of the conversation, you should prepare exactly the same way you would for an in person interview. That said, a phone interview does call for some special considerations.

First, make sure you have a reliable phone line secured. A land line is ideal but those aren’t always easy to come by since most students have gone completely mobile. If you can’t find a landline, make sure your cell is fully charged and you will be taking the call in a physical space that is quiet and well supported by your mobile network (areas where the be-speckled Verizon guy and his entourage or Luke Wilson and his AT&T postcards hang out.)

Before you receive the call, prepare your space.  Turn off the radio, TV, email notification beep, or tea pot.  If you have roommates and you’ll be taking the call at home, let them know that you have a scheduled phone interview so that they don’t interrupt you while you’re talking to the employer.  Phone interviews are interesting because on the one hand, since employers can’t see you, you can do things like have your resume in front of you, or have a list of things you want to be sure to say about yourself, and the organization.  On the other hand, since you can’t see them it makes it harder to gauge their reactions.  In general, be sure to keep your answers to the point, and don’t go on and on (that’s good advice for fact-to-face interviews too, but especially important on the phone).

Also, smile.  Yes, literally, smile.  One can “hear” it over the phone. Since for many people it’s harder to project enthusiasm, poise — your personality — when you have no visual clues to support you, it becomes important to compensate for the lack of visuals.  One way to do that is with one’s voice.  We’ve all had the experience of talking to customer service people – I’m sure you can tell when you talk to someone if they are just going through the motions, or are really engaged.

If you are contacted by an employer who is interested in conducting an interview by video conference you may be able to use Career Services’ new video conferencing equipment (ISDN and IP options). For more information go to:  http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/videoconferencing.html

This recent article from Time offers some thoughts on video interviews from the recruiter perspective:

“How Skype Is Changing the Job Interview” http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1930838,00.html

The article also includes a video on How to Ace a Job Interview on Skype