Telephone and Video Interviews

At the more techy end of the spectrum, Tengai is a recruiter AI designed to eliminate bias in interviewing; Mya Systems, a San Francisco-based HR tech company developed a recruiter robot to increase recruiting efficiency as early as 2016. At the other end of the scale, some employers will simply make use of a good old-fashioned telephone interview.

Long-distance interviews have been used in the early stages of the recruitment process for some time, and The Institute of Student Employers found around 50% of its members had used video interviewing. At the time of writing (May 2020) this will obviously be more like 100%, and it’s likely that once they’ve discovered the benefits, some employers may not go back.

As far as possible you should treat them as you would any other interview. They may be “live” interviews with an interviewer – for example on Skype, Zoom or by telephone – or they may be pre-recorded questions that you answer on video for review by the firm at a later time. The most important fact to remember is that the employer wants to find out the same information as they would face-to-face, and the questions that you will be asked will be similar to those in a standard interview. As such, your preparation needs to be just as thorough.

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When readying yourself for a long-distance interview, ensure that you have:

  • Privacy for the interview, away from noise and distractions.
  • A decent connection! If it is a telephone interview it may be best to use a landline, but if using a mobile make sure you are in an area with a good reception. If using a laptop or mobile phone for the interview, make sure that it is fully charged.
  • Your CV or application form available as a prompt, as well as some paper and a pen for making notes. However, be careful not to have too many materials in front of you that may become a distraction.
  • Dressed smartly. Even if you're interviewing via telephone, don’t just sit in your pyjamas as research shows this will affect your overall attitude. Don't wear 'busy' patterns or overly bright colours for a video interview.

Telephone interviews

The main difference to any other interview is the lack of visual cues, but your body language is very important:

  • Sit up straight or even stand, as it will help you to project your voice effectively.
  • Smile! By smiling, you will sound friendlier and more confident.
  • Try to avoid monotones and use gestures as you would in a normal conversation; they will tend to make your voice sound livelier.
  • For key questions such as ‘What are your strengths?’ it may be useful to signpost the interview to indicate how you’ll be answering this question e.g. ‘I have three major strengths relevant to this role, the first is…’ This will help you structure your time and alerts the interviewer when you will be coming to the end of a question.

If there are any long silences after you have answered a question and you are not sure whether to continue, you can always ask ‘Would you like me to expand further on that?”.

If the employer calls you out of the blue for an impromptu interview, you are within your rights to ask to schedule another time when you are in a better situation to talk.

Live video interviews

The added element to 'live' video interviews via platforms such as Skype, Zoom or Teams is obviously that the interviewer can see you and visa versa. Therefore:

  • Think about your setting and consider what will be seen on-camera around and behind you during your interview. Consider blurring your background if necessary.
  • Think about the image you project and how your clothing will be perceived. Dress professionally just as you would for an in-person interview - this will help you get into the right mindset. See our pages on making a good impression for more information.
  • Bear in mind the distance you sit from the camera. Make sure your whole face can be seen, but without looming too close!
  • Consider practising with a friend, asking them to feed back on how you and your surroundings appear on camera in this more formal context.
  • Consider your interaction with the interviewer, look into the camera (not the screen!) and take into account possible lags between the visual and audio. Follow visual cues from your interviewer so you don’t interrupt before a question has been completely asked.
  • Don't forget that an advantage over an in-person interview is that you can (subtly!) refer to notes - but make sure they are out of shot, and don't rustle paper or obviously switch between windows on your computer.
  • Dial or log in at the time you are instructed to – arriving 10 minutes early works in person, but may not for a virtual interview unless the instructions are to do so.
  • Have headphones on hand in case it's difficult to hear.
  • You should also have a backup plan (such as the correct phone number to call) in case your internet connection should suddenly go, or the camera stops working!

When the University is open, it is possible to arrange video interviews at the Careers Service if you do not have your own facilities. Please contact us if you'd like to discuss this.

If you are invited to a pre-recorded video interview, you will be sent a link in advance and will need to log in to a system where there will be a series of pre-recorded questions to answer. This system means you do not have to travel to face-to-face interviews, and unlike a telephone interview you are able to communicate using body language too. There is, however, no opportunity for interaction with the interviewer.

There's been a large jump in the prevalence of pre-recorded video interviewing in recent years. A survey by the Institute of Student Employers revealed that 42% of its members had used them. Employers including Accenture, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Clifford Chance, Goldman Sachs, Nestle, Shell and Unilever were using them in 2017/18.

Top Tips:

  • Consider the advice given above for video interviews with regard to presentation and preparation.
  • Speak clearly and enunciate – there is no opportunity for the interviewer to ask for clarification.
  • Once you have begun you are not usually allowed to rewind or restart the interview, however there may be the opportunity to try a practice question before the recorded questions start.
  • Often you will be able to pause the interview after you have answered one question and before you move onto the next. However, you are usually not allowed to pause after you have heard the question and before you start answering, so ensure you have done sufficient preparation in advance.
  • Usually, you are only given one shot at an answer. However, if you are allowed to make several attempts, try to get it right sooner rather than later; a big video interview provider has found that multiple attempts may begin to dilute a clear message.
  • There may also be an element of time pressure built in, for example, you may be given the question, have 15 seconds to consider your answer before an additional 60 seconds to record your answer.

For some creative roles, in media or marketing for example you may be asked to upload a pre-recorded video that you have created as an early part of the recruitment process. Typically you will be asked to submit your video CV or to answer a question such as 'tell me about yourself' or 'what are your biggest achievements'.

For more information on this see our briefing on CVs for Creative Careers



  • The Essential Phone Interview Handbook, Paul J Bailo

More tips are available on the websites below:

There's also some information from an employer survey on virtual interviews on the Resumego website.

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