How to Handle a Phone Interview

How to interview in different situations ranging from web videoconferences to lunch with an acquaintance and even the dreaded phone interview.

The phone interview arguably requires the least preparation. You don’t have to agonize about your outfit, you can have notes about the company at your disposal, and you even have the ability to use the Web to perform additional research during the conversation. But that doesn’t mean you should approach a phone interview carelessly.

Be passionate

Most companies use the phone interview as an preliminary screening, a low-intensity interview conducted by a junior human-resources staffer to gauge the candidate’s abilities and interest before investing an executive’s time in an in-person interview. But when distance is a factor, phone interviews can take the place of site visits, and they will be intense. Either way, “You want to convey passion and professionalism,” said Deborah Brown-Volkman, a professional certified coach ( PCC ) and the president of a career, life and mentor coaching company. “Answer the phone with lots of energy. For example: ‘It’s nice to meet with you today! I am really looking forward to our interview.’ ” Don’t be afraid to emphasize that you really want a job for fear of sounding desperate, Brown-Volkman counseled. “Say that you are excited about the job, that you are a perfect fit for the job and that you really want this job.”

Be on time

Be ready at the appointed interview time. “I have done plenty of phone interviews where I know I have just woken people up or where there have been all kinds of other things going on in the background. I would encourage full attention,” said Kelly Dingee, a sourcing researcher and executive trainer for AIRS, an executive search firm. Also consider technical issues that must be managed before the start time. “If you use a headset, make sure it is a good one and that you don’t have any noise on the line. Readiness is key.”

Eliminate distractions

“If you have a dog, you need to find a place for that dog to be for the half-hour or 45 minutes that you are doing the phone interview,” Dingee said. “If you are unemployed and you are at home taking care of the kids, you need to schedule the phone interview when you can have quiet time – not so much because you don’t want employers to have insight into your private life but more because you want to be on your game. The less distraction you have, the better.”

Be prepared

Having notes handy in front of you is useful, but Dingee advises candidates to read up on the company, review its Web site and have an understanding of the organization’s priorities. “You need to reflect back on the interviewer (and the company) during the interview and make sure it is about them as much as it is about you. You want them to know that you are genuinely interested and you have done your research,” she said.

Use these common phone interview questions to get an idea of what the interviewer will ask you.

“Phone interviews are quick,” Brown-Volkman noted. “I would make a list of three bullet points that you want to make. If you don’t get them across during the interview, you can wrap up by thanking the interviewer and then ask to leave him or her with three points.”