When most of us imagine a job interview, we picture an in-person sit-down meeting with a hiring manager or an HR rep. However, modern interview conventions have changed drastically, and it’s now quite common to engage in a remote conversation with an interviewer, particularly during the early stages of the hiring process.
So what’s the deal with remote interviews? Should they be handled exactly the same as the in-person versions? Are they usually conducted via phone or video chat? Is there ever a downside to interviewing remotely? We’ve got the answers for you right here.
What is a remote interview?
Technically, the term "remote interview" applies to any interview that isn’t held in-person. This categorization includes phone interviews, Skype interviews, FaceTime interviews and interviews involving any other type of video conferencing. For the most part, remote interviews take place under the following circumstances:
- If an employer wishes to do a pre-screening phone call prior to an in-person interview: These early interviews are typically shorter chats (15-30 minutes on-average) that allow both the interviewer and the interviewee to ask fundamental questions and to gather enough info to determine whether it makes sense to proceed to an in-person conversation.
- If the candidate isn’t able to attend an in-person interview due to their location: Job-searching proves a challenging task to accomplish long-distance, but while many companies won’t consider candidates who aren’t local, some are willing to conduct full interviews using video platforms or conference calls.
- If the nation is experiencing a widespread health crisis: During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that remote interviews will spike in popularity until national and state governments tell businesses that it’s safe to proceed as usual.
How do employers conduct remote interviews?
Plenty of platforms exist to enable remote interviews, but the most popular include:
1. Via phone.
Yes, standard phone-call interviews still play an important role in many hiring processes. As we mentioned previously, phone interviews are de rigueur for early-stage screening talks, but in a situation that prohibits in-person conversations, a hiring manager may elect to operate the entire interview operation over the phone.
2. On Skype.
An early adopter of video-chat technology, Skype tends to be especially popular when conducting international interviews, since anyone with a web connection can easily access the platform.
3. Through FaceTime.
As any iPhone user will tell you, FaceTime has a lot of advantages over other forms of video chat. It’s easy to do on mobile devices, and the sound and video quality often surpass those of Skype, as long as you have a strong WiFi or data connection.
4. Using dedicated video-interview platforms.
As video meetings become a totally standard business choice, more and more companies feel the incentive to build platforms dedicated to interviews and conferences between people located remotely. Examples include Jobvite, HireVue and Vidcruiter.
How do you prepare for a remote interview?
In most cases, preparation for a remote interview should follow the same rules as prepping for an in-person interview. Come prepared with questions that will help you determine whether the job is the right fit for you (and whether you’re the right fit for the job), practice your responses to commonly-asked interview queries, take time to research the company and the department with the job opening, and so forth.
But if you’re wondering if you can take specific steps to get yourself ready for a remote interview, the answer is yes — and here's how:
1. Double, triple and quadruple-check your camera and microphone.
If you’re using your computer or tablet (or even your smartphone) for a video interview, you’ll want to avoid the all-too-common pitfall of struggling with a camera or microphone on the fritz. That’s why it’s smart to check your equipment well in advance and make any necessary repairs/upgrades before your scheduled interview time.
2. Set up a tidy and distraction-free space for your interview.
Some may question the fairness of this tendency, but the fact remains that many employers will draw conclusions about you based on the cleanliness of your space. This applies to your desk at an office job, and it also applies to the place where you choose to conduct a video interview. Take a few minutes to tidy up your space and to tuck away any clutter; you don’t want an interviewer to be too distracted by your neon St. Pauli Girl beer sign to pay attention to what you have to say about your past work experience. During phone interviews, it’s essential to stay in a space that’s reasonably free of exterior noise; a home office or bedroom with a closed door works well for this purpose.
3. Dress as you would for any professional engagement.
Of course, if your interview is entirely audio-based over the phone, then your wardrobe and grooming choices won’t prove especially important. But video interviews can sometimes feel like a strange middle ground between a casual chat and an official “business” conversation. That said, you’ll still want to dress as though you were meeting a hiring manager for an in-person interview at her office. Since most video interviews only show you from the waist up, pay particular attention to your hair and face; wayward tendrils and rogue particles stuck between the teeth should be thoroughly cleared up before your interview slot rolls around.
Are there disadvantages to remote interviews?
As remote interviews become increasingly common, the potential downsides to this format will- in all likelihood- abate. However, there are a few inherent negatives to video and phone interviews that can still pose a problem for prospective employees. The most significant (and, unfortunately, the toughest to counteract) is the chemistry factor.
When you talk with a hiring manager in person, you have abundant opportunities to read body language and facial expressions, and conversations tend to flow in a more seamless manner. Over the phone or on video, you’ll still be able to discern some of these factors, but they can’t fully replace the experience of sitting in the same room and engaging in a natural back-and-forth. That’s a major reason why remote applicants often find themselves at a disadvantage in comparison with candidates who live in town; many managers want to sit down with a possible employee and won’t consider a Skype session a fitting substitute.
So while any sensible manager will ask for a phone interview before proceeding to anything further, if you’re asked to partake in a sit-down interview after that first screening, it’s wise to figure out whether there’s any feasible way to make that happen. Of course, these rules will all be suspended until the current health crisis subsides, but in general, in-person interviews are still considered ideal in the professional world.