Your 1st Interview: Phone, Zoom, Or In-Person?

Are video conference call interviews here to stay? Not entirely. Here's what you should know.

I would have thought by now that COVID has come under control, and the fascination with Zoom or Teams would have died down.  Instead, it appears that these video conference call interviews are here to stay.  A lot has been written on the tactics to apply when doing a Zoom meeting: lighting, the height of the camera, and clothes to wear. However, what I want to explore in today’s blog is the mental preparation for a Zoom-type call.  As I have come to believe now after being a participant in numerous video calls, the preparation and the execution of a Zoom-type call is extremely different than a traditional type of call.

The Power Of The Voice

When I first got into recruiting, I always recommended the first call to never be in person.  I would advise both my candidates and my clients, that even if the person is in the room next to yours, you still meet over the phone for that initial interview.  Why was I so insistent on this?  It was because 95% of all the business that was ever won in either bond counsel work or public finance work was initiated over the phone.  It was the voice that you heard; the power and the confidence of that voice that won you over.  It was only after you heard the presentation that you would consent to an in-face interview.  Whether you are working with an issuer or a new banking client, the voice was what started the conversation.  With a video conference call, it is no longer the voice but the person’s physical presence on the end of the camera that now becomes that first impression.

What Typically Happens Over A Video Conference Call: Judgments & Over-Sharing

The surprise factor of what that person looks like is now gone.  The mental questioning of what features the person has that could either persuade you one way or another to move forward is gone.  This might sound trite, but as human beings, we are all prejudiced in one way or another. That prejudice is now at the front of that first call.  I am not talking about diversity issues or inclusion issues; I am just talking about human nature.  But the above is not too revealing.  What I have found after really examining my personal performance on video calls is that I tended to give out too much information on that first call.  Because I was face to face on a video conference call, I tended to share more of my “trade secrets” and lost more new opportunities than I would have if I kept to the phone call interview.

 A Time & Place For A Video Conference Call

Are you doing the same?  If you are not securing a second interview after the first Zoom call, could you be sharing too much information?  Are you letting your guard down and becoming too friendly on that first call?  Have you lost your edge because you are face to face on a Zoom call and you are concerned that your body language is being read incorrectly so you are overcompensating for any deficiencies that you might have?  These are just a few questions that you should ponder if asked for an initial video conference call for an interview.  Whether it’s for a job position or for a bank loan, you must not let your guard down during this first important interview.  Most of the hiring managers I work with have taken my advice to avoid the first call as a Zoom-type call for the above reasons.  If you have a choice, my personal recommendation is to save the video call for the second and third interviews.  There is a place for a video conference call, but not on a first interview in my humble opinion.  Today’s blog may have been a bit controversial, but the purpose of these blogs is to raise awareness. I felt obligated to at least explore this sensitive topic.  As always, we are available for you on a confidential call at any time to help you in your career transitions and growth, or conversely to help you hire the right professionals.


You don’t need a resume to chat with us! If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Harlan publishes a blog every Thursday here. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting.”

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.