Tips for a Phone Interview

by on October 5, 2011

Thousands of employers use telephone interviews in order to identify and recruit employment candidates.  Telephone interviews are typically used to narrow down a long list of candidates and to help identify which prospects will be interviewed personally.  Phone interviews are especially cost effective because they help curtail the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates.

During your active job search you should always be prepared for a phone interview because you never know when a recruiter will call and ask you to spare a few minutes for an interview.  For that reason it’s very important for you to keep in mind a few basic tips that we’ll discuss below.  There are three basic steps that you’ll need to know to be ready for your phone interview:  Be prepared, Interview, and Follow up.

Prepare for Your Phone Interview.

A phone interview is no different from a regular interview, and you need to be prepared in almost the same way.  Start with a blank sheet of paper or word processing document and organize your thoughts (the hardest part of interviewing).  Do some research on the company’s you’ve applied to and make sure you know the basics of what they do and what it is that they want you to do.  Then think about how it is that you can help this employer meet their goals.  Think of your skills and strengths.  Write your thoughts down and put them into bullet points by categories.  Make categories for the different questions and discussion points that you may have during an interview.  Make a list of skills that apply to the job you’re seeking.  For each skill, have an example of how you’ve used that skill to accomplish something in the past.  When you’ve prepared mentally you should have an organized list of talking points and answers.  Now, practice outloud.

Use your cheat sheet and practice interviewing by yourself.  Look up or have a friend give you a practice list of interview questions.  Then, outloud, answer each question.  It will feel wierd at first, but it will really pay off when you have a real phone interview.  The more you speak, the more comfortable you’ll feel when the employer calls.  Don’t use a recited answer, but rather focus on the same points in each question.  Be prepared for questions that aren’t on your list.  If a question is asked that you aren’t prepared for, try to use one of the answers to another question to substitute.  After all, its better to have a response than to sound stunned.  If you can, ask a friend or colleague to practice interviewing you.  If you want, you can record it and then listen yourself to see how you sound.  Try to be clear and concise, and don’t ramble or end your answers mid-thought.

Right before your interview, organize your thoughts and your cheat sheet, resume and a pad of paper and pen.  Turn off call waiting and get rid of all distractions like music, TV, kids and pets.  If you have spotty cell phone reception, ask the interviewer to call you back on a landline.  If something happens and you are not ready for the call, it makes sense to reschedule rather than take the call with distractions.

Ace Your Interview.

When your phone interview takes place, use all of the information and confidence you’ve gotten from your preparation to ace the interview.  Here are some other things to consider during your interview:

  • Do not smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
  • Keep a glass of water handy, in case you need to wet your mouth.
  • Keep smiling as it will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
  • Speak slowly and articulate clearly.
  • Use the person’s title (Mr. or Ms. and their last name.) Use a first name only if they ask you to.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer.
  • Take your time befor answering questions so you can collect your thoughts.
  • Give short and concise answers.
  • After you thank the interviewer ask if it would be possible to meet in person.
  • Ask for the job, or at least ask what the next step to getting the job is.
  • Take notes about what you discussed during the interview.  They will help you during follow up and you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget things during an interview (because of the anxiety).

Follow Up.

Now its time to turn your phone interview into a personal interview.  Use the notes you took and pick out a couple of points that you thought were important.  Email, call and write a letter to the interviewer, depending on how you think they’d like you to respond.  Don’t be afraid to do all three.  And when you call or write them, make sure you fill your conversations with relevant and concise information.  For example, don’t call and thank them for their time, as you will be wasting their current time.  Call and say that you’ve thought about your conversation and that you’re ready to discuss the next steps.  Come up with an idea of how you can help them, and let them know.

If you’ve followed these steps, you’ll have a great shot of reaching the next interview level.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first.  After all, there are often hundreds of candidates per job, so if you succeed more than 5% you may already be ahead of the rest.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shaun April 26, 2012 at 10:24 am

Great tips here! Phone interviews have challenges of their own, and you gave some great advice on how to succeed. Thanks for the article!

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