How to Conduct Skype & Phone Interviews

By 2 October 2014 No Comments


Candidates interviewing badly via Skype and international telephone connections. Often the candidates are apparently competent and skilled people, but they present very badly on Skype.


  • Poor phone and Skype connections causing interruptions.
  • Poor interview skills on the side of clients.
  • Too many interviewers and poor discipline.
  • Lack of understanding of conference call protocols and anxiety about ‘phones and the high cost of calls.’
  • English as a second (or third or fourth) language for the candidates.
  • Different cultural understanding of the recruitment process. Many candidates are used to ‘who you know’ recruitment and have very little formal interview practice.
  • Cultural differences about talking to strangers without proper introductions and extended social niceties. Lack of an introduction phase can seem extremely rude in many cultures.
  • Equal opportunity practices that prescribe rigid areas of questioning / question formats which may be equal but not always fair. If the candidate does not understand your question, how else could you phrase it?
  • Lack of privacy (at home or work) to take the call.


  • Greet the candidate, ask if they are well. Check that they are somewhere that is comfortable and that they won’t be disturbed. If they are not, offer to reschedule. I have refused to interview a candidate who was driving across Kampala (“It’s OK, I am on hands-free!!”)
  • Set the context and purpose of the Skype call clearly at the start.
  • Be flexible, use an improvisatory and adaptive style and take joint responsibility for resolving misunderstandings.
  • Offer helpful ways of resolving misunderstandings. This will help candidates to tune in to interviewer expectations which will relax the tight interview structure.
  • A relaxed interview may give candidates more control to negotiate questions, introduce new topics, work out responses together with the interviewer and structure their responses accordingly. For the interviewer, the answers become more predictable and more ‘processable’ and any problems are easier to repair.
  • Use a good quality Speakerphone and don’t shuffle papers or eat, etc, anywhere near it.


  • Reserve judgement for longer and persist in ‘facilitative repair’ throughout.
  • Identify causes of problems early on and be aware that some questions may be ambiguous or vague.
  • Provide more context in questions to foster chances of participation.
  • Show appreciation of a candidate’s point before moving on to elicit more relevant answers.


This is about more junior staff, but it is food for thought. Roberts, C. and Campbell, S. (2006), “Talk on Trial: Job interviews, language and ethnicity”


Download this article as a PDF:

How to be Interviewed on Skype & Phone.pdf