Many companies use phone interviews as an initial employment screening technique for a variety of reasons. Because they’re generally brief, phone interviews save companies time. Human-resources and hiring managers just don’t have time to grant every promising resume a face-to-face interview.
There are two types of phone interviews — scheduled and unscheduled. Often the first contact for a scheduled one comes by email or via LinkedIn, but theoretically your phone could ring at any time. Unscheduled calls never work in your favor. If you’re caught by surprise, schedule another time to talk. Nobody will blame you for saying something to the effect of, “Great to hear from you. I am not at my desk and won’t be able to give this call the attention it deserves.
To impress a potential employer over the line, you need to be as enthusiastic and prepared as you would be face-to-face. You typically have just two assets – your voice and your preparation! You have to accomplish your goal – selling yourself, your skills, your experience, and your value – with nothing but what comes out of your mouth.
BEFORE THE PHONE INTERVIEW
Do your homework.
Do your homework and prepare great questions to ask. Be happy and confident and be professional. Thoroughly research the company and the interviewer, just as if you were preparing to meet in person. Expect some variation on the question, “What do you know about us?” If you are not able to state the company’s key figures, strategy and markets, the interview might be over after only three minutes. One of the nice things about a phone interview is that you can have your “cheat sheet” in front of you. Prepare questions, these can make or break an interview. Design them with two goals in mind to give you the information you need to determine if you want to go further and to show you are perfect for the job.
Create a comfortable environment.
Handling an interview on the phone can be an extremely difficult task, if you don’t have a lot of experience with phone interviews, you might find them more stressful than live ones. So do everything you can to feel at ease. Shut out distractions and eliminate background noise (for example, from young children and pets).
Always arrange to be in a quiet, well-lit room, free from distractions. Sit in a chair with relevant materials easily in front of you. Give your sole, focused attention to your interviewer, and whenever possible make sure you are on a land-line rather than shaky cell connection. Have a glass of water handy. Print out your resume and mark key parts that you want to highlight in the conversation. Be ready 10 minutes early, so you don’t sound rushed. Have a paper and pen handy, so you don’t have to take notes on your computer during the call — the keyboard clicks might be distracting for the interviewer.
DURING THE PHONE INTERVIEW
Understand that the interview isn’t just about questions and answers
Your interviewer is likely trained to glean from your conversation your level of self-confidence, personality and ability to communicate effectively. Don’t get flustered when uncomfortable questions arise. Understand your red flags and prepare to lower them. While you may be reticent to have to deal with issues like age, employment gaps or frequent job-hopping, you should understand that you can do a great deal to mitigate these issues when you address them head on.
Just answer the question in a non defensive, factual way, be prepared to explain everything on your resume. Any bullet point on your resume might pique the curiosity of your interviewer. Be prepared to give more detail, but don’t take too much time on any one answer.
Listen first and then talk
Usually, the interviewer will set the stage, whenever your interviewer is speaking, do not interrupt them. Wait for them to ask the whole of the question before jumping in with an answer to show that you have good listening skills, Smile while on the phone, you will find that you sound more upbeat and engaged when you do this. Your smiles will be “heard” by the interviewer making for a positive impression.
Create a positive ending. If you really want the job, end the call on a positive note. Say something to the effect of, “Thanks for the call. I am confident I could fill the role.
AFTER THE PHONE INTERVIEW
Send a thank-you note.
Let half a business day go by and then send a brief note. This email should come on the same day, but not immediately after, the call. Confirm your interest in the company, ability to do the job and desire to take things to the next step. Be patient and follow up effectively you won’t necessarily get a reply email to your thank-you note.