Phone and video interviews seem to be something I have become well-practiced in since I started working for myself and out of four interviews I have secured all four of the roles.

It was really interesting to get feedback on my latest last week and got me thinking about why they seem to work for me, and what is different about this type of interview.

As this is the only way interviews are going to be conducted for the foreseeable until the lockdown is lifted, I thought it may be useful to share my thoughts and tips if you find yourself able to go for new projects or roles at this time.

What are the benefits of phone or video interviews?

One thing that has helped me is that they are often quite short notice and so I do not have too much time to get myself in a flap or over-prepare. In fact, for one I was on holiday and did the interview whilst on the Norwegian Fjords with my other half sat listening in. As I generally don’t like phone calls and certainly don’t like people sat listening this was totally cringe-inducing! It was interesting to get his (unsolicited) ’feedback’ after though.

As a bonus, video and phone interviews also take the pressure off me faffing with a physical portfolio for days in advance, something that was always a must in my face-to-face interviews. I have a portfolio in the Cloud and the interviewers have always already seen this and so know what my work is like and the type of projects I have worked on.

The interviews are also quite short, with no half or full-day interviews anymore hurrah! (They were my nemesis in teaching — a ridiculous, unnecessary process). Plus you don’t have to worry about traffic and late trains, finding their address in an unfamiliar place, etc so, on the whole, it leads to a more relaxed build-up. You can grab a brew, look over the customer’s website and your notes, and make sure you have organised your space around you with no distractions.

The common theme in my post-interview feedback has been that I have seemed relaxed, calm, and they felt that they could trust me to deal with subject matter experts. So these seem to have been the important considerations for all the customers, beyond those must-have technical and writing skills, which they have already seen evidence of in the portfolio they have viewed beforehand. Worth bearing in mind.

So here are my tips:

Quickly pick up on the tone, and establish yours

By their nature video and phone interviews are often more chatty and informal than face-to-face ones. Especially whilst we are all working from home, and have the cat scratching at the door or the kids screaming in the background.

Try to quickly ascertain the tone of your interviewer and how relaxed and chatty they are to gauge your own tone. It is harder to do this on the phone as you cannot gauge body language etc, but there will be clues in their tone of voice. 

I have often quickly shown that I am laid back, happy to joke/have some sarcasm, and chat, and it has helped to set the tone. It helps everybody if you can show you are calm (but professional) from the start. Certainly in the contracting world, you are expected to come with a certain level of experience and so should be confident and calm in talking about your work and speaking to new people.

Find a good location

Make sure you are away from noise, interruptions, and have decent lighting. It doesn’t look good if you are in sitting in the dark like a Crimewatch witness interview, similarly make sure there is not a huge glare blinding everyone. 

Give yourself switch over time

Make sure you have some time blocked out before the call to switch your mind from whatever you were doing before your interview. Try not to go ploughing from another customer’s project straight into the call. Take 20+ minutes to look over your notes, make sure the correct app is up and running, you have any links or files open, remind yourself of the job spec and questions you may want to ask, and that your laptop or phone is charged (or the charger is nearby for a crisis). Which leads me to…

Charge everything fully

It sounds obvious but is easily forgotten when focusing on other things. I speak from experience.

At least a couple of hours before, make sure everything is fully charged. The last thing you need is to be sat watching your battery level drop whilst on the call and your charger be downstairs.

Have links and documents ready

Think about anything you may need to have to hand – your CV, portfolio, websites, blogs, articles you have written, etc. Have the links open in a tab, have a physical copy of your CV to hand, have a notepad to jot anything down that comes to mind that you may want to ask later, or a point you may want to expand on. If you have an awful memory like me, a notepad is a must.

Have a dress code

Whilst I am not suggesting you pull out the power suit (though some of you may need to depending on your industry), to get into the right frame of mind it is good to dress smartly, even if the interviewer will only be able to see your head and shoulders. It puts you in a different headspace to those you have been taking whilst sat in your comfy pants, oversized cardigan, and bunny slippers.

Since working at home I have rarely done my hair properly or dressed in anything other than a t-shirt and jeans, so to get ‘dressed-dressed’ makes me get into interview mode. And yes, I am back in the comfies within 5 minutes of it being over whilst I mull over everything I have said and done. Ever.

Show your engagement

Make sure you respond as you would in person with hand gestures, nodding, agreement, questions. Don’t just sit there static whilst being talked to. Beyond them thinking you are not interested, they might think the screen has frozen! 

However, don’t jig about to the point that it is distracting or look like you are auditioning for a mime act. 

Check your tech

Make sure your audio and webcam work, and that your internet is as stable as possible. If you currently have your other half and kids at home using lots of bandwidth to play Fortnite or watch Netflix, ban them from it whilst you are on the call to make sure it doesn’t lag. They can manage for an hour, despite their pleas of ‘it’s not fair’ and the world will end. Even better if you can send them out of the house for their daily exercise whilst you are on the call.

Also, check out the app you will be using

For video calls, make sure you are familiar with the app you will be called on, and that you have a login if needed. Some will make you have your own account to be able to activate the link.

Test the link in advance to make sure it works. Make sure you know how to do the basics in the software like share the screen, just in case you may need to. Also, check whether you prefer to talk with headphones in or without.

Practice talking on video calls

Do a test call with a friend if needed, and get used to talking via video. Certain quirks come with video calls and you need to know how to deal with them, such as lagging audio, accidentally muting yourself, switching video on and off, having to see yourself in the corner whilst talking (eurgh), and connections dropping out…all in a day’s virtual work.

Switch notifications off

Make sure that you have closed down or switched off anything that might start pinging notifications to you, like chat functions, social media, alarms, reminders, etc. Put your phone on silent.

Finally, relax and be yourself

As with any face-to-face interview, be yourself. You will be much more relaxed than if you are putting on a front or trying to be someone else. Make the most of being in your own environment to embrace being yourself and relaxed.


​Write 52: Week 44
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