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How to nail an interview in English: phone, Skype, and face-to-face

Whether you’re getting ready for your next interview or just started looking for a job – this article will help you understand the stages of the interview process in Europe and the UK and how to pass them with flying colours. 

  1. Preparing for an interview
    Mock interviews
    There’s never too much research 
  2. Do you need to learn your CV by heart?  
  3. Jobseeker’s dictionary 
  4. Selection stages 
    Phone interview  
    Skype interview   
    Interview with a recruiter or an HR 
    Interview with your future boss. The finish line!  
  5. Top 10 interview mistakes

1. Preparing for an interview

Mock interviews 

If your goal is to feel more confident when speaking to recruiters, practice answering some typical questions. Get your friends on board and get them to ask you the trickiest ones. For instance: “Out of all the other candidates, why should we hire you?”, “What are your biggest weaknesses?”, “Why are you looking for a new job?”. When you answer them pay attention to those which require the most precise / thought through answers. 

Learn to respond concisely, be on point. When asked: “Tell me a little about yourself”, some candidates share their bio from birth to getting to the office. The average length of your response should not exceed one minute. 

By the way, it’s not just you answering questions – an interview is not a quiz or some sort of exam. It totally makes sense to come up with some questions of your own. Good questions to your potential manager would show your interest, so this is something that any employer would appreciate. 

Research, research and more research 

Website: It’s enough to just have a look at the role description. Try digging deeper and study the company’s website, especially the About us, Our Services, Achievements and Main Partners sections. Such an analysis will help you give detailed answers to the recruiter’s questions – the likes of “What are we famous for?”, “Who are our strategic partners?”, “In which cities are our headquarters?”. 

Team: Team members build a certain micro climate. If you have an idea what sort of people they are, you will easily understand the internal structure of the company. To do that go through the Linkedin and Twitter profiles of the company in question. 

  • What sort of thinking do they have: conservative or creative? 
  • How are they sharing their thoughts in their posts? 
  • What’s the dynamics of their career paths and how it changed overtime? 

This is also a good way to establish how you fit into the organisation both as a professional and as a person.

Search for the info about the interviewer: 

  • This person can even turn out to be your potential boss. When going through their info online try and find some things in common. Did you go to the same university? Do you like similar books? Did you use to work at the same company? During the interview casually drop a few things in common into the conversation and most certainly you will be remembered. 

Location: Map your route beforehand. A lot of the job seekers do not pay due attention to the location of the office and how to get there. As a result, they arrive either too early or too late. It’s best to arrive at the interview venue 5-10 mins before the interview. 

2. Resume: do you need to learn it by heart?

Remembering your employment history is important – it shows the employer that you fully understand why and how your career has developed so far. At the same time, having a printed CV on you can cause a different reaction depending on the country.  

United Kingdom: Here people are the most particular about the jobseeker remembering their CV by heart. You will be expected to give the answers to the questions about your previous employment without looking at the printed CV. Therefore, please memorise the dates, the names and all your duties before the interview. 

Austria: In Austria, a printed resume or any other jobseeker documents really are considered absolutely normal. This helps to visually balance out the situation and to feel more like a partner rather than a jobseeker as your interviewers will most likely have notepads or documents in their hands. Unlike in the UK, in Austria, you may be speaking about yourself looking at your printed CV dwelling on important roles. 

Germany: In Germany, you are expected to come to an interview with a pile of printed documents (diplomas, certificates, CV, cover letter). Foreigners who are not aware of such a local norm often come to interview with a printed CV alone and same as in Austria this is considered absolutely OK. 

3. Jobseeker’s dictionary 

We recommend that you pay attention to the phrases that will help you structure the conversation properly: 

If during the interview you are trying to… 

I. Buy some time 

  • Let me think about it. 
  • That is an interesting question – give me a second to think. 
  • Interesting, let me think about the best way to answer that. 
  • So, you are looking for an example of … I can think of a few examples, but the one that is most relevant is … 

II. Want to specify/get more information 

  • Could you please clarify what you mean by …? 
  • Can I ask you if you are interested in this issue from a … or from a … perspective? 
  • Just so I am answering the right question – could you please specify what you mean by …?

III. Did not catch what the interviewer said to you 

  • Sorry, could you please repeat this question? 
  • I didn’t quite catch that. Could you please repeat your last question? 
  • Sorry I didn’t catch the bit after […] Could you please repeat that? 

V. Don’t know what to say in response to a particular question and try to offer an alternative solution 

  • I am not sure I have the exact answer to your question but I can share a related experience that I think goes close to what you are looking for … 
  • This is not a concept I am familiar with yet, but I can share … 

Once you’re done with getting ready for a conversation with the potential employer, it’s just the time to review interview types. 

4. Selection stages 

Phone interview 

You may ask, “Why is it even needed? What can a recruiter get from a 5-min chat?”

A phone interview is effective from the point of logistics and expenditure. 

“33% of the 2000 recruiters participating in the poll said that during the first 90 seconds they get the idea whether the candidate is suited for a role or not”. What does that mean? First impression and just 1.5 mins of a conversation may determine your future at a company. Do not be nonchalant about phone interviews as they are your ticket to the next interview stages. 

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Back up plan: Make sure you activate voice messaging on your phone to be on the safe side. In this case, should you miss a call from a recruiter, they will be able to leave you a message. Phone interviews are sometimes held using a private number which means you will not be able to get back to the caller if you miss the call. 

If you are actively looking for a job and you notice that you are receiving calls from unknown or private numbers, get to a quiet place. From the very first second focus on the caller’s name and the name of the company he/she represents. If you didn’t catch the names, it is best to ask the caller to say them again. Give a valid explanation: a bad line, weak signal, noisy environment. There is nothing improper about that – it is best to clarify everything at the very beginning than confessing at the end that you missed the name of the company the recruiter was calling from. 

Sometimes job seekers reply in a rather arrogant tone: “I can’t speak right now. I am in the middle of something”. If you are busy, suggest a minimum of two alternatives. You may say: “Let me call you back today at 17.00 or I can send you my other time slots via email?”. It is best not to postpone the second conversation for next week; aim for getting back in touch within the next couple of days. 

And yes, don’t forget to smile 🙂 You can’t imagine how drastically it will improve your chances to make the right impression on the caller. And he/she won’t even realise why. 

Skype interview  

During (and after) the pandemic, this way of interaction with a candidate has become hugely popular irrespective of whether you are in the same country as your future employer or at some other location abroad. Same as a phone interview, a Skype one helps companies save funds during the candidate selection process. 

Skype account: Ideally your Skype ID should contain your name and last name without any excessive information like digits or improper words. For instance, masha_cat_1996 should be changed to a more professional-sounding version Maria.Smirnova. 

Surprise: Unprofessional looking email addresses and nicknames are the reason for casting away 76% of CVs.  

When emailing an HR manager make sure to provide the email associated with your Skype account. This way it will be easier for them to locate you via Skype search. 

Body language: A very frequent mistake that the candidates make during a call with recruiters is always looking at themselves on the screen. Such candidates look like they are not talking to their interlocutor but themselves. To get good eye contact with the recruiter during the conversation it is very important to look directly into the camera.

Your behaviour should be natural, all your movements – professional and relaxed. A simple nod is a great way to confirm your interest. In a business environment such a sign is considered equal to a handshake. 

Colour of your outfit: Dark blue, light blue, white, black and soothing block colours look the most presentable on camera. Try to avoid very bright colours when picking an outfit for a Skype interview. 

Make sure you are fully dressed. For instance, Google HR managers may ask you to stand up and here is when your favourite lounge bottoms will play a dirty trick on you. The recruiters will conclude: “Aha, I see, the candidate is not used to getting through with things or doesn’t treat her/himself seriously”. 

Background: The best are light coloured uncluttered backgrounds. Try to create a professional environment by picking the right location. It may be a meeting room at your current office, any other office area, or your lounge at home. Connecting to Skype from a cafe is not a good idea – usually, it is quite a noise and wifi is rather unstable.  

Important! Don’t forget to do a video and sound check before the call. 

Interview with a recruiter or an HR 

You successfully passed the phone or Skype interview and you got invited to the office for a face-to-face chat. Congrats! Make sure you check our “How to dress for an interview” piece and note the comments on what to wear if you’re being interviewed in Austria. 

First, the HR manager will check the formalities to make sure you did do the duties stated on the CV and that you do know the indicated software. 

If the hiring manager is after an employee who would need to talk to “difficult” clients, you may need to go through a stress interview. This implies creating a stressful environment for checking a candidate’s reaction. A bright light directed right into your face, a broken chair leg, inappropriate questions about relationship status and personal life – these are the examples of what a jobseeker may come across during the interview. Such methods help to expose such qualities as the ability to handle stress, strong interpersonal skills, and how flexible your behaviour is. 

The recruiter also holds an interview to evaluate how the candidate fits into the corporate culture of the company. That’s why you may be asked questions that at first may seem a bit strange, for instance: “By the way, are you a smoker?”, “How often do you do sport?”, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. 

Based on your answers the recruiter understands whether you’ll be a good fit for your new team. For instance, if the team lead a healthy lifestyle and you pop up for a smoke every 30 minutes, it may very well be a red flag for a recruiter. If you’re considered for an entry-level position and you make it clear that in a year’s time you aim to manage an entire division. 

To answer a question correctly you need to clearly understand why it is being asked. During our free webinar “Interview in English” we speak about the reasoning behind recruiters’ questions and provide competent well-structured answers to them. 

Tip: The interview finished, you came home. We recommend not to chill and follow it up with a thank you letter/email. The main rules of structuring such a letter are shared in this article. 

So, after long consideration, the HR manager made a decision that you meet all the vacancy requirements along with the company’s values. This means that it is time to check your professional industry-specific skills. In most cases, the HR manager arranged for an in-person meeting with the head of the division or the head of the company. 

Interview with your future boss (the finish line!) 

Your chances of being hired are as high as ever. When speaking to the company executive make sure you use professional terminology as much as possible and dwell on your practical skills. Odds are high that during this interview stage the employer will offer you a case to solve and will be monitoring your train of thought to see how you fit into the corporate culture. 

5. Top 10 interview mistakes 

Finally, below is a concise list of the most common mistakes that Russian speaking job seekers make during interviews in the UK and Europe. We recommend that you use the below as a checklist. 

Pay attention to the very last item – it is important to make a good impression on the potential employer but it is just as important to understand whether you like them or not. 

  1. Insufficient preparation and general unreadiness for the interview 
  2. Being late for an interview 
  3. Turning up too early 
  4. Arriving for an interview with a drink in hand (tea/coffee) 
  5. Excessive chattiness 
  6. Inability to remember facts from your CV 
  7. Consulting your printed CV for details (not everywhere!) 
  8. Negative commentary about the previous employer / place of work / colleagues 
  9. No questions to the potential employer 
  10. Insufficient awareness of the nature of the business / position 

Remember that each company is unique and every one of them has its own hiring strategy. Some of them will go for a 5 stage interview, for others, a chat with an HR manager will suffice. It all depends on the type of organisation, the country and the role itself. If you need assistance, we offer this particular service as part of our service package.