How to Interview for a Job (final part)

A few more job interview tips I want to go over:

Phone and Video Chat Interviews

Phone and video chat interviews are often used as a vetting process. The company can decide if they want to bring you in for an in-person interview based on how you do. It’s also used to interview people who are too far away to show up to an in-person interview.


Many of my recommendations for in-person interviews in parts 1 and 2 apply to phone/video chat interviews, but there are a few important aspects of phone and video chat interviews that I want to cover.


Phone Interview Setup

For phone interviews, you would ideally do the interview on a landline for a more robust (i.e. not likely to disconnect) connection and better call reception. I’ve done phone interviews both on a landline and on my cell phone, and the landline
provided much clearer call reception. I’ve also had a phone interview on my cell phone one time that actually disconnected in the middle of the interview.


If you’re in college, the school’s career center should have a landline set up specifically for students who have phone interviews. If not, I’m sure they’d be willing to let you borrow one of the landlines. Any legitimate, ABET-accredited four-year school should have a career center, and the career center should allow you to use a landline. If not, let me know in the comments down below.


If you’re out of school, it’s going to be trickier. Your best bet is to ask to borrow a friend’s or neighbor’s landline. Colleges won’t let you borrow their landline for a phone interview if you aren’t a student. It’s also unlikely that any business, office place, or library will let you borrow a landline either. I actually tried setting up a phone interview at a local community college and the local library after I had graduated, and they both wouldn’t let me.


If all else fails, do the interview on your cell phone. A call disconnection should, at worst, only happen once, and this isn’t too big of a deal.


Set yourself up in a quiet environment. You’ll be shooting yourself in the foot and greatly decreasing the chances of getting the job if your environment isn’t quiet.


Stay indoors to avoid noise from cars driving by, wind, any animals like birds, other people, etc. The best place to do a phone interview is your room/home. If your home isn’t quiet enough, great alternatives are a library study room or your car with the windows rolled up and parked somewhere without a lot of people. Good parking spots are generally next to places people don’t enjoy going to. For example:

  • Library parking lot
  • Post office parking lot
  • Dentist’s/Doctor’s office parking lot
  • Bank parking lot


During the Phone Interview

Remember, the interviewer can’t see you. With that in mind:


Don’t stay silent for too long. The interviewer can’t see you, and they’ll assume you zoned out or the call disconnected if you remain silent for too long. If your interviewer is speaking for prolonged period of time, you should interject every few seconds with phrases like “right,” “absolutely,” or “I agree.”


Refer back to Part 1 for proper voice tonality.


You can, and should, have any helpful documentation out in front of you during the interview, such as the resume you applied to the job with, a project portfolio, the job description, and notes on the company and your most important qualifications.


This isn’t a school exam: have your cheat sheet out in front of you.


You can wear whatever you want. I once did a phone interview in my pajamas. Funnily enough, I used to wear a full suit or business casual to get my mind into interview mode, but the phone interview in my pajamas was one of my most successful, likely because I was dressed comfortably.


And of course, you’re still going to want to ask questions at the end. Refer to part 2 for more on that.


Video Chat Interviews

All my video chat interviews were over Skype or WebEx. Any video chat interviews you do will most likely be over one of those platforms. You and the interviewer can see each other’s faces but aren’t sitting next to each other, so these are essentially a cross between an in-person and phone interview. With that in mind:


Video Chat Interview Setup

Skype has a video settings configuration menu that allows you to see what your interviewer will see. The right environment is even more important than a phone interview, since you need both silence and a presentable appearance.


If the interview is in your bedroom/home, arrange your computer so that the only things being shown are blank walls/ceiling or some furniture. You don’t want your interviewer to see your wall posters of Playboy models, your bong, or your clothes thrown around everywhere. If your home isn’t a good option, a library study room is a great alternative.


During the Video Chat Interview

Treat this exactly like an in-person interview: wear a suit, fix your hair, shave, and follow my interview tips (eye contact and general behavior, how to speak during an interview) back in Part 1.


You don’t have to wear deodorant or even bathe. You can wear a dress shirt, tie, suit jacket, and not wear any pants or shoes if you wanted. I once did a video chat interview with a dress shirt, tie, suit jacket, gym shorts, and no shoes.


Similarly to a phone interview, you can, and should, have your notes, resume, and other helpful documentation out in front of you. In this case, I recommend having the documents open in a separate window and taking up one half of the computer screen, and shrinking the Skype page to take up the other half of the screen. This allows you to read your notes during the interview without the interviewer knowing.


Also, look at the camera lens, NOT the interviewer. Looking directly at the camera lens makes it seem to your interviewer that you’re making eye contact with them. If you look at the interviewer, you’ll seem like your looking away from them.


And as always, ask questions at the end of the interview.


How to be Confident during a Job Interview

Job interviews are generally nerve-wracking, even to experienced job seekers. But, some preparation and the right mentality can help make you more confident.


One way to make job interviews less nerve-wracking and to improve your interview skills is to do mock interviews with job interview counselors or friends and family. This was how I improved my interview skills.


I also recommend checking out Don Georgevich on YouTube. He’s a job interview expert, and I like to watch his videos a few hours before an interview to mentally prepare.


Also, don’t forget about voice tonality. I speak from personal experience when I say ending sentences with my tone of voice getting deeper made me feel more confident, focused, and self-assured.


From my experience, job interview nervousness happens because we get too mentally occupied with trying to impress the interviewer. We become insecure and overly critical about how we look and act.


Instead, imagine that the interviewer is more nervous than you are. Pretend as if the interviewer is someone with low confidence, and you’ll be doing a huge service for them by helping them gain confidence. Focus portraying a confident attitude and serving as a good model of confidence for the interviewer to follow. Picture a confident person who’s likely to get every job they interview for. It could be anyone, real or fictional, and imagine that you’re trying to show the interviewer how that person behaves.


I personally act like a mix between Don Draper from Mad Men (confident attitude) and Marty McFly from Back to the Future (youthful energy).


How to Answer Non-Technical Questions

Honestly, there’s a ton of good information on how to answer common non-technical interview questions already. There’s no point in me reinventing the wheel.


Just google “common job interview questions,” watch job interview question YouTube videos (Don Georgevich is great for interview tips, resume tips, etc.), do mock interviews with career counselors at colleges, and you’ll have a basic idea of how to answer non-technical interview questions.


There’s really is only one correct way to answer most of these non-technical questions. If you want to see my answers for specific non-technical interview questions, let me know in the comments.


Here are the commandments for generally answering non-technical interview questions:


Commandment #1

Very minor negative, followed by a positive change. Positive is the main meal, negative is the pepper, condiments and seasoning. Too much negative is bad, but you still want a little negative.

  • Question asking about your weaknesses: you sometimes become so absorbed in your work that you lose track of time, but you’ve learned to use your phone to set a timer for yourself, and that’s helped tremendously with time management.


Commandment #2

You care more about what you have to offer the company, not the other way around.

  • Where you see yourself in five years: You see yourself at the company in a mid-level position, exercising greater responsibility. If the company needs management position filled, you’re confident you’d be a good fit for it because of prior leadership experience.
  • Why you want the job: You think your skills and background are a great fit for the position, your values align very well with the company mission statement, and you have a lot to offer the company.


Commandment #3

STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result: Provide some background, what problem you had to solve, how you solved the problem, and what the result was. Use this whenever you need to provide a specific, concrete example for something. Also use this for any question that goes: “Tell me about a time when…”


Commandment #4

Never “we,” only “you.” Only discuss what YOU specifically did. Don’t bother mentioning what anyone else involved did.


Commandment #5

You don’t know something or don’t have a lot of experience in a particular area, paraphrase this: “I don’t know too much about that, but I’m very interested in learning more about it.” Don’t just say you don’t know.


Commandment #6

Embellishment and stretching the truth = good. Outright lying = generally bad, try to avoid this.

  • You were president of the engineering club. Most of the time, you worked with every other club member as an equal, and you did very minor project management like setting deadlines, ordering equipment, etc. During the interview, you can say how, as engineering club president, you did a lot of project management (Gantt chart, deadlines, equipment procurement, etc.) and were involved with training other club members and motivating them to finish projects.


Commandment #7

Being able to motivate and work well with other people is always good.

Commandment #8

Always provide specific, concrete examples. Refer back to commandments 3 and 6.


How to Answer Technical Questions

There are 2 types of technical questions: questions that present a hypothetical problem that you need to solve and right-or-wrong questions given as a written exam.


The questions are usually very simple. Any reasonably competent engineering student who’s completed their freshman or sophomore year, or engineering graduate, can solve them.


First Type

The first question type generally has the engineer interviewer present a hypothetical technical problem, and you need to walk through the process of solving it.  These vary depending on your particular engineering discipline.


Showing HOW you answer a question or solve a problem, as well as what you take into consideration, is the most important part.


The interviewer wants to see your problem solving process, how you apply your engineering knowledge, and what kind of experience and proficiencies you have.


Second Type

For the written exam-type questions, you’ll have a time limit to solve them. I’ve had these kinds of questions take anywhere from a few minutes to a full 24 hours. The shorter the time, the easier the questions. The longer the time, the harder the questions. The harder questions will involve researching outside sources.


Sorry to say this, but these kinds of questions generally have right or wrong answers. Just do your best and stay calm.


Some of My Technical Questions

Here are some examples of technical questions I’ve answered and the result (I’m a mechanical engineer and applied to mechanical engineer jobs):


A packet of questions about basic manufacturing processes and mechanical systems like using a lathe, parting tools, gear ratios, and finding yield strength on a stress-strain curve. Standard right or wrong questions. The interviewer didn’t seem to care if I got the answers right or not, didn’t tell me if I got them right or not, and I didn’t get the job.


Next, I was emailed six technical questions about thermodynamic/HVAC&R systems and given 24 hours to answer them. I had to document all sources used. The questions included how to use a barometer to determine the height of a building, a thermodynamic heat cycle, should you use one air pump or two air pumps each with half the strength of the first pump, and the mechanical behavior of water. These questions were meant to show my researching process (Google), general problem solving skills, and the technical specifications I take into consideration. The interviewer said I answered the questions very well. I didn’t get the job, but he told me I’m a great candidate for similar positions.


Then, multiple choice, high school level physics questions filled out online: F = m*a, centripetal force/acceleration, gear ratios, Ohm’s law, series and parallel electric circuits. I don’t know how I did on them, and I didn’t get the job. Apparently, online research revealed that the company does this with every applicant and hires absolutely none of them. The company probably made these technical questions for shits and giggles.


After that, hypothetical situation: I have to assemble an enclosure for an engine. The enclosure has to sustain a 180 lbs man stepping on it. What is my design, how would I evaluate it, and how would I fabricate it. I royally screwed this one up and didn’t get the job.


Finally, I have to modify a 3D printer by adding a switch that shuts down the printer if print material runs out in the middle of a print. Wiring the switch to the printer circuit board was already taken care of. I only had to implement the switch. I held the switch up to the printer, figured out the best way to implement it (right against the material below the feeding mechanism so that the switch is released when the material runs out), and I briefly went over how to handle the wires so they won’t get tangled in the moving parts. The interviewer plans to follow this exact same process. I showed that I’m very hands-on, that I’m familiar with applying engineering concepts to making projects, and I got the job.


Note Taking and Thank You Emails

I recommend bringing a professional-looking interview folder with notepad. It adds professionalism to your appearance and it allows you to write notes down during the interview.


When you ask questions at the end, it’s a great idea to write down your interviewer’s answers in your notepad. Only write notes during this interview portion.


Remember to get your interviewer’s email address at the end of the interview. This allows you to send a thank you email to them later.


You should always send a thank you email to your interviewer. You send thank you emails to each person you interview with, whether it’s individually or together. I once had an interview with four people individually, and I sent each of them a unique, individually tailored thank you email later that night. I also did the same after I interviewed with three people simultaneously.


The only time I didn’t send a thank you email was when I received a job offer three hours after the interview ended.


Here’s the general format for a thank you email:


Dear (insert interviewer name here),


Thank you for setting out time to interview me for the (insert position name) position at (insert company name)! I enjoyed meeting you and getting to see the company and some of its projects firsthand. After speaking with you, my interest in the position is further strengthened.


As we discussed, (go over some of the things you went over during the interview.)


Thank you for answering my question about (discuss one of the questions you asked during the interview). (Paraphrase your interviewer’s answer).


I look forward to working with you. If there’s any additional information I can provide, please don’t hesitate to let me know. And if it’s all right, I’ll follow up with you in 5-10 business days.



(Insert your name here)


Final Thoughts

And that is all of my interviewing knowledge. If you found this helpful, let me know down in the comments. And if you haven’t already, subscribe to my free newsletter. More job hunting content (resumes, applying) coming soon.


Thumbnail image by Jeremy Beadle

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