There can be some confusion between a pre-screen interview, virtual interview, and phone interview. While they are similar, there are differences.
- Virtual interviews generally precede in-person interviews. The purpose of this interview is for the interviewer to decide whether to invite you to the next interview. If you do not make a good impression in a virtual interview, you will not get the chance for a face-to-face one.
- Phone interviews are sometimes called “pre-screen interviews.” They are designed to make an initial introduction, clarify issues on the resume, or discuss the position. The typical phone interview lasts 20-30 minutes, but may be as short as five minutes, or last up to an hour. When the phone interview is scheduled, ask how much time to allow for the call.
- In-depth phone interviews are more common in management and executive positions —especially when relocation is required. For these positions, one or two phone interviews may be conducted before an invitation is made for a face-to-face interview.
- Phone interviews are also replacing some in-person “first interviews.” More companies are using Skype or Google Hangouts for candidate first interviews. You may be asked the same questions in one of these “virtual” first interviews that you might expect to be asked in a face-to-face interview. Prepare for any phone interview the same as you would for an in-person interview.
- The phone interview focuses more on content, and not appearance, but be prepared on Skype calls to be “seen” in the video chat and dress professionally just in case. What matters most, of course, is what you say and how you say it. Phone interviews can be an advantage for executives concerned about age discrimination or being judged by how they look.
- Approximately 70% of what we communicate is shared nonverbally. However, in a phone interview, all you have to rely on are verbal cues and context. Keep your answers brief: allow the interviewer to ask follow-up questions if he or she wants more information.
- Not all phone interviews are scheduled in advance. If you get a call from a hiring manager or recruiter and it is not a good time to talk (i.e., you are at work, you are driving, or you are someplace noisy, do not answer the call). Instead, call back as soon as you are able. Remember, you only get one chance to make that first impression. It is better to have the call go to voicemail and call the interviewer back than to perform poorly because you are driving or trying to hear the conversation in a noisy restaurant. If you do answer the call, explain your situation and schedule another time to conduct the interview. Most recruiters and hiring managers do not expect you to be available at a moment’s notice, but they are usually in a hurry to speak with you so don’t delay your callback.
- Follow-up is key after a phone or video interview. Research indicates that employers are less likely to keep executive jobseekers up-to-date about their prospects with the company after a phone interview than with an in-person interview. The most important advice for any type of interview also applies to virtual interviews.
More information on these types of interviews: 4 tips to Ace the Pre-screen interview