The average job posting has more than 250 applicants. Recruiters are looking for ways to screen applicants quickly and efficiently, which is why they are increasingly turning to phone and video interviews during the early stages of the screening process.

At this stage, recruiters are looking for three things:

  1. Interest – You may be thinking, “I wouldn’t have applied for the job if I wasn’t interested” but nowadays, prospective candidates often agree to a phone screen just to get interview practice. Show the recruiter that you have a genuine interest in the company and for the position.
  2. Core Skills Match – At this point in the interview process, recruiters are trying to assess your general experience in the core requirements of the job. Think of it as more of a checklist and make sure you can check as many boxes as possible.
  3. Culture Fit – When assessing for cultural fit, recruiters often look for whether you have worked in similar environments, your overall demeanor, and mindset.

Phone Interview Tips

Keep It Simple
When you don’t have the benefit of visual cues, it becomes even more important to keep your answers simple and to the point. When people are nervous, they tend to ramble and recite their resume. Instead, have a “story bank” of answers ready that demonstrate your skills and abilities, such as overcoming challenges or conflict, creativity, coaching and mentoring others, etc.

Practice Out Loud
Your answers and stories will sound much more natural if you practice them out loud. Plus, you might be surprised to learn that what looks okay on paper sounds awkward when spoken aloud. If you feel a little silly talking to yourself, roleplay with a friend.

Set the Scene
If you are laying on your couch, your interviewer will hear it. Simulate an interview environment – dress as if you were interviewing in person, take the call in your home office or at a desk, sit up straight and make sure that your environment is quiet. It’s okay to have some brief notes and your resume nearby but don’t lean on them like a crutch. Your interviewer can hear that too.

What Not to Do

  • Do not multitask. The interviewer might not be able to see you answering your email or washing the dishes, but they can certainly tell you are distracted (and they can probably hear you too).
  • Do not talk about money. It’s too early in the interview process to talk about salary.
  • Do not put your interviewer on hold. If you are anticipating urgent news (ie the condition of sick family members), bring it up early in the interview so the recruiter is aware of the situation and you can reschedule if you must leave the interview early.
  • Do not throw away the opportunity to ask questions. As with any interview, the recruiter will probably wrap up your call with “Do you have any questions?” Always ask questions. Not doing so makes it look like you have no interest in the position.
  • Do not wing it. Just because it’s a phone interview doesn’t mean you can be less prepared. Recruiters know when you are researching while on the phone.

Video Interview Tips

Much of the preparation that goes into an in-person or phone interview is the same during a video interview, with a few unique considerations added in:

  • Read the instructions carefully before you record your video interview. Know what the time limit is on each recording and how long you will have to answer each question. If there is a re-record option, try not to use it. Re-recording your answers can cause you to sound robotic or forced.
  • Test your tech before the interview. Practice by recording yourself answering possible interview questions on your phone or computer. This will give you the opportunity to evaluate your answers and the chance to get more comfortable speaking in front of a camera.
  • Get set up 10 minutes early …
  • But don’t sign-in early. Especially in the case of live video chat interviews, your interviewer might not be ready, or they might be testing their equipment.
  • Make sure that there is nothing distracting behind you that the camera can pick up.
  • Make sure your light source is in front of you or you will appear completely blacked out. Shine the light on the subject – in this case, you.
  • Remember to look at your webcam, not your screen. Maintain eye-contact but try to keep it loose and natural – you don’t want to give your interviewer the “death stare.”

Preparing for a phone or video interview is similar to preparing for an in-person interview. You must know yourself, your story, the role you are interviewing for and the company. Don’t let the format throw you for a loop, think of it as simply a different way of impressing the interviewer.