Job hunting is a long and tricky process. You ’ve researched dozens of potential companies, perfected your CV, and sent out dozens of personalized cover letters and letters…and finally, you get a response! Congrats, a recruiter has reviewed all your qualifications and you’ve been selected for an interview. The catch? It’s a phone interview.
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Many companies use phone interviews as an initial employment screening to narrow down a large candidate pool before scheduling face-to-face interview slots or to speak with potential hires that are non-local or out-of-town. While their are some who prefer phone interviews for removing some of the formalities and travel stress of the in-person meeting, many of us dread the awkwardness of having to describe our past experiences and stand-out qualities in a single chat. If you’re a job applicant feeling unsure of how to ace that brief conversation, practice these tips and you’re almost guaranteed to make it to the next round.
1. Choose Your Location Wisely
Unlike, going in the office to meet with your potential employers, phone interviews allow you to control your own interview environment. Make sure you choose an interview time that allows you to sit still and free from distractions for at least 30 minutes. Your interviewer doesn’t want to strain to hear you over the bustling sound of a busy café or a packed subway car.
Ideally, you should be in a quiet room at home and take the call on a landline to ensure the clearest connection. Eliminate all possible distractions including friends/kids/pets from your room and make sure you don’t have the TV blaring or music playing in the background.
And if you do end up on a cell, make sure your phone is fully charged and call-waiting is turned off to avoid any unexpected interruptions.
2. Greet Your Interviewer By Name
Start your interview off strongly by greeting your interviewer warmly and using their name (and preferably professional title) when you answer the phone. The last thing you want to do is appear unprepared or worse irritated by the call by picking up with a hesitant “um…Hello?” Have your phone out on a table so you’re prepared to answer after only one or two rings, and keep your tone positive and friendly by politely asking your interviewer about their day/mood before diving into the main questions.
3. Write a “Cheat Sheet
One of the greatest advantages of the phone interview for job candidates is the ability to have all your talking points physically laid out in front of you during the interview. It’s likely that your interviewer will ask you to briefly “walk them through” your career history, so print a hard copy of your résumé as an easy reference point. When you’re nervous it’s easy to rush through the conversation and miss-out on key details so jot down a couple of memorable work anecdotes and big accomplishments you want to remember to mention. Its also a smart idea to prep 3-4 questions about the role that you can seamlessly bring up at the end of the interview.
Just be careful not to sound too robotic or like you’re reading from a script!
4. Ditch the Pajamas
One way to instantly set yourself up for failure is by going into the mindset that this isn’t as “big a deal” as a face-to-face interview, so you don’t have to treat it as seriously. While it’s tempting to take a call in your PJs or between running to the grocery store, your interviewer deserves the same respect and attention that you would give to any other scheduled appointment. So, make sure you’re well-rested, showered, and ready to go well before that phone rings. By mentally and physically prepping yourself for the day and putting on real, professional clothing you’ll instantly be putting yourself in a more confident and alert mindset during the conversation.
5. Speak Slowly and Breathe
While face-face conversations allow for nonverbal if the other person is feeling bored/excited by the things you’re saying, it’s way harder to judge someone’s tone over the phone. Although you may be eager to start listing off your qualifications never start speaking until the interviewer finishes the question. If you have something you want to say, jot it down on your notepad and mention it when it’s your turn to talk. Before giving an answer take a calming breath and plan out your entire answer like a story with a clear middle and end. This way you’ll prevent injecting your speech with a bunch of mindless “likes” and “ums” or trailing off into an awkward silence.
6. Ask Lots of Questions
Along with slowing your speech, an excellent way to prevent coming off like a motor-mouth is by making sure to ask questions to the person on the other end of the line. Remember, an interview isn’t an interrogation, and its just as important to learn if the potential role is a good fit for your needs as well as meeting the needs of the company. Instead of saving all your questions and concerns for the end of the call, go with the natural flow of the conversation by asking your interviewer to expand more on certain benefits they mention or even asking them to walk you through a typical workday with this organization.
People love to talk about themselves, so make sure you give them the option to spill all the details.
7. Confirm Next Steps
The closing is one of the most difficult parts of the phone interview to navigate. While traditional interviewers will end the conversation with a firm handshake and a “it was great speaking with you,” phone calls risk lingering with Make sure you ask your interviewer for all the necessary follow up information before hanging up, including what the next step in the interview process looks like, a timeline of when/how potential candidates should expect to be notified if selected for a second round interview, and a number/email to contact with any further questions.
Oh also, definitely make sure you’ve ended the call! (No interviewee wants their last impression to involve 30-seconds of static or muffled street noises after they thought they’ve signed off).
Follow these tips and you’re almost guaranteed that follow-up!
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