Ring Ring! Your Future’s on the Line!

4 Apr

These days, it seems like everything is going digital. Interviews are the same (at least that’s what Franny and Tori have experienced). They’ve put together their top tech tips to help you click with your interviewers, even if you’re half way across the world! Whether you’re in front of a screen or have the phone to your ear, seizing these opportunities take strategy! See what Franny has to say about video-conferences while Tori shares her experience with phone interviews:

1. Set the stage. Find a quiet space with minimal distractions.

  • Franny: when you’re viewing somebody through a screen (or they’re viewing you), you don’t want them to be distracted by the “hang in there, baby” kitten poster floating by your head or have them reading your bookshelf. Pick a fairly bare, private room where you can speak at a comfortable volume. Also, if you’re taking the call at home or in a place with other people, let them know not to disturb you during that time (and lock the door!). (Tip: you can reserve study rooms at the UA library for up to 2 hours!)

It also goes the other way, too! You don’t want to be distracted by things around you, or worse, internet tabs you have open. Don’t have anything unnecessary open on your computer, especially something that may make noise like Facebook (ding! Whatserface poked you, and now you only have 0.5% chance of getting that job you were interviewing for!).

  • Tori: This goes double for phone interviews. Even though your interviewer can’t see you, you need to focus all of your energy into making sure you’re listening carefully. For some reason, it’s much more difficult to understand questions over the phone. Maybe because you can’t see the person’s mouth going along with the words they’re speaking… I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. So, pick a nice quiet place where you won’t get distracted.

2. Troubleshoot all technology beforehand!

  • Franny: Make sure you understand the technology you will be using before the big day! Whether it’s Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts, do a trial run with a friend to make sure the tech-status on your end is good to go. For instance, every time I sign into Skype, the settings automatically default to “external microphone” rather than my laptop’s own mic-system. This means people can’t hear me until I change the settings! Make sure you work out those kinds of glitches beforehand so you don’t have any surprises during show time!

Also, be prepared if something does go wrong! I have had the internet go out as I was answering a question and didn’t realize they were completely frozen (and disconnected) until I was finished. It’s a bit disorienting when your tech fails, but just remember to stay calm! Being able to continue from where you left off shows you can handle pressure, react in crisis-mode, and move on.

  • Tori: Avoid the awkward “can you hear me now?” conversation with phone interviews. It’s best to use a landline so you know you won’t get disconnected, but I think landlines are becoming a bit like mythical unicorns (meaning they don’t exist…). Personally, I only have a cell phone, and that’s what I used for my interview. It works fine if you don’t have another option, but make sure you’re in a place with full coverage so you won’t drop the call.

3. Know who is interviewing you.

  • Franny: This one is just a good rule for any interview, but something about not meeting your interviewers in person makes it more difficult to remember their names! If you have multiple interviewers, things get even trickier. Sometimes they might be physically sharing the screen (by cramming together in the camera view) or they will be sharing screens digitally (which means alternating screens popping up when different people talk). To tame the chaos, try to get their names before the interview, and make sure to write down their names when they introduce themselves. This makes following up with them easier, sending thank you notes more personable, and making second interviews go much smoother!
  • Tori: I think Franny said it all! I had a phone interview where four people were on the other end, and as they introduced themselves, I jotted down names so I could find them easily when I was finished. Phone interviews can be a bit more difficult because, if you have more than one interviewer, you need to go based off of the sound of their voices and can’t match a face to that sound. So, when you go to write that awesome personalized thank you and want to say, “So-and-so, I really enjoyed our conversation about _____,” it may be a bit more difficult to parse out who said what. But do try!

4. You’re never fully dressed without a smile!

  • Franny: This one seems a little obvious, but hey, the face does weird things when you’re nervous. Even though it can be extra nerve-wracking when you are in front of a camera, try your best to relax and be yourself. This means smiling, blinking like a normal human, and making sure your body language isn’t distracting. Also, video conferences have their own kind of distractor–YOU! Try not to look at yourself on the screen, but rather the camera on your computer. This is like the digital-version of good eye contact. (Of course, it’s not your fault that your so attractive it’s distracting,  but do your best to resist!)
  • Tori: Why do you need to smile when you’re on the phone? They can’t see you! Well, that may be true but you can hear when someone smiles. Try it! Introduce yourself without a smile, then say the exact same thing with a smile on your face. It sounds different! That smile comes through on the phone, so even if you look like a weirdo sitting in a room on the phone, by yourself, smiling to yourself, do it.

5. …you’re also never fully dressed without pants.

  • Franny: Before my last interview, I was searching Skype-interview tips (yeah, whatever, I’m a nerdy over-preparer) and I came across this gem: “Even if you don’t think you will need them, wear pants.” Maybe this tip is a joke, but really, dress as you would for a normal interview. Yes, they will only see the top half of your body, but you never know when you might have to get up to grab that pen (that you may have thrown across the floor from nervous fidgeting)– leave nothing to chance! Dress appropriately and modestly and you’ll be just fine. (Need some help with that? Check out this Pinterest Board to make sure you’re camera-ready!)
  • Tori: On the phone, it can be even more tempting to skip the pants. Or a shirt. Don’t! Even though there is literally no chance they will ever see you in your undies over the phone (unless you accidentally FaceTime with them…), being fully dressed puts you in a different mindset than when you’re in your pajammies. I would suggest wearing what you would to an in-person interview, but if your immediate reaction to that is “pfft, nope”, at the very least, wear something that you feel confident and powerful in. And take off those earrings! You don’t want to miss a question because they’re clacking against the phone.

6. Have a copy of your resume and a notepad to take notes.

  • Franny: It’s likely they have a copy of your professional documents with them, so make sure you do, too! I don’t think any of us have our resume memorized, so keep it handy for reference if they mention something specific. That being said, use it ONLY for reference! After all, you should know what your experience, skills, and accomplishments are, so don’t let them catch you reading it during the interview. Also, make sure you have reviewed the cover letter or letter of interest that you sent them. We all have different versions of the same letter, so remind yourself which sparkling personality traits and experiences you outlined so that you can better expand on them during the interview!
  • Tori: The notepad is especially important for phone interviews. I need a visual to make sense of anything, so those infamous multi-parter questions are always quite the challenge for me. One benefit to having a phone interview is that I can jot down words to remind me of what I should be answering (in a video or in-person video, eye contact is usually more important so I can’t stop and take notes!). Also jot down things you want to remember to talk about or might have trouble remembering once you get a bit flustered (and everyone gets flustered!).

7. You only got one shot. So prepare, practice, and perform!

  • Franny: Just like with any interview, take some time to prepare and practice! When you’re researching the position you’re interested in, look up the company’s mission statement and try to get a feel for their goals as a whole. Also, look closely at the job description. Which qualities do they emphasize? What kind of employees does it seem like they are looking for? Try to incorporate these little tidbits that you find throughout your interview. It will show that you took the time to look into the job and that you are thoughtful when it comes to joining their team.
  • Tori: When interviewing for graduate assistantships for graduate programs, I looked over at least 50 job descriptions. No joke. Each school had me rank 5-7 of those many, leaving me with quite a few different jobs to interview for (as you may remember…). It was a bit rough to remember all of the details that Franny mentioned above. I was definitely thrown a few curve balls, with positions asking me if I’d had a chance to look over their website and mission statement and to talk about what I saw. I learned the valuable lesson – really know those pieces well. You never know when you’ll be asked about it. The benefit to a phone interview is that you can have those in front of you for reference! Also, practice answering questions over the phone with a friend to make sure you’re not talking too quietly, or yelling in someone’s ear, that you sound put together, and that you sound happy!

8. Shine bright like a diamond!

  • Franny: So you’re sitting alone in that bare, quiet room just waiting for a video chat to pop up on your screen. They said that they would call at 10:00am, thirty seconds have already passed, and all you can hear is your heartbeat in your ears…is that too dramatic? Okay, maybe you don’t get as nervous as I do, but the point is that nerves are going to happen! Remember to breathe, relax, and let your personality shine through! The problem with a Skype-interview is that you are already losing the personable element of shaking someone’s hand and sitting next to them. Your job is to make sure they still get a chance to know you as a person beyond your resume and through the screen. Don’t be afraid to throw in some of your natural humor or maybe a less than flattering story–you’re painting them a picture about yourself, so it might as well have some color!
  • Tori: The “personable element” that Franny refers to is pretty much nil when you have a phone interview. I don’t know the exact figure, but something like 90% of the impressions people have of us is based on body language and facial expressions, not what we say. Over a video, you lose some, but over the phone, you lose a whole lot more. All you really have is your voice, so again be as enthusiastic (smile!) as possible and try to make sure to let yourself shine through your answers.


–Tori and Franny



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