Interview Tips: How to Handle Phone and Skype Interviews

By Hillary Mantis

If you have been searching for a job out of state, chances are you have been offered a phone or Skype interview. But how do you impress the interviewers, when you are not even in the same room? Without eye contact and a firm handshake, how do you establish rapport? Here are some thoughts on how to handle a phone or Skype interview without stressing out.

Set up your interview space:
It is important to have a quiet, calm space from which to conduct the interview. Obviously, you should not attempt to conduct the interview walking down the street, or outside. A former student of mine actually had her first interview with a firm while walking through Central Park in New York. Guess what? Their conversation got cut off. Fortunately for her, it all worked out, and in the end she got the job. But it was unnecessary stress that she could have avoided by calling from a room with good reception. I would strongly recommend using a landline if possible, to avoid any cell phone problems that might crop up.

Act like you are in the same room:
Even though it might sound ridiculous, I would recommend actually dressing up, or at least in business casual for the interview, even though it’s a phone interview. You will feel a lot more professional if you do. I would also have your resume and cover letter in front of you for reference. The good news about phone interviews is that they can’t see you, so feel free to have any research you have done about the employer in front of you.

Practice speaking:
Your voice needs to be really clear during a phone interview. I would practice by recording yourself on your phone, or a digital recorder, so you can hear what you sound like. You can easily clear up small issues, like saying too many “ums” or speaking too softly. A filmmaker I know also recommends that you speak standing up, rather than sitting down during a phone interview. Your voice will most likely sound more forceful. Plus, Smile — it comes through in your tone.

Remember to make your key points:
Just because you are on the phone, don’t forget to make all the key points you would if you were in the room with the interviewer. People sometimes tend to be too casual during phone interviews, and forget to “sell themselves.” Look at your resume, and make sure to get in the points you think they most need to know about you. Think of examples of how you solved problems, showed initiative, or worked independently. Don’t forget to send them a thank you note, within 24 hours, expressing your enthusiasm, and highlighting what you discussed during the interview.

Skype interviews:
Skype interviews are also on the rise. Unlike phone interviews, you and the interviewer can see other, so you don’t have to worry about some of the issues that phone interviews present. However, the technology issues remain. 

Find a quiet room or office from which to conduct the interview. Preferably one with white walls or a neutral background. You can ask the career services office at you school if they have an office you can borrow, if you need a more professional environment. And always, always test your Skype connection in the room you will be interviewing from. I had a student interviewing with a law school from a borrowed office — there were problems with the internet connection in that office. Fortunately, she had arrived early and tested it, so was able to resolve the issue in plenty of time for her interview.

Hillary Mantis is a nationwide legal career and pre-law consultant. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University. You can contact Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.

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