Faced with less time and more applicants, many hiring managers are now beginning the interview process by scheduling phone interviews rather than meeting with candidates right away. This allows them to streamline the process for themselves by only scheduling in person interviews with candidates they are really interested in.
For a job seeker the phone interview process is a different one than the in person interview and requires a different set of guidelines be followed than if they were sitting right across from the interviewer.Here I will be exploring the best way to try to ensure that a phone interview leads to the all important next step; the in person interview.
Scheduling the Phone Interview
Most phone interviews are scheduled ahead of time. Many recruiters will offer a choice of dates and times so as far as possible choose one that will allow you to devote your full and undivided attention to the call. Scheduling a phone interview for a half hour before you are due to pick the kids up from school is not a good idea – technically you may have time to do both but the possibly of a conflict will distract you and prevent you from giving your all to the phone interview.
If the timing of a phone interview offered is truly inconvenient, reschedule it. Better to wait an extra day to get to be interviewed than to try and sound poised confident and elegant while shouting into your cell phone because you are on your way home from another appointment and trying to keep an eye on the road!
Dress the Part
Although it sounds a little strange at first, I do believe, and I am not alone in this, that if you dress the part for your phone interview you will perform at a higher level, even though the interviewer has no clue what you are wearing. Putting on your best interview outfit will help get you into job hunting ‘mode’ even if you are sitting at your kitchen table instead of in front of a desk in the hiring managers office.
Being prepared is one of the biggest keys to a successful phone interview. Unless it is an unexpected interview (which is a rare occurrence) there is no reason why you should be fumbling for anything once the interview is in progress. In front of you you should have:
A copy of your resume and the cover letter you sent to the potential employer if you did such a thing.
A copy of the original job posting if you responded to an advertisement.
Your research notes about the company you are being interviewed by
Pens, pencil and notebook
If at all possible you should try to be near your computer or lap top as well. Chances are that your interviewer will be and it may be that during the course of the interview you will have an opportunity to use one of your online job hunting postings, like your blog or your Linkedin profile, to your advantage, by directing the interviewer to surf to it along with you.
Remove as Many Distractions as Possible
As the time for the phone interview approaches, decide where you are going to take the call and then remove as many distractions as possible. Turn the radio or TV off and close any windows. If there are other people at home ask them to stay out of the room where you will be taking the interview phone call and if there are kids in the house it may be best if they went to a sitter for the duration of the interview in the same way as they would if you were scheduled to attend an in person interview.
Make it clear to anyone who remains in the house that this is a serious job interview and you cannot be disturbed until it is over. And if you are going to be taking the call on your “house” phone make sure everyone else stays off the phone for at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled interview time to ensure that you do not miss the call.
Get Your Posture Right
There are those that say it is best to stand when participating in a phone interview but really you should sit, stand, lean, do whatever is most comfortable for you. It is important though that your posture is good enough that you can breathe deeply and speak clearly but also be relaxed. Do not walk around while being interviewed, even if it seems to relieve a few nerves, as even in the fittest of people that is likely to cause a certain breathlessness that will come across over the phone to your interviewer.
Addressing your Interviewer
Until and unless you are invited to do otherwise, use your interviewer’s full title when speaking to them as in “Mr Jones” or “Ms Smith”. As you speak you should be aware of your tone, and the pace at which you are speaking. Do not speak too fast and make sure you enunciate your words clearly, speaking directly into the telephone. Avoid using slang, phrases such as “like” (as in I was like a really good assistant, it’s off-putting to say the the least) and try to avoid “erm” and “um” as far as possible as well.
And if your interviewer pauses, and there is silence for a few moments, do not feel the need to babble just to fill the pause. It may be that your interviewer is taking, or reviewing , their own notes. Wait patiently until they are ready to begin again.
Avoid One Word Yes and No Answers
Your interview time is likely to be short and you need to make the most of every minute of it, so answering an interviewer’s questions with simple yes and no answers is really missing an opportunity every time you do so. Always try to offer a little more information that highlights your suitability for the position and/or your genuine interest in the job.
Ending the Call the Right Way
Try to end the call with one last, intelligent sounding question for the interviewer and then once that has been answered re-state your interest in the position that is under discussion, ending with the statement that you would like the chance to discuss it further in person.
Should an employer inquire about your salary requirements the phone interview is not the time to get into these sorts of negotiations. Instead say something along the lines if that you don’t know enough yet about the job and company to realistically give a figure.
Ask the interviewer what the time frame is for a decision on which candidates will proceed further in the interview process will be made and make a note of their answer. Finally thank the interviewer for their time and interest, stating that you look forward to speaking with them again soon. Do not hang up the phone until you hear the other party do so first.
Written Follow Up
A written thank you note as a follow up is proper etiquette. It can be in the form of an email but a handwritten communication will make a much bigger impact. The note does not have to be too long. Something like the following is more than enough and sets the right tone:
Dear Ms. Jones,
I appreciate the time you spent on the telephone with me today discussing the Assistant Human Resources Director position. I enjoyed our discussion and look forward to continuing it in person at a formal interview in the near future.
The Actual Interview Questions
Now that you understand the general best practices for participating in a phone interview it will be helpful if you review common phone interview questions and prepare some answers to them that will impress. No phone interview will follow a script and you may be asked many other questions but theses are some of the most asked:
Phone Interview Questions about You
What are you looking for in your next job? What is important to you in a job?
What do you think is your greatest weakness?
What is think is your greatest strength?
How would you describe the pace at which you work?
How do you handle stress and pressure?
Do you have a special technique?
What motivates you in your career?
Tell me about yourself.
Questions About Your Previous Employment and Experiences
Be prepared to answer questions about the names of former employers and specific dates of employment first. This is a technique that many interviewers use to make sure that candidates give the same answers as are listed on their resume. You may very well also be asked questions like:
What were your responsibilities? –
What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?
Why did you leave the job?
Did you enjoy that position?
If you are a veteran you already know that sometimes answering these questions can be hard, especially for the newly discharged. However, if you follow what you have in place on your resume you will be just fine.
Questions about the Position you are Applying For
What interests you about this job?
What applicable attributes / experience do you have?
What do you know about our company? What is about the company that makes you want to join us?
What new challenges are you hoping to get from this job?
Review these questions and spend some time deciding how you would answer these kinds of queries. However you choose to do so, there are two golden rules you should abide by. First, never, ever bad mouth or complain about a former employer, colleague or supervisor. Some interviewers will actually try to get you to do so, but do not be drawn in. Even if it was the worst job in the world and you left under the most dreadful of circumstances try to make it sound like you had a positive experience there. Secondly, never be tempted to over embellish anything and never, ever lie, as it will always catch up with you in the end!