Telephone Interview vs. In-person Technical Interview
You might think that having your technical interview over the phone would be
easier than doing it in person. After all, you don’t have to worry about under-
In some ways, it is easier — but you also lose some of the
advantages of the face-to-face interview. Most crucial is the inability to
observe the interviewer’s body language for clues to his/her demeanor. Remember
how we said up to 80 percent of what is communicated is based on body language? It’s
difficult to gauge the response to your words when you can’t see the
interviewer. One result is that you must be much more careful about using
humor, or deviating from the subject. You won’t have the interviewer’s physical
reaction to signal you that it’s time to get back on track.
Expect the Unexpected
Another problem with the telephone interview is that it may occur
unexpectedly. Many interviewers are courteous and will set up a specific time to
call, but some will surprise you, phoning and wanting to do the interview right
now, at a time that may not be optimum for you. This can be disorienting and
even cause your mind to go blank.
You may think that if you’re interviewed by telephone, it will be easy to
cheat. You can have the books or your computer in front of you and
look up the answers to questions you don’t know. You’ll probably find, however,
that it’s very difficult to do this without the interviewer knowing. Unless you
know ahead of time what the questions will be and have your books and website marked and ready, it’s going to take too long to look up answers for you to
pretend you’re not consulting a reference. And, of course, if you know the
questions ahead of time, you can go ahead and learn the material and not have to look it up during the interview.
Dress for Your Telephone Interview
Finally, although a telephone interview may seem less formal and less
intimidating than an in-person interview, it is just as important that you
prepare for it, and that you present yourself well. To hire or not to hire —
it’s not uncommon for that decision to be made based on a telephone interview.
At the very least, the telephone interview will determine whether you advance to
the next step, which is usually an in-person interview. And the first impression
that you make on the phone can pave the way to make that next step smoother, or
it can be a difficult obstacle to overcome.
I have attempted to give you a very insights into
the technical interview process in this article. I’ll provide a few resources
and suggestions for how you can obtain more information on this very important
Revised, Dec. 20, 2010