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Conference call interview tips for success

Preparing for a conference call interview is an increasingly important skill. Of course, this is truer than ever in the post-coronavirus job market. And with so many people now seeking work, many of us are looking for guidance and the best ways to stand out and make a good impression during telephone job interviews.

But even before the pandemic, many employers have come around to the idea of holding telephone interviews. There are so many benefits, from saving them time to cutting back on our cumulative carbon footprint. It can also make the whole ordeal less stressful for everybody, from the person being interviewed to the interviewer. Particularly for the first round, the conference call interview is becoming a really popular practice. Even many recruitment agencies themselves are turning to conference calls for job interviews.

That’s why learning how to navigate a conference call job interview is a great idea. It’s as true for people who are in secure and high-level positions as it is for job seekers! After all, conducting a job interview by telephone requires its own skill-set, too.

For our best conference call job interview tips, read on. It will help prepare you, no matter which side of the proverbial desk you’ll be on.

 

Get behind the camera ahead of your conference call interview

We mean this in two senses: literally and psychologically. Let’s start with the literal.

 

Prepare your job interview setting

What makes the phone conference interview really unique is that the interviewee (and often the interviewer, for that matter) chooses his or her own location. That makes things much easier in countless ways. But it also adds an extra layer of responsibility or preparation ahead of your teleconference interview.

Different interviews will have different requirements, durations and contents. But generally speaking, there are four key points to keep in mind:

  1. Appearance
  2. Noise
  3. Distractions
  4. Resources
  1. Appearance

We’ll tackle appearances first, not least because hopefully anyone whose conference call interview is telephone-only won’t have skipped ahead just yet. Because while parts of this section are specific considerations for being on camera, most of it is totally applicable to teleconference interviews that have no visual aspect, too.

It might seem like a waste of time, but showering and getting out of your PJs and into some professional-wear and tidying up your surroundings can get you in the right mindset. The familiar ritual of getting showered and dressed helps calm your nerves and stop you from getting restless and fidgety while you wait, too. And it will help with that all-important confidence! If your appearance and your surroundings are organised and professional, your mindset will be too. Put your best professional self forward.

If you will be on camera for the conference call interview, then you need to think about what will be visible on the whole screen. That includes:

  • the outfit you choose
  • personal appearance
  • the background
  • lighting

 

a) your outfit

Let’s start with your outfit. Your dress-code will likely be specified when the interview is arranged. If it isn’t, you can always ask whoever is scheduling your interview. Or play it safe, and opt for smart office-wear.

But unlike in a face-to-face interview, just choosing something that looks professional isn’t enough. When you’re going to be on camera during a conference call interview, there’s more to consider.

Firstly, it’s advisable to avoid pure black, as it can cause your entire screen to darken and make you look like you’re in shadow. Pure white is also best left for face-to-face job interviews, as that can cause a glare.

Consider your background when you choose your outfit. You don’t want your clothes to blend into your background, as that can make you look like a floating head.

Busy patterns often don’t show up well on camera, either. They can look distorted and blurred on camera, and be dizzying and distracting for the people conducting the conference call interview.

If possible, opt for relatively light, neutral or pastel tones that are flattering for your skin type, and that make you feel great.

 

b) your personal appearance

This isn’t really any different from advice for a face-to-face interview. As well as choosing an appropriate outfit, you want to make sure that you’re generally presentable. That just means looking clean and tidy. Even though you’re at home, looking and feeling fresh translate on-screen and even on the phone. Have a shower, brush your teeth, run a comb through your hair. You’ll feel more put-together, and your whole attitude and demeanour will be the better for it. Try to get a good night’s sleep so you don’t look or sound tired, either!

If you normally wear jewellery, there are some special points for an interview conference call. Anything too sparkly can catch the light and cause distracting glares. Accessories that are noisy when you move, like bangles that jangle, can also be very unpleasant for the people conducting your conference call interview.

If you like to wear make-up, you’ll want to keep it professional, but you might want to wear a little more than you might to an in-person interview. Cameras tend to reduce the intensity of make-up. So if you want to accentuate your eyes or define your eyebrows, don’t be afraid. Equally, though, stick to neutral and natural tones. Even just a quick brush of powder can help reduce shine and sweat on camera. Dab some lighter concealer under your eyes to brighten up your complexion and avoid looking tired.

 

c) your background

We’ve covered the idea of co-ordinating your background and your outfit so that they don’t blend into one. But there are obviously a couple of other conference call interview tips relating to what can be seen on your camera.

Clearly, you don’t want to create an unprofessional or messy impression. So tidy up! Set up your laptop or computer where it will be for the telephone interview, and see what’s on-screen. Then clear up the surrounding area. Don’t trust that the interviewers will definitely only see what you see, and leave a pile of dirty laundry or crusty breakfast bowls right off-camera. Apart from anything else, a tidy room will get you in the right mindset.

Aside from avoiding general mess and clutter, you might want to consider the impression that your background makes. While people conducting conference call interviews understand that you’re most likely going to be at home, so an element of personal insight is unavoidable, some people do like to minimise intimate trinkets. Pictures from your best friend’s hen-do, for example, tongue-in-cheek karaoke awards, or an impressive collection you’ve amassed of an area that particularly interests you. Again, this is entirely dependent on your personal preference, the job you’re interviewing for, and much more! It might be that you want your interviewers to see these sides of you. But it’s simply something to consider as you prepare for your conference call job interview.

 

d) your lighting

Lighting for video call job interviews absolutely critical. It can totally alter the entire image. Ideally, you want to be in natural light. It’s also best to have the light source in front of you. Otherwise, you can appear as little more than a silhouette.

The best solution is to sit facing a window, preferably one that gets a good deal of light. Of course, you don’t want to be in direct sunlight, either! That will most likely leave you looking over-exposed and barely discernible. And more importantly, it may well give you a headache, and make you squint throughout your conference call interview. Not ideal!

You don’t want the light source to be too small, either. Otherwise, you’ll look like you’re in an old noir film, having a police interview rather than a job interview. Or you’ll look like you have a spotlight and are about to give a heartfelt rendition of a musical classic.

In short: opt for soft (preferably natural) light, shining onto you from behind the camera.

 

  1. Noise during the conference call interview

Noise is a vital consideration for any teleconference interview. It’s also quite self-explanatory. In an ideal world, the only sound your interviewers will hear during the call is your voice. But of course, that’s very rarely possible.

Still, there are steps you can take to minimise the noise around you. For example, a lot of remote workers do like to opt for cafes in lieu of an office. But that might not be the most appropriate option for a conference call interview. It’s a setting where you really have no control over the level of noise. From an exuberant group, to a broken coffee machine, to an influx of customers requesting steamed drinks, there are innumerable sources of distracting noise.

But you need not fret. In fact, there are loads of great free meeting locations to choose from. If your home isn’t likely to be quiet, have a read through those to see if anything might fit for your interview. If none of those are possible, and you have access to a car, you could even drive to a quiet, safe spot and park up. You can then have your conference call interview from the comfort and quiet of your car.

If you have a suitable space at home, that’s likely to be your safest bet. Ask any family or housemates to reduce their noise during the interview. If you have a dog or young children, you might want to ask your housemate or partner to take them for a walk during the phone conference interview.

 

  1. Distractions

Of course, many of the things that might be considered distractions overlap with things you’d eliminate to reduce noise. But even things like a muted television or a silenced phone can be distracting. Equally, things visible in your background could be distracting to your interviewers.

The best thing to do is to turn off all pop-up notifications on your phone and on the computer you’ll be using for your conference call interview. Clear your desk of any distracting materials. Turn off all radios and televisions in the vicinity. Don’t put on a load of laundry if the machine will start beeping in the middle of the phone conference interview.

You should also minimise any psychological distractions and be entirely focused on the call. That means not having any pressing work that you’ve left until the last minute, knowing that no children are going to be bursting into the room, and dealing with anything else that could be playing on your mind.

 

  1. Resources for your conference call interview

On the flip side of this are the things you do want around you during your teleconference interview. Again, the specific materials you want on-hand will vary depending on the industry and the role, as well as the nature of the interview. But a good checklist to start from is:

  1. your C.V.
  2. the covering letter you sent
  3. any other materials you applied with
  4. a list of questions you have prepared (more on that later)
  5. a list of answers you have prepared (ditto!)
  6. any tasks you have been asked to complete ahead of the interview
  7. a notepad and pen to jot down any other ideas or information
  8. headphones in case you have any issues with your microphone or speakers
  9. a back-up device (even if it’s a landline or mobile phone) in case there are any tech disasters.

 

Think from the interviewers’ point of view

They share in your nerves!

This is the less literal aspect of ‘getting behind the camera’. It’s not unlike the old idea you might have heard as a child, that the spider is more afraid of you than you are of it. While job interviews are generally more high-stakes for the person being interviewed, that’s not to say that the interviewer isn’t nervous. They’re probably not as nervous as you, and they’re doubtless in the position of power. But there’s a varying degree to which the employer is also being interviewed. They’ll also be conscious of trying to conduct and efficient, useful and comfortable interview.

What’s more, there’s the added pressure of holding specifically a conference call interview. The process and the technology might not be so familiar to many interviewers, and leave them feeling more nervous and less sure of themselves. Have patience and sympathy, and know that they’ll have some anxieties, too. You’re in it together!

 

What prep are they undertaking for the conference call interview?

For many of us, a lot of the anxiety surrounding any kind of interview is the feeling that the spotlight is trained firmly on us. So ahead of planning how you will behave on the call, get into the mindset of your interviewers. This will help you to know what to expect, understand why they might do certain things, and realise that they may have nerves to overcome and plans to sketch out too.

Try doing some research and finding advice given to people who will conduct conference call interviews to plan your own approach accordingly. If you understand the techniques they’re likely to use during a teleconference interview, you’ll know what to expect. A great deal of our fear comes from the unknown, so by making it known you’ll set your nerves at ease and tailor your preparation to ace your conference call interview.

 

Learn about their professional background

Prepping for any interview entails good research. That’s probably quite a familiar idea. In any case, we’ll talk about it in a little more depth later.

But one thing a lot of people overlook is researching the interviewers themselves. With the amount of professional digital networking available, traditional social media, and the company’s own website, there’s likely a wealth of information out there about your interviewer. Make use of it!

You might even find that you share an interesting connection. Maybe you both studied at the same university. Perhaps they’re from your hometown. Maybe the link is in your careers: it could be that you’ve worked at the same company or had similar career trajectories or unusual transitions. It could even be that they support the same sports team as you, or enjoy the same chocolate bar.

Some details are, of course, far too personal to mention, and letting on that you’ve found them out could even be uncomfortable. This is an area where you really have to play it by ear, and get a sense of the tone of the interview and the disposition of the interviewer.

But if it feels right, either try to slip something into conversation naturally, or just mention that you noticed a shared connection on their LinkedIn profile! This can forge a bond that will endear you to them, and make you much more memorable. It can also stimulate genuinely interesting and relevant conversation, and create an additional opportunity for you to talk about your experience and skills.

 

Test your tech

This is perhaps another aspect of ‘getting behind the camera’. It’s absolutely imperative that you test out all of the equipment you will be using before the conference call interview.

It might be as simple as placing a call from wherever you hope to have the interview, to check the strength of your signal and the level of noise. Or you could find yourself downloading video conferencing software and doing a dry run with a friend.

Whatever the interview will entail, make sure that you have thoroughly tested every bit of equipment in the exact setting where you will have your conference call interview. That way, you’ll prevent distracting disasters – some of which might mean you miss out on the interview altogether, let alone the job.

 

Do your research

One of the most important parts of preparing for any job interview is thorough research. What you look into will vary depending on the level of the role, and on the industry. But generally speaking, these are some good guidelines:

  1. The job role: be really well-versed in the job specifications that were posted in the advertisement. Look into every detail that’s listed, including any programs or software mentioned.
  2. The company: study their website carefully. Get to grips not only with what the company does, but their latest news. Check out the blog and social media to get extra insights.
  3. The industry as a whole: you want to know what’s happening in their world! Learn about their top competitors, and what differentiates them. Be familiar with trends and developments in the industry. What do experts think is going to happen next?
  4. Your interviewers: this is something we covered above. Knowing about your interviewers’ roles and how they relate to your own will also help you tailor your questions. Getting a sense of who they are will help make conversation flow more naturally, and help you know how to approach them.

Hopefully, all of this research will leave you not only prepared, but excited! It should also stir up some questions about the role, the company and the industry. Make a note of all of these – you’ll need them later.

 

Prepare your answers for your conference call interview

Having your research under your belt will help you massively here, so make sure to do it before you start prepping answers.

Not having to think on your toes for all of the conference call job interview will make the experience much less daunting and tiring. It’s always a good idea to have some notes ready (a really great bonus of a phone interview!) with some answers to questions that often come up in telephone interviews.

Understand the company, why you want to work there, and why they should want you

One absolutely crucial thing which applies pretty much across the board is ensuring you really know about the company and have positive and detailed explanations about why you want to work for them.

As well as the company’s, you need to be prepared to sing your own praises. Always be ready to talk about your greatest strengths, your most significant achievement, and why you would excel in that job role.

You should be comfortable talking about the past and the future too. Being able to explain why you want to leave your current position while keeping an upbeat and optimistic tone is key. You should be able to guide the interviewer through your C.V., and fill in any possible gaps by explaining what else you might have been doing. Thanks to it being a phone interview, you can have a copy of your CV right there in front of you. It’s a good idea to go even further and annotate it, highlighting the areas you consider most relevant and valuable, and scribbling any notes of information that you would like to add or expand on.

What are your future plans?

Likewise, be sure of your future goals and how the job fits into them. Don’t give the impression that you see the role as nothing more than a temporary stepping stone. But equally, if you’re hoping for career progression at the company, you can explain how you see this playing out, and find out if it’s a viable option. That will show that you’re ambitious, and suggest loyalty to the company and a genuine desire to work for them rather than using them for training and experience then leaving to a different organisation.

In all of your answers, be sure to refer back to the job role and its specifications, as well as the company as a whole. Show how and why you’re the perfect fit and will be an asset to the company.

 

Get your questions ready

The idea of switching roles comes into play again here. At the end of the conference call interview, you should be ready to do a bit of the asking yourself. The interviewers should give you a clear opportunity to do so, asking you if there is any more information you’d like or anything you wanted to ask them. In this scenario, you should never say no, as this indicates a severe lack of interest.

You can keep it simple and just ask to learn a little more about the company generally. Or you could take a more specific approach and ask more about the job which you’re interviewing for. Maybe you want more details regarding the role’s responsibilities, or you could ask whether it’s an existing role or one which has been created. You might also be interested in finding out about the team you’ll be joining and how you’ll slot in. Are there many employees? How are they structured in terms of hierarchy? Will most of your duties be carried out individually or as part of a team? How is the team’s success measured? How will your individual success be measured?

Another option is to focus on the future. Perhaps you can ask about your own prospects, and what the opportunities for promotion and for training are. Or you can ask about the company’s future, and what their plans might be for expansion or development.

 

Remember non-verbal communication

This is just as important if your job interview is only via telephone, without camera. And maybe that sounds a little strange. A lot of people feel either relief or panic at the prospect of a conference call interview because they believe it erases the impact of body language and other non-verbal cues that affect our interactions. But the fact is, you mustn’t forget that your interviewers are picking up a lot more than just the words you say. So read our handy guide to understanding vocal cues to fine-tune the impression you give and to avoid misunderstanding your interviewers.

Be sure to avoid making any sounds indicative of nerves, like chewing on your pen or nails, or fidgeting or tapping. In fact, just aim to be in a quiet area with nothing nearby for you to play with or become distracted by – one massive no-no is having the sound of your keyboard clacking in the background!

If it’s a telephone interview, try to keep the phone at a constant distance from your face, so you aren’t getting louder and quieter. Those kinds of changes can suggest you’re afraid or aggressive. They’re also just generally distracting for the people on the call. And don’t forget to smile! We know they can’t see it, but you really can hear a smile.

Of course, if you are on-camera then all of these are even more important, as both the visual and audio aspects will be evident. Sit up straight and smile!

Try to make eye contact, too. That can feel quite unnatural: rather than looking at the interviewer on screen, look at your camera while you speak. When they’re speaking, you can switch to looking at their image again.

 

Keep calm and enjoy your conference call interview

With these handy conference call interview tips, there’s no need for stress or anxiety ahead of your call. Just put in the usual preparation you would for any job interview, and take heed of these teleconference interview tips. You’ll be conference calling like a pro in no time. If you want general advice for conference calling, you can find out lots of guides on our blog.

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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

 

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