How to conduct a telephone or video interview during the COVID-19 pandemic

Do you have a telephone or video interview coming up for a role in accountancy?

There are so many positives to interviewing candidates working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Candidates are almost always available, there are no travel restrictions and interviews are usually more efficient and convenient.

Okay, so you can’t feel the handshake! And it’s harder to pick up on the non-verbal cues – particularly on the telephone. But these are the times we are living in, and chances are it may continue for some time – so we’d like to help you conduct a successful online interview with our 10 top tips. Let’s go…


  1. Keep them informed – The way in which you would normally invite a candidate for an interview should remain the same. The candidate should be clear on where, when and how their interview will take place, who will be interviewing them and what the interview process will look like. If they have any special requirements, they should be taken into consideration.


  1. Don’t let the tech get in the way – Before you begin, make sure you have a speedy internet connection, you know your way around Zoom or any other platform you’re using and if you’re screen sharing or using PowerPoint – ensure you are totally comfortable with using it. If anything goes wrong, relax! As the employer, it’s your job to make the candidate feel as relaxed as possible. Stay in control! Show patience if they are experiencing technical difficulties their end and also have an alternative contact number ready for you and the candidate just in case!


  1. Set the scene – Whether you’re interviewing from home, or the office, make sure the space is well lit and free from distractions and clutter. Let others know you are interviewing so you don’t have any embarrassing visitors! If you’re normally suited and booted, then you should feel comfortable dressing the part. It will help you maintain a professional image. Don’t forget, the candidate will be interviewing you too – you’ll want to impress. Remember, more than ever before – YOU are representing the company brand, mission and values.


  1. Prepare yourself – You may not be used to interviewing by telephone or video. The pandemic has changed so many of our jobs and responsibilities. So, it’s perfectly understandable to feel a little anxious about it. Before you begin, allow enough time to have a good read through the candidate’s CV, understand the job description inside out and have your questions prepared. You could have this printed out in front of you so that you can make notes.


  1. Be professional – It’s so easy to lapse into over-familiar territory when interviewing a person online. You want to be warm and friendly, but you are not talking to a friend. Greet them by name in the same way you would in person and introduce yourself in a similar fashion.


  1. Have structure – You could begin by introducing yourself and the company, then describing the role and then move onto your questions – why are you applying, tell me about yourself, why are you right for the role, do you have any questions? Then end with ‘what happens next? If you have a 30 minute interview in mind, allow yourself the first five minutes to warm up before getting into the actual interview, and another 5 minutes at the end to relax. If you’re still talking after this, that’s usually a good sign.


  1. Use positive body language – It may sound obvious but…sit up straight, use hand gestures when appropriate but don’t move about too much and avoid touching your face.


  1. Engage with the candidate – Small talk and ice-breakers are all part of a ‘normal’ interview process, and it’s true that this can be harder with an online or telephone interview. But they are crucial when getting to know your candidate – it tells you so much about them. So, try to be relaxed and friendly. Make eye contact and smile. And also pause before moving onto the next question to account for any possible time lapse.


  1. Don’t over-prepare! – While it’s good to have notes, reminders and a slick interview process, you don’t want to appear robotic! Be yourself, speak slowly and most of all listen.


  1. Maintain hiring practices – You should follow up in the usual way. How would you normally respond after an interview – a letter or email of thank you? Have you told the candidate how long they should expect to wait for a response? It’s so important to set expectations.


“If you’re not used to interviewing by telephone or video, this can seem a daunting task. But those employers who make the most of hiring opportunities will be the ones who recover fastest.”

Garry Howling of Public Practice Recruitment Ltd


At Public Practice Recruitment Ltd, we are proud to share our knowledge on all kinds of important matters to guide you through the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to invest in supporting your business during this crisis.

Please visit our blog for even more help. Or you can call 0333 577 7787 or email if you would benefit from some assistance.


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