Virtual & Phone Interviews

Phone and virtual interviews are now the norm for most first round interviews for internships and full time employment. In the current times, due to COVID-19, phone, virtual, and pre-recorded interviews are going to replace in-person interviews, and being prepared for these virtual interviews will be critical to your overall success.

Phone interviews often precede in-person interviews, and are used as a screening tool to filter out potential candidates for a position. In an employer’s point of view, they are an efficient way to further narrow the candidate pool to those who will best fit the position. Naturally, phone interviews are less in-depth and lengthy than face-to-face interviews. They can be more unnerving to the candidate due to their spontaneous nature.

Before Your Interview

 1) Get Prepared

The first step to being prepared is to make sure you know the organization and position very well. Besides that, you will want to keep the following items handy (and preferably set up in a private, quiet place where you will be able to concentrate):

    • Your resume
    • Any info you have about the organization (maybe their webpage up on your computer)
    • Paper and pen to take any notes you need to during the interview
    • Notes to help you answer common interview questions
    • A list of questions to ask the interviewer
    • A glass of water

Although it may seem trivial, it may be helpful to dress in a professional manner as a way to psychologically assume the right mindset. Do not slouch or roll your eyes at any point during the interview, and remember that smiling will enhance the tone of your voice, giving warmth and energy, which can be harder to convey through a virtual setting.

2) Don’t Forget…

For virtual interviews, download the software (if needed) well in advance of the interview:

  • Practice makes perfect. Conduct test calls with your family or peers to become more comfortable with using virtual software such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, FaceTime, and Skype.
  • Create a professional username
  • Conduct a quick test the morning of the interview to make sure the lighting looks OK, your face is visible and the camera and the microphone are working correctly.

3) Double Check

For virtual interviews, give yourself plenty of extra time before the interview to make sure your Internet connection is working fine, camera is set up, the camera is at the right angle (with a laptop, it often looks like the viewer is looking up your nose!), mic works etc. Have the interviewers’ names and phone numbers written down on a piece of paper in case the virtual software does not work and you have to call them.

Make sure you have at least a cell phone fully charged and ready to go in case the audio drops out of your video call. Prepare for any manner of technical difficulties ranging from the audio cutting out to the picture freezing. Understand that technology is not 100% reliable, so having a backup plan is ideal.

Meeting with a SuccessWorks career advisor really helped me prepare for my phone interview, some of the questions I really had to think on my feet and not seeing the interviewer was weird at first.

During the Interview

  • Slow down, breathe, and concentrate!
  • Watch for pauses. They are dead air, unlike in a face to face interview, they cannot always see you are thinking.
  • Speak in a normal tone, and do not use any settings that will adjust how the interviewer hears or sees you. Remember to smile, sit up straight or stand, and make sure your surroundings are not distracting to you or the employer!
  • When the interviewer seems to have no questions left, make sure you have questions prepared to ask them.

Ending a virtual or phone interview can be awkward. Have a closing line planned, end on a high note, not an awkward one! Thank the employer for making the time to call you, and confidently hang up or end the call. Then get busy writing a thank you note!

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  • Make sure your voicemail message is set up and professional.
  • You can feel free to call them back if you are not ready for the interview at that moment, just make sure you convey your interest, find a time very soon to return the call, and make sure you follow-through on any time commitments you promise.
  • It is also okay to say something like, “I’m so happy you called. I have about 10 minutes before I have to run out the door. Is that enough time, or can I call you back later this afternoon?”


  • Check out Handshake to sign up for virtual chats, presentations, and interviews as they become available. Try to be engaged in these chats and presentations – ask questions if able to learn and show your interest.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn and Handshake profiles are up to date and you have a published public resume.
  • When signing up for virtual events, please be sure to RSVP to the Handshake page so we can send out the appropriate link to join the presentation or meeting.
  • Visit the Resource Tab in Handshake for focused lists, archived videos, and more (coming soon!)
  • Schedule a career advising appointment to practice connecting via phone, or through virtual softwares such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, FaceTime, or Skype.
  • Have a bad connection or tech problems? Contact the Employer Services Team so we can follow up with the employer on your behalf (can also email their address and talk to them about handshake)


Attend the BIG TEN Plus Virtual Career Fair on April 14, 2020 to practice connecting with employers virtually.

Platforms for Virtual Interviews

The following four platforms are the most commonly used to connect virtually for interviews and presentations (although the employer could potentially use a different platform). It’s good to familiarize yourself with these platforms so you can be prepared. Note that Skype does require you to make a free account to use the platform, but Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Webex do not. For most virtual interviews, you’ll be able to join the meeting by clicking a link in an interview invitation email sent to you by the employer.


A newer, very popular platform used for video conferencing, presentations, and more.


UW-supported platform. You will need to use the web browser or click the green join link in your email invite to join these meetings.


Easy to use and accessible. Popular for casual video calls, but useful for professional interviews/conferencing as well.


A popular tool used by employers to conduct interviews. This platform does require you to create an account and user name.

Prerecorded Video Interview

A pre-recorded video interview is an interview where the interviewer is not present when the candidate answers the questions. Recruiters pre-set the questions for a specific job and send candidates a link where they can record their answers by a specific deadline. Once a candidate submits their video, the recruiter can then review and evaluate the candidate. 


  • Time Saving
    • You won’t have to fly or commute for the interview
  • Makes time zones irrelevant
    • There won’t be an inconvenience of trying to adjust to certain time zones to interview.
  • Mobile friendly platforms
    • If you don’t have a laptop you can use your phone, tablet, etc. 
  • You have your choice of where you want your interview space to be.
  • There is an advantage of knowing what questions you are going to have to answer
    • Employers will send their questions ahead of time.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Read and follow instructions carefully
    • There are some employers that will give you multiple opportunities to answer an interview question while others do not.
    • If there are multiple opportunities be sure to read whether there is the option to pick your best response or if it automatically uses your final attempt.  
  • Meet the employer’s deadlines
  • Make sure you have the right devices available
    • Check to make sure your devices work with the platform the company uses
  • Do your homework on the company
  • Have your interview answers ready as you would if it were an in-person interview, but don’t read from a pre-written script
  • You can do a practice interview by making an appointment with a career advisor at SuccessWorks.
  • Dress the part and stay well-groomed as you would in-person
  • Be strategic about where you do your pre-recorded interview in your home
    • Make sure you’re well-lit and have a non-distracting background
  • Look directly at the camera while answering the interview questions
  • Pay attention to the clock to make sure you’re not going over the alloted time for each question
  • Click here to learn more about the basics of great interviewing strategies.

General Tips & Guidelines

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Smile & Focus

One of the easiest rules to remember when interacting with anyone is simply to smile. There is nothing more engaging than smiling throughout your call with a friendly expression. Also important, is to make direct eye contact. When you scan the room or look away from the camera, you might appear untrustworthy or indifferent. The person with whom you are speaking deserves your full attention so make sure to stay focused and friendly.

Background Check and Lighting

While you are the focus of the call and the video, remember that there will be background material that the viewer will see. Think about how your webcam is set up and what can be detected behind you. Try your best to make the background really boring (a blank wall) or make it look office-y if possible (a big potted plant, or a nicely framed, not-distracting picture would be fine). Check to be sure you have enough lighting that doesn’t create shadows or throw too harsh a look into your screen.

Get Visual

Research interviewers and find photos if possible to get a visual introduction to the people who are interviewing you. It makes the interview much better if you can visualize who’s interviewing you even if they aren’t all on camera at one time.

Adapted from Heather Krasna’s Public Service Blog and Alison Doyle, Guide

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Choose your Colors Wisely and Look Professional

Certain colors like many shades of blue -royal, navy, sky blue -look great on video while others like reds and hot colors like magenta can be too bright. Patterns like small dots or stripes can be less attractive than solids so think about a color to wear that is easy on the eye and a pattern that won’t be distracting to your viewer. Dress (at least from the waist up!) in a business suit or appropriate business attire.

Using a Script

Use the fact that you’re not right there to your advantage: have a copy of your resume and some of your “problem-action-result” accomplishment stories on your lap where you can refer to them without being too distracting. (Remember at all times that you are on camera! It’s very easy to forget this and start doing something hilarious or just distracting). Try to maintain some amount of eye contact with the camera—but you can briefly glance at your notes if you need to. You can also take notes in a way that’s not distracting and might help you focus your answers.

SuccessWorks Resources

Looking for more?

Please feel free to send us a message about anything you need help with to reach your career goals.  Email us anytime and we will help get you the information you need.