Ace Your Interview – Top 10 Tips for Mastering Phone Interviews
Before we share our Top 10 Tips to sharpen your phone interviewing prowess, let’s clarify 3 things:
- For YOU the purpose of the phone interview is to continue to move the interview process forward. Whether that means scheduling the next phone call, online interview, or in-person meeting, the purpose of the phone interview is to demonstrate why you are the right person for the company and to move the needle one step closer to landing that dream job.
- For the EMPLOYER the purpose of the phone interview is to ensure that you have the core competencies, prior work experience, and “fit factor” to make a positive contribution to their company.
- While some phone interviews may last up to 1 hour, usually this occurs only when the interview is conducted directly with a Hiring Manager. Most phone interviews are scheduled for 30 minutes. But don’t get discouraged if your phone interview lasts for only 10 or 15 minutes — especially if it is conducted by a Talent Acquisition professional. It may be more of a phone “screen” rather than a phone interview. If they are not the decision-maker, the interviewer may just be quickly confirming what appealed to them when they reviewed your resume to determine if they want to move you onto the next stage of the interview process.
Mastering The Phone Interview:
- The Basics – Make sure you’re in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted; have water on hand in case your throat gets dry; and go to the restroom before your interview so you can focus fully on your conversation. Fully charge your phone prior to your call because a dead phone in the middle of a phone interview is not confidence inspiring. Also have a paper and pen so you can take notes to jot down key information about the role, answers to questions you ask the interviewer, and tidbits from the conversation you can use to write a great thank you note.
- On a phone interview, your voice is your main way of conveying interest and enthusiasm since the interviewer can’t see your facial expression or body language. You want to be yourself, but specifically you want to be the most upbeat version of you. So, smile while you’re talking because that will shine through your voice, helping you to feel calmer and come across as a positive and pleasant person the interviewer can envision as a great new member of the team. Also, on a phone interview it’s harder to tell when someone is done talking than it is when you’re looking at them, so wait a beat or two before jumping in to ensure that the other person is done speaking.
- Dress for success and sit up straight in your chair. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, when you dress in something at least business casual, you will be in a more professional frame of mind. PJs or sweats can lead to being overly casual or relaxed which may come across as not taking the opportunity seriously. Sitting up straight or even standing will come through in your voice.
- Before your interview, brainstorm likely questions and practice answers out loud. While it’s best not to memorize answers to keep your responses sounding authentic, practicing aloud gives you an opportunity to become familiar with the key points you want to make and helps you get comfortable with talking about yourself in a professional way. Even if the interview questions include some you haven’t prepared for, just by knowing yourself, your goals, and your skills, and being experienced with talking about yourself in a professional capacity, you can usually come up with a solid response.
- Be sure you know who is responsible for calling who – and answer the phone professionally by introducing yourself: “Hi, this is (YOUR NAME.)
- A huge benefit of a phone interview is that you can have notes in front of you to prompt responses. You never want to read from them but, for example, if a question comes up about Why This Company, you can reference information about the company that you researched. Or you can keep a bullet pointed list of what they’re looking for and your matching experiences so when you answer questions, you have those points to jog your memory and guide your responses. Also, always have a copy of your resume handy to prompt your thoughts if they ask you something about a specific point on your resume.
- Listen carefully for what the interviewer is really asking and for any clues as to what they’re looking for based on what they say during the interview in addition to what you’ve seen in the posting, online, or in prior conversations with company employees or representatives. If you’re not clear on what the interviewer is looking for, go ahead and clarify. For example, you might say, “I want to make sure I’m giving you the information you need to assess my candidacy. To confirm, are you interested in hearing about ______________ (whatever it is you believe they are asking)”. Listening skills are an important part of any job, and it’s much better to clarify than to speak for a full minute about something the interviewer has no interest in or that doesn’t address their question. Save this for when you really need it, preferably not more than once during the interview.
- Throughout the conversation ask engaging questions. Don’t assume the person you are speaking with interviews every day. They too may need help guiding the conversation. Here are a few questions you could ask during the conversation (especially if not covered).
In the beginning of a phone conversation ask questions you can use to provide information about yourself that is directly relevant to the requirements of the role:
What are the key responsibilities of this position?
Who does the position report to and what is their title?
What are the top qualities you are looking for in a candidate?
In the middle of a phone conversation to learn more about the role:
What challenges might I face in the first 3-6 month of assuming the role?
How is success measured for this position?
At the end of a phone conversation:
How would you describe the company culture?
Is there anything else I can tell you about myself that will help you to feel confident I am the right person for this role?
What are next steps? Or when can I expect to hear from you next?
- Reiterate your interest in the position with enthusiasm. If you felt the conversation went well, and you are interested in next steps, let the interviewer know. Make sure you have the interviewer’s contact information for follow-up.
- Write a “Killer” Thank You Note that “sells” your “sizzle. But that’s a whole other topic for future discussion.
Nick Malefyt is the Director of Professional Staffing at Patel Consultants Corporation and a 28-year veteran of the recruiting and staffing industry. He has been featured on TV, online, on podcasts and in print on topics including networking, resume writing, interviewing, and interview follow-up. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lori Ginsberg is the owner of Interview Ace – Coaching by Lori where she works with clients ranging from students new to the job search to experienced professionals looking for their next great opportunity to those looking to change career paths. With 20 years of experience as a corporate executive at Fortune 100 companies, she has been on both sides of the interviewing desk and successfully coaches clients all the way from cultivating interview opportunities to landing great offers. She can be reached at InterviewAceCoaching@gmail.com for more information and a Career Acceleration Consultation.