The perfect remote interview

June 2020

Remote interview coming up? Karen Young offers her top tips on how to best prepare for it.

Remote interviews are now part and parcel of many hiring processes now that so many of the UK workforce is working from home. It’s easy to see a phone interview as more casual because it isn’t face-to-face, or to be anxious about a video interview because of the perceived lack of real interpersonal interaction. But with the right preparation you’ll be able to nail your remote interview and make a positive first impression on a recruiter or hiring manager.

Gearing up before the interview

Prepare as you would for a face-to-face interview: Skipping out obvious steps like packing a bag and planning out your journey, you should take the time to prepare for a remote interview just as you would a face-to-face one. At a minimum this should include:

• Setting aside plenty of time in your diary for the interview – I’d recommend clearing in an hour either side of the anticipated interview time.

• Researching your potential employer and the interviewer.

• Reading the job and person specification thoroughly and identify what you can bring to the role in terms of skills and experience.

• Practicing answering common interview questions, particularly competency-based scenarios.

• Preparing questions to ask the interviewer at the end.

Doing this preparation will take a remote interview from a potentially awkward chat to an opportunity for you to impress, demonstrate your skills and professionalism and move on to the next stage of the hiring process or get offered the job!

Perfect your verbal communication skills: Your interviewer may find it harder to read you in a remote interview, compared to a face-toface interview where they have the benefit of interpreting your body language.

This means that any unprofessional habits are likely to stand out. Be aware of things like speaking too quickly, mumbling, covering your mouth, looking around the room or using filler words such as “um”, “like” and so forth. I’d recommend running a practice interview with a friend and recording yourself to give you the chance to practice coming across confidently though your voice and facial expressions. You also need to be mindful of where your camera is on the device you are using. You may think you are making eye contact if you are looking at the person, but you also need to look at your camera, so try and practice with someone on this, too.

What to do on the day

The power of a positive mind-set: Take a few moments to gather your thoughts and get in the right frame of mind. Try to calm your nerves and give yourself a pep talk if it helps, reminding yourself of all of what you have achieved and all you can bring to the role. I would also recommend visualising positive outcomes, such as being offered the job. This will remind you of your end goal, motivating you to give your best performance during the phone or video call.

Put everything in place: Check that you have a signal, full battery on your device, a glass of water and something to write with. Have the hiring manager and recruiter’s name and number saved on your device as well as on a notepad and that you are clear on who is calling who, and at what time. Be ready for the call 15 minutes before, ensuring you are in a quiet space and can talk. If you are doing a video interview, remove anything distracting from your background or even choose a pre-made background which you can do in some tech, and dress formally as you would for a physical interview, unless any other advice is provided.

During the interview itself

Answer the call in a professional manner: Whether you’re being called over a computer or phone, pick up within two to three rings, and answer in a professional manner, for instance, “Hello, Alex speaking”. Maintain this professional tone throughout the interview.

Have all the information you’ll need to hand: Keep your CV, bullet points of your key skills and achievements, plus any headline information about the company in front of you in case you get stuck. Remember not to read these notes word for word and be careful not to shuffle the paper too loudly and give the game away! It is, however, a definite benefit to remote interviews that you can more easily refer to a couple of succinct notes in front of you.

Keep your body language natural: Even if you’re interviewing over the phone, getting your body language right can make all the difference to how you sound and come across. Sitting up straight or standing when answering questions will improve how confident you come across both visibly and through your voice, as will smiling and gesticulating.

Speak at a steady and even pace: It is harder to appreciate just how fast we speak over a call, especially when we are nervous. If yours is a phone interview, sometimes walking around can help you to regulate your speaking patterns and feel more at ease – obviously this isn’t possible over video interview, so try simply pausing and taking a deep breath. As in a face-to-face interview, having a glass of water handy is a good idea, not just in case you need it, but it can also make a very natural pause to an interview and buy you valuable seconds of thinking time on your answer, without a long unnatural pause or silence in the discussion.

Remember your manners: It goes without saying that you should avoid anything that could be perceived as bad manners, such as eating or chewing gum. You can be sure it will be noticed by your interviewer and put them off. You also shouldn’t do anything else that could potentially distract the interviewer (and yourself), such as scrolling through social media on your phone or clicking around on your computer.

Be aware of not interrupting as well, which unfortunately is more likely to happen during a remote interview due to you not being able to read the interviewer’s visual cues as accurately, so you can judge whether they have finished talking. Avoid interrupting the interviewer by pausing for a second once you think they have finished speaking, before you start responding. You could also take a sip of water before you answer to allow some space in-between talking.

Conclude as you would a face-to-face interview: Remember to thank the interviewer for their time, and state that you enjoyed learning more about this opportunity. Reiterate your interest in the role and why you feel you are suited and clarify the next steps if the hiring manager hasn’t already done so.

Again, just because this isn’t a face-to-face interview, doesn’t mean you can’t leave a strong last impression with the interviewer.

Wrapping things up

After the interview, if you are still interested in taking this opportunity further, I would advise that you follow up just as you would a face-toface interview. Phone your recruiter straight after the interview to give your feedback and send a thank you note to the interviewer via your recruiter, affirming again just how interested you are in this opportunity. Remember to keep your phone close by in the coming days.

• Karen Young, Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance