Phone Interviews vs. In-Person Interviews (Pros and Cons)
Updated June 9, 2023
Some companies use a phone interview as the first step of the hiring process, whereas others may choose an in-person interview. Learning the similarities and differences between a phone interview vs an in-person interview can help you decide which is right for you. Evaluating each type of interview can also help you better prepare for your upcoming interview.
In this article, we discuss the similarities, differences and pros and cons of the phone interview when compared to an in-person interview.
Phone interview vs. in-person interview
Comparing the similarities versus the differences can help you prepare for what to expect with each type of interview. Here's a list of the biggest similarities and differences of each interview:
Similarities between phone interviews vs. in-person interviews
Here are a few of the biggest similarities between a phone interview and an in-person interview:
Preparation: Whether you're interviewing by phone or in person, preparing ahead of time is important. This includes practicing common interview questions and making a list of questions you want to ask about the position to decide if it's a good fit.
Purpose: Both phone and in-person interviews have the same purpose, to determine if a candidate is the right person for the open position. The phone interview typically acts as an initial screening tool to decide which candidates the company may ask to attend an in-person interview.
Format: Phone and in-person interviews tend to follow a similar format. The interviewer often asks a series of questions that relate to the position.
Interviewer: A hiring manager or human resource professional is typically in charge of conducting an initial interview. Whether your interview is by phone or in-person, you can expect to first communicate with the person in charge of hiring new team members.
Differences between phone interviews vs in-person interviews
Here are a few of the biggest differences between a phone interview and an in-person interview:
Length of the interview: Phone interviews tend to be shorter than in-person interviews. The phone interview may be an initial screening tool that the company uses, or they may use it to gauge the skills and experience of a candidate before inviting them in for an in-person interview.
Limitations to body language: One of the biggest differences between a phone and in-person interview is the limitations to body language. Candidates cannot rely on body language when responding to interview questions, meaning you may have to find other ways to be clear and engaging.
Location of the interview: Perhaps the biggest difference between a phone and an in-person interview is the location. Phone interviews can take place at any location and can also provide candidates with more flexibility.
Formality level: Phone interviews tend to be less formal than in-person interviews. The hiring manager doesn't have the ability to evaluate your dress or body language.
Pros of a phone interview
Here are a few pros of a phone interview:
No location limitations
A phone interview allows companies to interview candidates from anywhere in the world. This can also make it easier for candidates to seek positions in a location other than where they're currently residing. Phone interviews can make attending interviews more accessible for more people and make the interview process more affordable for everyone, as travel isn't a consideration with a phone interview.
Demonstrate phone skills
A phone interview is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate phone skills. Candidates who are applying for certain positions, including customer service or phone sales representatives, can highlight these skills in a phone interview. In addition to highlighting phone communication skills, candidates can also use this phone interview to highlight professionalism on the phone.
Use of notes
Taking notes to prepare for an upcoming interview may be an effective strategy for some candidates. In a phone interview, it may be easier to refer to these notes. If the interview includes a test, the candidate may also have access to resources they can use at home.
Because phone interviews can be a cost-effective and timely solution to interviewing, companies may be able to consider more candidates. Phone interviews are shorter and require fewer resources from the company. They can be a good way to initially screen candidates before deciding if they move on to the additional phases of hiring.
Cons of a phone interview
Here are a few cons to consider when preparing for a phone interview:
Different time zones
Candidates who are in different time zones may have difficulty choosing an interview time that works for everyone. Depending on where candidates live, some participants may have to attend an interview during nontraditional work hours. Some companies may accommodate candidates in different time zones by scheduling phone interviews in the evening.
Difficulty gauging certain skills
A phone interview can make it difficult to gauge certain skills. Certain soft skills, like nonverbal communication or professionalism, may not be as easy to demonstrate or measure on the phone. The hiring manager may find it challenging to evaluate communication style, including body language or gestures. One way to overcome this may be to schedule a video interview in lieu of a phone interview.
Trouble building professional rapport
Phone interviews tend to be short and straightforward, which can make it difficult for both the hiring manager and the candidate to build professional rapport with one another. The potential candidate may not have the opportunity to ask all the questions they want about the position, or to get a feel for the company's culture. This may mean that candidates use other methods to sell themselves, just as the company may need to find unique ways to sell the position to the candidate.
Technology or phone problems can challenge a phone interview. It's possible to lose someone in the middle of a phone call, which can affect the flow of communication. It may also be difficult for the candidate to find a quiet location, or service may fluctuate. Technology challenges can take the focus off the candidate and make it challenging to highlight interview answers.
Pros of an in-person interview
Here are a few pros of an in-person interview:
Ability to build rapport
An in-person interview gives the candidate and the hiring manager the opportunity to build rapport with one another. In-person interviews tend to last longer than phone interviews, which means there is typically more time for each person to ask questions and get to know each other. This also allows candidates more time to form answers to interview questions and demonstrate strong interpersonal skills.
An interview allows the hiring manager to gauge not only how well a potential candidate is for the position, but also how well they match with the company culture. When the hiring manager gets the opportunity to meet with the candidate in person, they can also evaluate their body language. This may be important to the position, such as in sales or customer service type positions.
An in-person interview gives hiring managers the opportunity to include assessments as a part of the hiring process. A company can request candidates complete a computer test or conduct a mock sales meeting. This allows them to evaluate certain skills that may be important to the position.
Meet with team members
When a candidate comes into the office for an interview, they may have the chance to meet with other team members. This can give the hiring manager multiple perspectives about a potential candidate. It also allows the potential candidate the opportunity to meet with the other employees who may become their team members.
Cons of an in-person interview
Here are a few considerations of an in-person interview:
In-person interviews may limit a company to candidates who live in their area. If a company wants to expand its hiring process to include candidates in other locations, flexibility may be necessary. The hiring process may take longer as candidates in other locations may need time to plan travel to and from the interview location.
In-person interviews may be more difficult for some candidates to attend, especially if they're already working somewhere. Attending an in-person interview requires transportation and in some cases, time off work. This can also lead to a slower hiring process.
Some candidates may feel more pressure with in-person interviews. In addition to interviewing for a potential job, in-person candidates must adapt to an unfamiliar location, meet new people and demonstrate their skills in person. This could lead to a company overlooking someone who's qualified for the position.
Potential for appearance biases
Meeting with potential candidates in person can lead to unintentional biases about how a person looks or dresses. It may be more difficult for the candidate to create a good first impression if they appear different than what the company may expect. Things like gender, age or clothing style may interfere with the initial impressions of the candidate.
Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.
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