How to prepare for an alternative engineering interview

Job interviews don’t always need to be done face to face. For some opportunities, such as short contracts for a CAD Technician or Site Inspector, an employer may not see the need to meet face to face. Instead an alternative type of interview may suffice and at the same time it could have the benefit of minimising expenses for out of town candidates and saving time for everyone involved, particularly as time is of the essence in the world of contracting. In these instances, the employer may opt for a Skype or telephone interview. If you have been invited to an interview of this kind, you may find the following tips helpful in preparing for alternative interviews.

Firstly, remember this is still an interview and the main principles from our previous article, Top tips for engineering job interviews, are still relevant. You should still make sure to do your research on the company, act professionally, prepare questions for the end of the interview and dress to impress (if on Skype).

On top of this general advice, here are some more pointers for alternative interviews:


Telephone interview

Phone interviews are often used as an initial screening method ahead of the face-to-face interview stage for permanent or longer-term contract positions like a Project Manager role for a large scale infrastructure project, but they are also commonly used for shorter contract opportunities to speed up the hiring process and to make it easier for everyone involved. Preparation is just as key for a phone interview; it is your one opportunity to impress.

Before the call

  • Confirm all of the details including the date, time and who you will be talking to. Also, don’t neglect to check who is calling who. You might assume they are going to call you but it is best to confirm beforehand so you can avoid any awkward misunderstandings.
  • Print your CV, interview questions and list of your biggest achievements to have in front of you. A positive of a telephone interview is that you can have these things in front of you to prompt answers to difficult questions and make notes on any questions you may have as the interview progresses.
  • Decide where to take the call. Ideally you should take the call in a calm and quiet setting where you won’t be distracted. Beforehand clear the room of any distractions (including pets) and turn off TVs and computers so you know you won’t get any unexpected disruptions.
  • Ensure your phone is fully charged (if using a mobile) and that you are ready ahead of the planned call time, which will relax you and make you feel organised.

During the call

  • Avoid eating or drinking during the interview but you may want a glass of water to hand in case you need it.
  • It may be tempting to multi-task but you’re more likely to provide the most relevant responses and come across as more professional if you’re solely focused on the call.
  • Take your time to collect your thoughts before answering and be sure to give concise answers to their questions.
  • Listen to the interviewer and don’t start speaking until they have finished what they are saying.
  • Remember to smile! It sounds strange for a telephone interview, but smiling will help with your delivery. You will naturally speak with a more friendly and professional tone.

Rob Kelly, Department Manager of Infrastructure (Perm) offers advice on things that can be forgotten in the preparation process but that won’t go unnoticed:

“Many companies start the interview process with a phone call to discuss the job opportunity with a prospective employee – this helps them determine if the candidate is a good fit and gauge their interest in the job. Generally these can be quite informal but don’t be caught out if the employer goes into “full interview mode” and requests that you cover off technical or competency based questions, particularly if you haven’t had an interview for a while. Also, don’t underestimate the opportunity to create a good first impression. If the telephone interview goes well it can set the scene very nicely for a much stronger second stage or face-to-face meeting.”


Skype interview

Before your Skype interview, not only do you need to prepare yourself (mentally and physically – it’s important to still dress to impress) but similar to a phone interview, you also need to prepare your chosen interview environment. Skype is becoming a more common interview technique; Ben Hough, Department Manager - Nuclear, gives some advice on what to do:

“Whilst Skype is not a new concept, more and more engineering companies are utilising this tool. With the demand increasing for engineers, this function allows clients to speak to engineers anywhere across the globe. So be sure to print your CV and pre-prepared questions and make sure you have a pen and paper to hand.”

In addition to this, we have listed more tips on what to do before and during your Skype interview:

Before the video call

  • You will need a quiet, uncluttered space where you will not be distracted. Beware of the room you’re going to be in; what you have in the background could say a lot about you so make sure there is nothing on show that may damage your professional reputation.
  • Spend some time before the interview practicing using the video software.
  • Check that your device is set at the right height and distance for where and how you will be sat – aim for head and shoulders.
  • Dress smart, just as you would for a face to face interview.
  • Plan the call logistics. Make sure you know who is making the call and be sure to sign in at least 10 minutes before the call to be ready – technology can be unpredictable and internet connections have been known to fail at the worst moments. Practicing how to use the software before the interview will help.
  • Make sure your username is professional before you give it to the interviewer. It not, set up a new one.

During the video call

  • During the interview, imitate direct eye contact by looking into the camera rather than at the screen. Also, try and limit your movement as your connection speed may not be able to keep up with your charismatic gestures. Treat it as if it were a face-to-face interview as much as you can.
  • Use a headset if you can; the sound will be clearer for them and you and will stop you getting distracted by any unwanted sounds.
  • If any technical glitches happen, handle it with composure and don’t panic.


If you’re interested in seeing what other opportunities are out there for you, visit our jobs page or register online to receive bespoke job alerts.

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