Nearly all senior- and executive-level jobs today require a phone interview as a preliminary step in the hiring process. Sometimes there may even be multiple telephone conversations before you ever setfoot in the company’s office. While phone interviews can be a huge time saver for both employers and candidates alike, they also present their share of challenges. Without the benefit of visual communication, there is no way to read the body language of your interviewer. Likewise, your interviewer cannot see the expression on your face or get information from your hand gestures. Because of this, it is important to learn how to approach a phone interview in a way that maximizes the verbal aspects of your conversation.
- Do not participate in a phone interview via your cellular telephone. Can you hear me now? I was actually working a few weeks ago with a client who was travelling up the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut and the call got dropped no fewer than three times. We both became frustrated, finally gave up, and rescheduled.
- When calls come in unexpectedly or at an inopportune time, do not answer the phone. Unless you are in a position to have an undisturbed discussion on a reliable line, it is probably better to let the call go to voicemail. As a side note, if you are in the process of hunting for a new job please be sure to record a professional message in your own voice so that callers will feel comfortable leaving you a message. When you do get a message, respond as promptly as possible.
- Once you have set up a time for a full-fledged phone interview, you should be in a place where you will not be interrupted. No barking dogs, screaming children, or loud music in the background. You may also want to shut off the volume on your computer to be sure the sound of incoming emails will not be a distraction. Have your résumé in front of you and place a glass of water nearby in case your mouth gets dry. You do not want to choke up!
- Before the conversation, you should practice answering some basic interview questions. What is the reason you are considering a new role? What have you been doing most recently? What are some concrete examples of your most impressive accomplishments? While each interviewer asks slightly different questions, by being prepared and practicing your answers, you will fare better. Since you don’t have the benefit of body language, be sure to use voice intonations to get your message across. Consider standing up while you talk – your voice will project better; and you will likely get into the ‘mood’ of the interview.
- Two of the worst habits that even the most experienced candidates have are talking for too long and interrupting. Wait until the interviewer asks the full question. Once the question is posed, be sure to answer it succinctly and keep your answer brief. No monologues; pause to allow the interviewer to ask another question.
- Be prepared with a few questions of your own. Print out important information from the web in advance. If it helps, make notes for yourself. That is one nice thing about a phone interview. You can’t exactly bring flash cards to an in-person interview now, can you?
By treating all phone interviews with importance and preparing well, you can make a positive impression that will lead you to next steps in the process. The goal of a phone interview is to take things to the next level or rule out the opportunity if it is not an ideal fit. Be sure to ask good questions in order to determine if this is the right role for you. Interviewing is a two way street. Once you decide you do want to pursue the position, ask what you can expect in terms of a second interview. Do not forget to get the full name, correct spelling, and contact information of the person interviewing you so you can send a nice thank you note.