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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Phone (and Skype) interviews: Dos and Don'ts

Nervous about phone or video call interviews? Read our tips to a successful phone or skype interview, as well as reminder of things you absolutely must check beforehand.

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When applying to study at an institution overseas, it is quite common for the university to request an interview so they can meet you in person and judge whether you would be a positive addition to their student community. However, sometimes they won't have a representative in your home country to interview you in person; in this scenario, they may arrange a telephone interview instead. This may even be a Skype video call, which is a more affordable option for all parties, and means that both parties can actually see eachother's faces (recreating an actual interview more closely).

In fact, you may be asked to take part in one of these types of interviews when applying for a job too. So take note of some of the following tips, which would also apply.


Phone interviews: Things you MUST do...

Ask what questions you can expect

It is perfectably reasonable to ask what questions you should prepare for in the interview. Ask this when your interview is arranged, and expand on anything which is unclear. That way, you can prepare properly which can make all the difference. It also looks good if you indicate that you want to prepare.


Charge your phone

If it's difficult to reach you or to complete the interview, an admissions officer may get a sense that you're not very organised. Clearly, this isn't the impression you want to give off, especially since prioritising your work schedule is a basic requirement for studying at a higher level. Strongly consider providing additional contact phone numbers they can reach you on.


Set aside time and a place 

Get comfortable so you come across as relaxed and confident as possible. If you live with others, notify them when you're interview is and request that they be quiet while you do this. Ideally, do the privately in an empty room like your bedroom or a study - this way you won't feel self-conscious when talking.


Greet them properly

Wait to find out how they introduce themselves, and then address them by that name (usually this will be their first name, but do check). Greet them warmly and ask how their day is going. Do not go on about things unrelated to the interview as they will likely have a lot of interviews to conduct. At the end of the interview, thank them for their time.


Focus entirely on the interview 

Just because the interview is being conducted over the phone and they can't see you, does not mean that you should multi-task and do other things simultaneously. It will be clear to the interviewer if you are doing something else, which sends out the wrong message; that attending their institution is not all that important to you.


Extra tips for phone interviews...

Exercise your vocal chords beforehand

If you're a nervous speaker generally, it can be helpful to have a friendly chat with someone you're familiar with, leading up to your interview. If you close yourself off and don't speak for a few hours before your interview, your voice may be a little croaky when the interview begins. Talking - and even laughing - with a friend or family member will keep your voice loose, and calm your nerves too. On the other hand, rest your voice in the week leading upto your phone interview; that means avoiding kareoke and music gigs, and wearing a scarf if it's cold.


Look up your interviewer

The process can feel very official and quite intimidating. Seeing your interviewer's name and title in your correspondance beforehand can make them seem a lot more scarier than they actually are. For all you know, they may only be a little older than you. Humanise them by googling them to find a picture. If you come across their Facebook or a picture where they look friendly, it will make you feel less nervous about speaking to them. You should still be respectful - and maybe not mention that you've stalked their holiday photos - but they will then be less intimidating in your mind.


Keep aside some pointers or talking points

If you lose your train of thought when speaking, having some talking points written down closeby. While you should not read word for word from a pre-written essay (this will be too obvious), having something to remind you of key points that they should know about you, is a good "safety net" to have.


Skype and video interviews: Things you MUST do...

Check that your equipment is working

This includes speakers and microphones, both built-in and external. Keep your laptop or tablet plugged in to the power source so it doesn't run out halfway through. It may be worth investing in new equipment (if you are accepted to study abroad, these will come in useful to stay in touch with family and friends).


Dress smart-casually

Be conscious of the fact that they may see more of you than you might expect. Dress properly just in case. An outfit you might wear for an interview would be too much, while pajamas or clothes you would wear to lounge at home would be too casual. Show that you're taking this seriously. Plus, if you're still in your pajamas at 3pm in the afternoon, consider what impression this gives off.


Check what's visible on camera

What's in the background behind you? Slightly offensive posters? Embarassing photos of you? Underwear hanging to dry? Avoid things which will embarrass you or give off a negative impression. It's OK to show some personality in what's in the background as this will make you stand out, and these can be a good icebreaker.


Practice using Skype

It's free to sign up to Skype, and relatively easy to use. If the interviewer is calling you, you shouldn't need to buy credit either.  But sign up a few days beforehand and get familiar with using Skype. This will save a lot of hassle on the day, when you'll be nervous about the interview itself.



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