Top Tips to Help Master a Phone and Video Interview

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Interviews can strike a note of fear and discomfort into all of us. A tense situation where we try to immediately create an atmosphere of trust, competence, confidence, and presence so we can win a job or our next promotion.  In person interviews are difficult but video and phone interviews can be even more challenging.


Follow these 10 tips to help succeed at a video or a phone interview:


  1. Do your research. Great interviews start with strong research on both the company and those on the interview panel. You should know the primary products of the company, who the customers are (and are not), and read the last 3-6 months of news stories on the company. In addition, the investor relations portal is an excellent source of presentations, financial releases, and corporate press releases. LinkedIn and Google searches are an ideal way to know and to have an engaging personal discussion with the members of the interview panel.

  2. Schedule the interview at a quiet time of day. Interviews are best between 9:30-11:30 AM and 1:00 to 3:00 PM. These times have lower rates meeting conflicts, the kids are in school, and there is a reduced amount of traffic through neighborhoods. Ensure that the doorbell is either turned off / disconnected and all the phones in your residence are placed on mute or vibrate.

  3. Pick a professional outfit with styled hair. Preparing for a video interview or even a phone interview, you should be dressed in interview apparel with a fresh hairstyle. Why do this, even for a phone interview? The use of a processional look will be a personal reminder that this IS AN INTERVIEW. It also sets a good tone in video interviews that you are taking the interview seriously and professionally by dressing as well as if you were there in person.

  4. Test your computer and AV equipment. Testing your camera, speaker phone, Skype connection, and headset is a must well prior to an interview. Testing all equipment and connections will put your mind at ease that everything well goes well and your interview responses are recording. In addition, poor quality audio will doom an interview because no matter how good your appearance, you can’t be evaluated if you cannot be heard.

  5. Center yourself in the video camera or by the phone microphone. Centering yourself for audio is easy and important. For video, you may have to center yourself in both the vertical and horizontal plane. This means you may have to lift or drop your computer camera and move your chair so you are centered on the camera and not on the computer monitor.

  6. Ensure a neutral background behind you. Critical to a video interview is good, neutral lighting and a uniform background. Your background can be curtains that are drawn over a window or a painted wall. In addition, open windows are usually a bad idea since they let in too much light that can wash out your image on the web camera. Record yourself and play it back a few times to ensure the color is good and that there is enough light to see your facial expressions.
  7. Watch YouTube for video interview “fails.” Take a moment to relax and search YouTube for “interview fails.” This is humorous and it will remind you the importance of research, rehearsals, and reemphasize the importance of clear, concise, and effective answers. Another common interview fail are candidates that dress in either inappropriate or far too relaxed outfits.

  8. Practice your interview answers with the STAR format. The STAR interview question answer format stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and Skills (STARS). It is broken down as follows:
    • (S) Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work.
    • (T) Task: Describe your responsibility in that situation.
    • (A) Action: Describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or coworker did.
    • (R) Result: Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken.
    • (S) Skills: Skills you used to be successful – includes both hard (technical) skill and soft skills (leadership, teaching, etc.).
    • A final summary line to reinforce your success & results for the question.
    • Record some answers to 2-3 questions with all the technology and using the STARS format. There is nothing like several full rehearsals to ensure a great “live” interview.
  9. Ensure a great broadband connection. A slow or interrupted broadband connection can ruin a great interview with choppy recording or unintelligible answers. Make sure your signal is strong.
  10. Put the animals away or go to a library. Animals, especially dogs and cats, have a hidden sense to walk into a frame, bark, or push over a vase when you are doing an important interview. If you can, put the animals away or put them outside. If you have to other option, reserve a room at a local library or a friend’s quiet residence for your interview success. 

A great video or phone interview takes time and preparation to succeed. Treat these distance interviews as “the real deal” with preparation, technology checks, best practices for lighting, and answers using the STARS format.  Have a great interview – go get that new job!


Have a tip I missed? Did you land a job via a phone interview? Share your advice below.


Other Articles of Interest:

  1. Leverage Your LinkedIn Profile For Career Success
  2. 10 Common Interview Questions to Prepare in Advance
  3. How Military Strategy Can Help Your Career Strategy

About the Author: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 140 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better.  Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and

1 Comment

Excellent suggestions.  I would also recommend recording yourself in a mock interview so that you can see how you look during your interview.  If you are fidgeting, making eye contact etc.  Practice, practice, practice.