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Preparing for the Interview: Phone and Video Chat

Technology now allows companies to narrow down job candidates without ever inviting them to the office.  Employers can establish candidates through phone interviews, advance to Skype interviews, and finally invite candidates to in-person meetings.  Because many visual cues are lost over the phone and the prospect of video chat can rattle the nerves, here are a few tips to prepare yourself for both.

Read up on the employer.  Scan the employer’s website, especially the “about us” page.  What about this organization is different from others?  What do they stand for?  Why do you see yourself working for them?  You probably asked yourself these questions before applying for the job, but the more you know about the other party the less nervous you’ll be when it comes time to pick up the phone.

Find out how long the interview will take.  More than likely, the employer will tell you prior to the phone interview (say, through email) about how long the interview should last.  This gives you an idea of how much time you need to set aside as well as how comprehensive the questions will be.  If the employer does not announce the planned duration of the interview, ask.  He or she will understand: you’re not in a rush, you just want to prepare.

Have a copy of your résumé handy.  It never sounds good when the interviewer refers to something on your résumé and you have nothing to add for ten seconds because you’re trying to remember what he or she is referring to.  This is also a great sheet on which to write down notes before and during the interview.

Write down the answers for questions you’ll likely be asked.  Keep your “answer sheet” handy during the interview so if you blank out, you can jog your memory.  Be sure to prepare answers for at least the basic questions, like, Why are you leaving your current positionWhat are your strengthsWeaknessesWhat experience do you have in the field?

Prepare questions of your own.  If you’re asked for questions at the end of the interview (which you probably will be), seize the opportunity to show your genuine interest in the job and your forethought.  If you hang up without asking anything, you’ll think of something later and you won’t want to bother emailing the employer then.  Ask about the office culture.  Ask what steps you can take after the phone interview has ended and the employer’s timeline for getting back to you.

Don’t smoke.  This may only be a phone interview, but coughing or breathing differently over the phone can give the interviewer bad vibes or make you sound nervous.  Maybe you are nervous and that’s why you want to smoke, but wait until the interview ends.

Tips for a Phone Interview

Wear nice clothes in a quiet area.  Maybe the interviewer can’t see you, but a phone interview is still a big deal.  Dressing the part will boost your ego.  It’s also important to pick a quiet spot for the interview so distractions are minimal and you can really focus on the questions being asked.

Disable the call waiting function.  If you’re counting on a more important call than a business interview, reschedule the interview.  Don’t interrupt it for another call; you probably won’t hear back from the employer.

Use a real phone.  If you must use a mobile phone, choose an area with good reception and stay there so the call isn’t lost.  This can be the inside of your car—as long as you’re not driving it.  Wherever you are and whatever type of phone you’re using, be sure that it’s quiet, comfortable, and safe.

Tips for a Video Chat Interview

Conduct the interview in a professional environment.  This is not something for which you can be in bed or lounging on the couch.  Prepare a clean and professional background in your home or an office.  Avoid showing off your high school trophies or that pile of laundry that’s starting to look like a pretty warm bed.  Show off, instead, your tidiness, your snazzy dressing skills, and the like.

Dress in a professional manner.  Groom and dress yourself as if you’re being interviewed in your employer’s office.  Be sure to do this completely; you’ll regret wearing the business shirt and sport coat with your polkadot boxers and bunny slippers when you have to stand up to point at something during the interview.

Take care of technical problems in advance.  The last thing you want to happen during a Skype interview is to find out that your computer’s camera isn’t working or the audio isn’t coming through.  Conduct several test runs beforehand, and turn off all other programs (even scans and announcements from those running in the background, like anti-virus software) during the interview.

Aside from school and working part-time as an Assistant Chef, Bridget Sandorford is the resident Culinary Schools blogger where recently she’s been researching Executive Chef careers along with writing a guide on London culinary colleges. She lives outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

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