In response to efforts to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, many companies in areas of higher exposure are moving to Work from Home policies for all employees that are able to do so.  In addition, some regions (i.e. SF Bay Area) may have a more global Shelter in Place policy for the next several weeks.  As a result, several of our clients, and I suspect other companies, will be pivoting to telephone and video interviews during this period.

While most of us are familiar with telephone interviews at the start of an interview process, the idea of conducting an entire interview process via telephone or video may feel foreign.  Some of our clients have been using video interviews exclusively for non-local candidates over the past several years.  The initial motivation was driven by: 1) saving travel costs; and 2) being able to move candidates through their process much more quickly in a highly competitive market.  I will admit, I was a bit skeptical at first, but once I realized that it was having very little impact on outcomes, I became a convert.

More recently, I’ve even had some clients hire exclusively via telephone interviews – even for higher level roles.  As one of my VPs noted, “if they show up on Day 1 and have three eyes, we’ll deal with it.”

With this in mind, I offer some tips for telephone and video interviews:


  • Try to ensure you are in a quiet location and free from distraction. If you are working a home with little ones, try to see if you have another family member who can watch them, or if home alone, at least do your best to help them understand that mommy or daddy has an important call.
  • If using a cell phone, make sure you are in an area with good reception. If not, plan to use a land/voip line instead.
  • If you are receiving the call, be poised and ready to answer at least 5 minutes before the scheduled start time. Answer in confident voice, and by identifying yourself, “hello, this is…..”  This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many times I make an appointment to schedule a call with a candidate, and they answer as if they were not expecting the call.  I can assure you that this does not leave a positive first impression with the interviewer.
  • Make sure to project energy and enthusiasm. If you have a laidback or introverted personality this may be especially important. On a phone call, you don’t have the benefit of visual cues or facial expressions to help you connect with the other person and to project interest and energy.  Instead you need to rely on your voice (and the content of your message) to do so.  Sometimes, if I am feeling low energy and I have an important call, I will actually stand up during the call – it helps.  I’ve also heard Andrea recommend to candidates to think about smiling during the call, it helps to project lightness in your voice.
  • Be sure to really use your active listening skills and shorten answers. Without the ability to see how the person on the other end is reacting, there is a real danger of getting too long with our answers. Make sure you are pausing long enough for the interviewer to interject (either to probe further, respond, or move on to a new question).  Similarly, it is better to give a shorter higher-level answer first, and then ask if the interviewer would like you to go into more detail.


  • Test the technology first. You should know in advance what platform you are using for the video interview.  If possible, test it out with a friend or family member first before your interview.
  • Speak directly to the camera. If you have a set up where your camera is offset from the center of your monitor, avoid the tendency to speak to your monitor – on the other end this will appear as though you are speak at an angle (it has the same impression as someone having trouble making eye contact).
  • Be aware of upward camera angle. If you are working on a laptop, the camera is going to be looking up at your chin (not the best angle for most of us 😊). Consider putting your laptop on a box or pile of books to make it more level with your face.
  • Make sure you are not back lit. If you have a window behind you the camera is going to adjust to to that light, and you will appear as a dark silhouette.  Since this is an interview – and not the witness protection program – either adjust to to a different location/backdrop,  or compensate by having a lamp focused on your face.  Again, taking a test drive first will help you identify if there is an issue.
  • Dress appropriately. You may be at home working in your underwear (I won’t judge), but for the interview you will want to wear clothes that are interview appropriate.  For most companies today, you don’t have to go full on suit and tie, but wear something that gives a professional appearance.
  • Be aware of backdrop – make sure you know what is behind you. A messy room or something controversial will not make a good impression.  Also, be mindful of family members or pets that might want a little screen time by walking into your shot.
  • There are times when the technology just doesn’t work as intended. This is your opportunity to stay cool, calm, and collected.  If the technical issue cannot be quickly resolved, calmly offer the suggestion of converting over to a telephone call.  When we set up a video interview for one of our clients, we put a contact phone in the invite as a backup, just in case.

Like anything new, telephone and video interviews may feel a little awkward at first, but I suspect it will feel second nature soon enough.  Good luck!