Internship and first job interviews can be a challenge, especially if you go to school far from home or your dream company/city. There are two common long-distance interview types: phone and Skype, and each can have a unique set of challenges. Below are some key things to do before, during and after an interview, collected from Twitter and my experience.
Preparing for a long-distance interview
I personally love phone interviews because I get to be in the comfort of my own room with notes in front of me, and I can focus on the conversation without worrying about finding the office building, deciding which coat is less bulky to carry around, etc. However, Skype interviews help give you a sense of the interviewer(s) and even a sneak peek at the office. It also helps them see you and give your resume a true sense of personality.
When preparing for a call or Skype, I like to print out the resume I submitted for the position, a fact sheet about the company with leadership information, latest news, any personal connections, etc., and a list of questions. Before the interview, I also like to talk through two or three narratives of my experience that is relevant to the job description..
Katie Gatti, firm director of Capstone Agency at The University of Alabama, said she found success from creating “a list of premeditated talking points — devised by cross-referencing job description with [my] experience,” on her Twitter @katiegatti. This list will help you cover key, relevant aspects from your resume and tell the employer what you previously accomplished will help his or her company.
During the interview
Wear a nice outfit, smile and do not sit. “Dress the part even for a phone interview!” tweeted Gentry Bennett , president of Scripps PRSSA at Ohio University. Even if they can’t see you on the phone, the energy from smiling, being upright and feeling put together will transcend through what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Make sure your apartment/dorm/career center space is quiet and won’t be disturbed.
Internet is a make-or-break aspect of a Skype interview; try using an ethernet cable whenever possible to avoid an outage or delayed audio/video. Additionally for Skype, try to find a plain background and never, ever sit on your bed. It’s unprofessional and a little weird.
Katrina Swarthout, a graduate student at the University of Southern California and PRSA member, said via Twitter: “testing your wifi/internet, making sure you’re in a quiet environment [no air conditioner noises, etc.] and making sure you have no other foreseeable tech problems.” (Swarthout added that you should “expect the unexpected;” in her case, a lawn mower outside of her apartment that drove by in the middle of an interview.)
Something else that is a personal challenge of mine: speak slowly and articulate your words. If you mumble or speak quickly, it might be unclear over the phone or internet and will be difficult to follow. Speaking a little slowly will make you seem calm, cool and collected.
Now what? After the interview
Don’t follow up the minute you hang up, but send a nice thank-you email the day of your interview. This will help because the interview and hiring process can move extremely quickly, and handwritten thank-yous may take up to a week to be received. But do make sure you write and send a personalized, thoughtful thank-you note. We hear this tip at every conference and event, but it’s still surprising to many employers how few notes are actually received. This is a great way to add personality and show your attention to detail when you can’t show them firsthand during the interview process.
Long distance interviews shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage; they just require some unique elements of preparation. Do your research, test your technology and good luck!
Sarah Dougherty is the 2016–2017 vice president of career services and a senior at the University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.