32 Essential Phone Interview Tips
As employers become more selective and as the popularity of remote and work from home positions increases, telephone interviews are becoming a more typical part of the job application process. Phone interviews give employers a chance to ask questions, get a better feel for your personality, and see if you pass their initial interview requirement and filters. On the other side, phone interviews give you, the potential employee, an opportunity to respond to potential employer questions, present your skills and experience, talk about your ideas for the role and ask any questions you might have about the job or company.
Telephone interviews have their pitfalls and if you’re not very good on the phone, they can be a little nerve wracking. Without the presence of physical feedback through body language and facial expressions, it can be harder to build rapport with your interviewer and to get a feel for how well your answers are being accepted.
Applicants should expect to be asked in depth questions about their previous work, their goals, their future plans, their ideas for the role they are applying for, and should not be surprised to find telephone interviews even more challenging than face to face meetings. At the phone interview stage, interviewers are looking to eliminate rather than hire. Impress any phone interviewer and secure your in-person interview by using these use these 32 essential phone interview tips.
Organizing Phone Interviews
Just as with face to face interviews, keeping on top of your appointments and applications is crucial. Make sure you have a working system for keeping track of every job you apply for so that when recruiters call, you sound prepared and organized.
Do: Keep an online or paper file for current applications, with names of personnel, the job description, your application and job-specific resume and any other relevant details.
Do: Put all interviews, application deadlines, follow up calls and appointments with recruiters on your calendar. Forgetting about a telephone interview can be even more embarrassing than failing to show up in person, as the interviewer is still going to call to talk to you.
Don’t: Accept unscheduled interview calls. Many employment screeners will call without warning for a ‘chat’ that might turn out to be a telephone interview in disguise, so if you’re not prepared or it’s not a good time, it’s best to screen the call or answer and set up a callback appointment - politely let them know that you’re not currently available to talk freely, and ask when you can schedule a conversation.
Don’t: Assume that a telephone interview is a casual chat. This call is an opportunity for the interviewer to filter you from their pool of applicants so its imperative for you to take the call seriously and sell yourself.
Telephone interviews take practice and preparation. Because you will be asked similar questions and be required to have a good knowledge of the company and role you are applying for, you should do just as much or more research and preparation for a telephone interview as a you would for a face to face meeting. A phone interview also deprives you of personal interaction with the interviewer so what you say and how you say it has an even bigger impact. Here are some ways in which you can stand out from other phone applicants and be memorable.
Do: Thoroughly research both the role and the company online. Read up on the job description., latest projects, charity partnerships, major business news and other company events to show that you are really interested in the job and the company.
Do: See if you can find any information on the person interviewing you to get an idea of how they work and what they might be looking for. Check out their company profiles, LinkedIn pages and professional achievements. In most cases, this may not be possible as telephone interviews are often conducted by more recruitment focussed staff.
Do: Print out a copy of your resume, review it, and highlight important items. This will be helpful if your interviewer asks you to go into depth about a past position or past accomplishments.
Do: Prepare some notes for refreshing your memory, but limit them to covering things like statistics or experiences that you want to be able to quote with confidence.
Do: Practice with friends or family members. A mock phone interview will help get rid of nerves and sharpen your interview technique, so ask someone to go through a practice run and give you honest feedback.
Don’t: Make vague, unorganized notes and assume that because the interviewer can’t see, you will have time to recall or scan your resume for the information you need during the interview. Experienced interviewers can tell the difference between a candidate who is thoroughly prepared and one who is scrambling.
When You Answer the Phone
By the time the interviewer calls, you should be fully prepared and seated in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for the next hour, to hour and a half. Make sure you are comfortable and have a glass of water on hand. Set your phone to forward other calls, or set it on silent to prevent interruptions.
Do: Smile! This gives your voice a more positive inflection and makes you sound more energized. It also gives your voice a more pleasing tone, and makes it sound warm and friendly.
Do: Relax! It’s easy to tell when someone is nervous on the phone, and it’s likely to count against you. If you find yourself talking too fast, quietly take a sip of water or a couple of deep breaths, or if it helps, quietly pace around the room.
Do: Remember that the interview starts the moment you answer the phone, no matter how informal the recruiter may sound.
Do: Remember that the telephone interviewer may be speaking to hundreds of people about a role, so the need to stand out is just as urgent as it is during the resume stage.
Don’t: Rustle papers as you talk. It is distracting to you and the interviewer. This will also give the interviewer the impression that you can’t have a conversation without referring to notes, and will make them feel you’re not fully focussed on your conversation.
During the Interview
Telephone interviewers will sometimes give you an idea of how long you can expect the call to last. This can tell you a lot about the depth of answers you can expect to give. If you’ve been told to expect a short call, be prepared to give succinct but comprehensive answers and go into detail if further questions are asked. If you know the call will last up to an hour or more, give more detailed answers to each question, and avoid giving short responses when you have an opportunity to mention a relevant achievement or selling point.
Do: Listen carefully to questions and try to delay thinking of your answer until the interviewer has finished speaking.
Do: Take a second to organize your thoughts before you speak, and don’t feel you have to fill every second with the sound of your own voice. Pauses can feel awkward on the phone, but they are normal and are not as bad as you think. It is much better to have a formulated response than to rush in and be jumbled.
Do: Take very brief notes as you talk or jot down important points immediately after the call. In many cases, passing a telephone interview is just the first stage of the recruitment process, and you may be expected to build on what you learn during this conversation if you are called in for another interview.
Do: Pay attention to your sentence structure, grammar, and choice of words.
Do: Sound enthusiastic and full of energy without going over the top. Try to reflect the interviewer’s tone and rhythm in your own speech.
Don’t: Avoid the common filler words ‘like’, ‘kind of’, ‘um,’ and ‘er’. These words can make you sound unsure of yourself and somewhat immature.
Don’t: Allow yourself to become distracted. The temptation to view an incoming text message or look up to see who just walked past your window could harm your concentration at a crucial moment. Turn off screens, other devises and close drapes if necessary.
Don’t: Let your guard down. This is an interview, not a chat, so remain professional and composed no matter how personable and friendly your interviewer might seem. This is a common tactic used to weed out people with a tendency to speak before they think.
Don’t: Make negative comments about former employers or coworkers. Nothing is more unattractive than dwelling on past negative experiences. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, or find a way to acknowledge the bad experience and quickly transition the focus to the positive learnings or outcomes.
Don’t: Avoid questions you don’t know the answer to. If you are not sure or need to check a detail, be honest and say so, then offer to email the information over after the call.
One great thing about telephone interviews is that you have preparation time before the call to write down a few really good questions to ask the interviewer, and because you’re on the phone, you also have the opportunity to have these questions in front of you during the call for reference.
Do: Make note of questions you have about the job responsibilities or the company and make a note of them during your preparation stages.
Do: Prepare more questions than you intend to ask. This way if the interviewer covers details during the call that answer any of the questions you had written, you have several other options to use when they formally give you the opportunity to ask questions.
Don’t: Ask your questions straight away, as this is likely to derail the interview process and make you look impatient. Always wait to be asked whether you have questions, unless it specifically relates to a topic you cover during an earlier part of the interview.
Ending the Interview
When the interview draws to a close, finish with a strong, confident statement.
Do: Thank the interviewer for their time and let them know that you are very interested in the role and in working for their company.
Do: Ask them what the next stage of the hiring process is, and when you can expect to hear from them.
Do: Send a follow up email afterwards to thank them for their time. In this email, express your eagerness to hear back. Restate anything that may have set you apart from other candidates during your phone interview. Briefly cover how you plan to apply your experience and talents to the job responsibilities and remind them that you are excited at the prospect of working for the company.
Don’t: Pester the interviewer for specific details about things they haven’t willingly offered already or ask them if you can expect a second interview.
By Staff Writer, SimplyJobs