Phone Interview Tips:
So you have scheduled a phone interview – congratulations! Now what do you do? Well, the first thing you need to do is understand that the initial phone interview has little to do with describing your skills, education, and work history. So what the heck is the interview all about? Today’s phone interview tips will provide some insight into how you can knock your interviewer’s socks off.
After all, the goal is to progress to the next level. Right?
Make a Note of the Interview Details
It seems silly that I have to go through these elementary phone interview tips, but seasoned professionals flunk these basics just like junior-level candidates do.
They are important. As an interviewer, it infuriates me when I call a candidate during our scheduled interview time and they don’t answer. Or worse yet, they do answer but it is clear that they had forgotten I was going to call or were just not prepared.
It not only shows a lack of organizational and time management skills, but it also makes me feel that the candidate isn’t that interested. I walk away feeling they don’t care about what I am offering.
Obtain clarity regarding the who and what.
I once called a candidate during our scheduled interview and she said: “I am sorry, what is the name of your company? And what job did I apply for?”
eeeek. IT WAS A SCHEDULED CALL.
Needless to say, we didn’t speak for long. Be sure to write down the interviewer’s name and title. If you have a good rapport with the individual who is coordinating the interview, ask him or her about your interviewer’s personality as well as hot buttons so you know what to expect.
And, listen, I get that you may be sending out hundreds of resumes, but be sure you are clear when it comes to the company and the specific job you will be discussing during the interview. After all, if it is a scheduled interview, there is no excuse for not being prepared.
Go beyond just noting the date and time of the interview.
Even if you are extremely excited to be interviewing with this company, do not be one of those people who think they will remember the appointment. And beyond adding the interview to your calendar, I recommend you set alarms.
Yep – I did use the plural alarms. Set one alarm at least one day before the interview and another one 15 minutes before. Why?
Because You Need To Prepare For That Interview
Phone interview tips will always include instructions for preparing, but I like to compartmentalize the preparation activities into two categories.
A day or so before the interview:
Hiring Managers have high expectations for those candidates who make it to the interview stage. All too often, however, job seekers fail to do the research necessary to be fully prepared for an effective interview. Here are some things to focus on a day or so before the interview.
Have a strong knowledge of the company.
When I am interviewing an candidate for an internal position, I always ask if they have reviewed our website. An honest “no” means the interview is finished. A dishonest “yes” is ferretted out when I ask the question: “Great, what about our mission and services resonated with you the most?”
You should never participate in any type of interview with an HR representative or Hiring Manager without having researched the company.
While you may be applying to multiple positions, Hiring Managers want to believe that you have specifically chosen to apply and interview for their particular position. Keep in mind that the Hiring Manager is ultimately responsible for your success as a new hire, so if you can’t articulate how working for this particular company in this particular role will enable you to grow your career goals, you are not likely to progress to a second interview.
You may be asking where you can go to conduct such research.
Start at the company’s website.
Company websites will typically outline the company’s flagship product or service. You will also gain a sense of the company’s mission and history. I also recommend you take a look at their management team as you can gain a better understanding of the foundations and focus of the company based on management’s education and background.
to review both the company profile as well as the profiles of some of the employees who work there. This review will give you some concept of the company culture as well as additional insight into the company’s mission.
Conduct a basic Google search for the company name.
I find a ton of information on companies by just searching “Company ABC” AND “News” in the Google Search Bar. You can do a similar search to better understand the company’s financial situation. Just simply search “Company ABC” AND “Finances” or a similar term in the Google Search Bar to see if there are any issues you should be concerned about.
Always take a look at industry-specific websites.
Websites such as ClinicalTrials.gov offer a wealth of information as you will learn additional information on their past and current studies.
Know who you are speaking to.
Knowing the name and role of the interviewer will enable you to research that person. Is he/she on LinkedIn, Facebook, or other Social Media sites? Are you able to see the individual’s education or work history? Are you able to find the individual on the Internet anywhere (local news articles, volunteer programs, etc.)?
The mission of the interview is to connect with your interviewer. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your interviewer the more likely you will be able to build a relationship with him or her during the interview. And building an effective rapport is key. I have often hired individuals that I felt a connection to over individuals who may have otherwise been more qualified.
Be familiar with Behavioral Interview methods.
Being able to provide real-life examples is critical when it comes to proving you have the experience your resume represents. This is where behavioral interviewing comes into play…many know this as the STAR interview method.
This particular interview style trips up both seasoned and novice professionals, so spend some time preparing. We have simplified this interview approach in an article titled “Two Simple Rules of Behavioral Interviewing“. And because we want you to succeed, our “Preparing for a Behavioral Interview“ provides several sample questions that are specific to our industry. These phone interview tips will definitely help you knock the interviewer’s socks off!
The day of the interview:
Your phone and connectivity.
We used to recommend candidates use landlines because cell phone connectivity can be fickle. Most folks don’t have landlines now, so I will ask you to think of two things:
- Charge your phone. Seriously. You wouldn’t believe the number of times we call a candidate during a scheduled interview and their cell phone dies during the appointment.
- Make sure you are in a location that has excellent cell coverage. And along those lines, I recommend that you steer clear of Bluetooth headsets or ear devices because this is just another potential failure point. It would be silly to lose an opportunity for your dream job because you lose connectivity while you are speaking to the Hiring Manager.
And one more thing: never use the speaker feature during an interview. Outside of the obvious quality concern, CRA candidate fraudulence is a real issue and speakers allow someone else in the room to feed you information. Hiring Managers know this. Recruiters know this. Just don’t do it.
Have the Right Resume In Front of You.
Always have a copy of your resume in front of you…but make sure it is the same version the interviewer has. If you are working with a high-quality recruiter, they likely tailored your resume and cover letter for the position, so be sure you have that version printed out and in front of you.
Why does this matter? The Hiring Manager is going to ask you to walk through your work history. As you go through your resume you want to be sure you are on the same page (literally) as the Hiring Manager, so always make sure the resume version you and the Hiring Manager have are the same.
Be in a Quiet Place.
You should plan on being in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed or distracted. This is your time to shine, so don’t put yourself in the position to have to keep the dogs quiet or worry about the baby waking up from her nap. I have even had candidates take interviews with me while driving! My goodness, these are not candidates I would ever put in front of a client.
Instead, I would recommend you sit at a desk, and if you don’t have a desk in your home, sit at your dining table. This is not a time to sit on your comfy couch and have a relaxed conversation. You need to be 100% tuned in and you can’t do that if you are in a relaxed setting. Make it a goal to be fully dedicated and fully focused.
Which brings me to this phone interview tip:
During the Interview
Listen, Listen, Listen.
The interview isn’t supposed to be a formal question-and-answer session. The best interviews are discussions…which means you must actively listen (hopefully the interviewer will listen too).
Don’t be transactional in your interview. Your mission should be to have a real discussion with a real person, so make the time spent with the interviewer count.
This also means that if you can’t hear your interviewer because their connection is poor, you tell them. And if you don’t understand a question posed by your interviewer, seek clarity before you make crapola up.
If the interviewer is late…
Reach out to the individual who coordinated the interview right away. I recommend you only give the individual five to six minutes before inquiring. It shows you were prepared for the interview but also shows that you are great at follow-up.
Silly but important phone interview tips:
If you tend to get nervous for interviews, dress up in your professional attire; people always feel much more confident when they have their business suits and dress shoes on!
You should also consider having a mirror in front of you during the interview so that you can smile into it while talking! I know this sounds silly but ‘smiling and dialing’ has been around for decades because it works. The tone of your voice will be positive and your interviewer will notice.
Additionally, I recommend that you write ‘Slow Down’ on several sticky notes and post them everywhere you may look while on the interview. Nervousness will cause you to speak quickly, and you must speak concisely and slowly, as well as sound confident and passionate about working with the company you are interviewing with.
Closing the Interview
Believe me when I tell you that Hiring Managers want you to express your interest in the job. You will find many articles that tell you to ask for feedback and while this is true in theory, you have to be careful about how you ask for that feedback.
Simply asking if they believe you will be a good fit for the team is a very dangerous approach as you are inviting both positive and negative feedback. You should only ask for positive feedback! Make sure you ask for the specific skills and qualities you possess that make you a perfect fit for the opportunity. Trust me, this approach is highly effective.
Once the interviewer provides the feedback you have requested, it will be easy for you to ask what the next steps are. Or better yet, ask when you can start! In all instances, make sure you thank the interviewer for his or her time. You should do this verbally at the close of the interview, and then follow up with a well-crafted thank you note.
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