Easy Choice: In-Person vs. Phone Interview

You're a nervous wreck? Your birthday fell on the eve of a job interview, and you don't want to risk facing a recruiter while nursing a hangover? Well, you may want to ask for a phone interview.

But otherwise, the best advice from recruiters is to show up prepared and confident. And if you have the choice between an in-person and a phone interview, choose the former.

This is not to suggest you will be out of consideration if you cannot attend a sit-down interview. Recruiters understand circumstances do not always permit applicants to be present, especially in the field of international development, where job seekers are often in different locations and of different nationalities.

Indeed, most HR departments have as official policy not to give preference to candidates who show up in person. But several recruiters told me, unofficially, that there are benefits to meeting in person.

"I think it's just human nature, if you see somebody in front of you and you hit it off, you're more likely to want to hire them," said Helen Farinella, senior human resources specialist with World Learning. The organization, headquartered in Vermont, will pay to bring in a candidate for a face-to-face interview if the initial phone interview goes well, Farinella added.

"The advantage of interviewing in person is the body language that can tell a lot about a person's personality," Farinella noted. "We do not see any advantages for telephone interviews."

A few days after that conversation, I met an economist who flew from Europe to Washington for a first-round interview, at his own expense, and was offered the job without ever needing a second interview.

It's true, some organizations handle all first-round interviews over the phone or via Webcam, while others require all candidates to be present for an in-person sit-down interview. But a growing number of employers give job candidates the option to come in or discuss a vacancy over the phone.

The bottom line is: Every job in today's economy is a competition, and conveying confidence with a personal smile and handshake could mean the difference between landing a job or continuing your employment search.

About the author

  • Jody Nesbitt

    Jody is a Devex international correspondent in Washington, D.C. Previously, he worked as a monitor in South Africa's provincial parliament, as well as a researcher for the Center for Economic and Policy Research and for Glass Lewis & Co. He has studied at Rutgers University, the University of Natal and the University of the West Indies, earning a bachelor's in political science and a master's in international relations.