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Career Services at the University of Zurich

Telephone Interview, Video Interview

Besides the traditional interview, in which an applicant is invited by HR and department heads to a face-to-face discussion, there are also several other special formats in which candidates are put through their paces. Here follow a few common selection procedures often applied by bigger companies as a first step.

Please remember: Treat a telephone and video interview like a normal job interview! Prepare yourself so that you can use the time to answer the questions instead of pondering about them.

Telephone Interview

Telephone interviews are best suited for the pre-selection stage, when it's a question of saving time and money, or, for example, if the geographical distance between the applicant’s place of residence and the employer is too great. On the phone, HR staff can quickly establish a first impression of a candidate and clarify basic questions on their resume and motivation. Telephone interviews are also often used to test an applicant’s communications skills or foreign language levels.

In terms of preparation, the same rules apply to a telephone interview as to a normal face-to-face interview, although certain points need particular attention:

  • Timing: If the company calls at a time when it is difficult for you to talk, you can ask to schedule another appointment soon after so that you can talk undisturbed.
  • Duration:  It is worth finding out in advance how long the telephone interview is expected to last. This will help you with your preparation and give you a secure base. In a five-minute talk, only a few basic issues will be reviewed but in a longer discussion there is time for you to ask questions too.
  •  Acoustics and technology: Ensure that you can telephone in a quiet place (no background music, street noise or children) and have a good connection (land line or mobile with a full battery).
  • Memory aids: Have the job ad, your resume, your letter of motivation, plus your questions and notes at the ready. This gives you the chance to quickly check something if necessary, give full answers to their questions, and remain confident and calm.
  • Voice: Sit up straight and breathe calmly to relax. If you lie on the couch for the interview, you risk falling into a more casual style of talking. Should your mouth go dry, you can surreptitiously take a sip of water. Cigarettes, chewing gum, or eating during a telephone interview is strictly forbidden.
  • Speech: Try to speak as clearly and calmly as possible. and if there is anything you don’t understand, feel free to ask. While pauses in the conversation are acceptable, they are more noticeable on the phone than in a face-to-face talk. Avoid interrupting your interviewer and answering too quickly or hastily. Try and act as naturally as possible.
  • Practice makes perfect: Both for a traditional interview and a telephone interview, it’s worth practicing in advance with friends or a family member. By constantly answering new and unexpected questions, you will remain authentic and avoid the risk of memorizing your answers and repeating them automatically.

Video Interview

In a video interview you can encounter two different forms:

A live video conference, where you have a real-time interview session with one or more people from a company.

A pre-recorded online interview (delayed video interview), where your answers are recorded and later reviewed by someone to decide whether or not you have advanced in the selection process.

For both types the same points apply as for the telephone interview, but there are a few more things to consider - the most important: Test the setting beforehand!

  • Video tool: Once your interview is scheduled, check out the platform that will be used for the call. Make the necessary downloads/installations beforehand, because you also have to be on time for the video interview. Some popular video platforms you may encounter are Zoom, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts.
  • Camera: Since you want to show yourself in the best light, it's worth testing the picture and sound quality before the interview. Depending on the situation, you may need to invest in a good camera and a headset with microphone. Check that the internet connection is stable so that the interview can be conducted without technical problems. Pay attention to where the camera is so that you can maintain eye contact. If you are using your smartphone for the video interview, do not hold it in your hand, your hand might shake too much (use a tripod). Similar to background noises, this can be very distracting or even make the interviewer a little dazed.
  • Clothing: For the video interview the same dress code applies as for a personal interview: Dress respectably and appropriately for the occasion. Casual dress is taboo. There is a real chance that you will have to get up or move. A business style outfit only on the upper body is not enough at best!
  • Light: Make sure you have good lighting, preferably indirect light or lighting (not too strong) from the front.
  • Background: Remember that all visible areas (desk, walls) should be as tidy or neutral as possible. Personal photos or posters in the background should be avoided. Depending on the video tool, you may blur the background - find out beforehand.
  • Posture: Make sure you are sitting upright, with your face and upper body visible. Always try to look into the camera (and not at the screen!) and don't forget to smile. If you position the screen as close as possible to the camera, you will have both in view.
  • Research: Research the company in advance. A video interview does not mean that you can skip the preparation and google or spontaneously look something up just because you are not in the same room with your interviewer. (You will even be heard typing!). Don't read from the screen, don't post-it answers to potential interview questions on your PC, people will notice.
  • Questions: Did you not understand what you were just asked? It's okay to stop and ask for repetition of the question, for reformulation or clarification.
  • Choice of words: Even in a video interview you have to be professional: Maintain your enthusiasm and professionalism in your choice of words. Remember that you are talking to professionals, even if it is "only" a recording.
  • Please do not interrupt: Make sure you're not disturbed. Close the door and hang up a "Do not disturb" sign. And watch out for your pets!
  • Thank you: Even after a video interview, a letter of thanks to the interviewer will leave a positive impression afterwards.

And now some more information about the delayed video interview.

  • You are in the lead! In a deferred video interview you don't have a direct interviewer, you conduct the video interview on your own. But you will receive information about what is expected of you in advance. There is no fixed time for the interview, but only a given period of time in which you have to conduct the delayed video interview.
  • Procedure: Questions will be displayed on the screen, at best you will get a short preparation time for a suitable answer (approx. 2 min, you might see a clock to help you). Afterwards a video recording starts, in which you give your answer and present your arguments. This speaking time is also limited: Your recording will either be sent to the employer automatically or by pressing a send button if you are faster with answers. Count on 5-10 questions. And due to the given time frame: prepare yourself well!

Weiterführende Informationen

Telephone Interview Checklist

• Make sure the room is quiet

• Have your application documents at the ready

• Place a note pad with a few key words and questions in front of you

• Sit up straight and try to smile as much as possible. This will help you relax!

Video Interview Tipps

• Check your equipment: Good image and sound quality, and a stable Internet connection, are essential

• Wear the same outfit as for a face-to-face interview. This will give you confidence.

• Ensure the room is tidy. After all, you are practically inviting your potential employer by Skype into your home. Remove personal items from the camera's field of view.