How To Succeed in a Phone Interview

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Phone interviews are becoming a common part of job searches. But don’t assume that scoring a phone interview is a sure sign of success; instead, look at it as a stepping-stone to get in front of key decision makers. Here are some guidelines to help you make the short list of candidates that get a face-to-face interview.

Know the Common Types of Interviews

Employers often conduct multiple rounds of interviews during the hiring process, and it’s very likely that some of these will be done over the phone. As you try to get past each round, it will be important to know the audience and purpose of each kind of interview to be successful.  

  • In an interview with a recruiter, the interviewer’s purpose is to validate that your résumé is accurate and that you are capable of fulfilling the position.
  • In an interview with a human resources associate, the purpose is to expand upon your résumé and discover the potential risks and gains of hiring you.
  • In an interview with the hiring manager and key decision makers, the purpose is to find out what your unique value is and if you are a good fit for the organization.

As you prepare to interview, make sure you tailor your Power Statements and a “Me in 30 Seconds” statement for each of the above audiences. And at the beginning of each interview, make an effort to find out who you are speaking with, including their names and positions, so you know how to individualize your answers according to their purposes. This strategy is especially helpful during a phone interview when there are several people on the line.

Prepare for the Interview

Prepare for a phone interview as you would for any other interview. Consider what you would do if you were going to the interview in person—how would you dress or prepare? You’ll want to practice how you will answer common interview questions and how you will address any gaps in your résumé, remembering to make your answers shorter for a phone interview than they would be in a face-to-face interview. While many phone interviews are scheduled in advance, it’s not uncommon for recruiters to call without warning. You may be applying for many different companies, so to make sure you’re always ready, keep a list of all of the companies you have applied for with information about the job positions and your qualifications. Having these research notes on hand will help you do well no matter when they decide to call.

Location, Location, Location

Unlike interviewing at a business office, where you have little control over the environment, doing a phone interview means you get to pick a space that will help you feel confident and comfortable. Make sure you select somewhere that is quiet and secluded from distractions, and before you start your interview, make sure you turn off call waiting—you don’t want to be interrupted by someone calling you during your interview. If you receive a phone interview call that you weren’t expecting, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the interviewer to hold for a moment so you can move to a quieter place. Making sure that they can hear you clearly is a priority during phone interviews, so use a landline phone if available.

What to Bring

Another benefit of phone interviews is that you can have a lot of resources right in front of you during the interview without your interviewer knowing. Here are a few things you might want to have on hand:

  • A bottle of water
  • The résumé and cover letter you used to apply
  • A copy of the job requirements
  • Your “Me in 30 Seconds” statement and Power Statements
  • Notes

As you prepare for your interview, put together some notes that include points you want to cover when answering common interview questions, information you’ve learned about the company or interviewer, and questions you would like to ask. Make sure that as you refer to your notes, you don’t come across as if you’re reading; interviewers will respond much better if you sound authentic. And remember that during the interview isn’t the time to research the company; all of your research should be done in advance. When the interviewer is speaking, focus fully on what they are saying and what your response will be.

During the Interview

The best interviews are a dialogue between the interviewer and interviewee. But phone calls can be challenging because you can’t see who you’re talking to, which means you can’t always gauge their reactions or know when they would like to interject. Over the phone, be especially careful not to interrupt your interviewer. It’s better to pause and make sure they’re done speaking before you answer than to accidentally interrupt them mid-sentence. Try to create a friendly rapport right away by using their name when you address them. And, even though your interviewer can’t see you, try standing up and smiling throughout the interview. These actions will improve your confidence level and can even influence the way you sound on the other end of the line.

Make your questions during the interview count. Use this opportunity to learn all you can about the company, the position, and any key people you’ll need to win over; this will help you prepare for the next stage of interviews. Remember that the purpose of a phone interview is to get a face-to-face meeting. As the phone interview concludes, don’t be afraid to ask for the chance to meet in person.

The biggest thing to remember is that even though it’s not a face-to-face interview (yet), you still need to put time into your preparation to perform well. As you implement these suggestions, you’ll be a step ahead of the competition.

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