Apparently, employers conduct phone interviews for several reasons: they want to get a bird’s-eye view of the applicants’ knowledge and personalities; they want to see who among the applicants is best suited to their needs and corporate values and culture; and they are cutting down hiring expenses for travel (but still keeping out-of-town candidates). The bottom line is that employers conduct phone interviews to cut down the number of candidates invited for in-person interviews. They are simplifying the process so that they can focus on only the best applicants during the final stages.
Handling the Initial Contact
- Be professional in answering initial updates. Typically, you will be advised of the phone interview via phone call, mail, or e-mail. The first few reminders are passive contacts in which you and the representative of the company will have no direct interaction. When the company contacts you, be professional no matter how bad the timing may be. Also, check your e-mail frequently.
- Remind your roommates or family members. Tell them that a job-related call may come anytime. They also have to be prepared.
- Be perky and interested. Make an effort to sound really attentive and involved in the company. No matter whom you’re speaking with, you want to leave a positive impression.
- Clarify the date and time schedule. Double-check the important information. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for the names of the interviewers and whoever else might be listening while you’re being interviewed over the phone.
Preparing for the Phone Interview
- Do your research. Start gathering as much information about the company as you can. However, be sure to use reliable sources such as corporate websites, government agencies, and trade journals. Know the company’s key strengths, research the interviewer’s web presence (if you know his or her name), and use your social media data gathering techniques to track down vital information.
- Review the job description. Read the company’s advertisement over and over again, and be prepared to match the requisite skills and qualities with yours.
- Write down possible questions and answers. Start by jotting down your previous job achievements. Be specific, and use numbers and quantities. For example, you could specify how much sales improved instead of just saying that there was an increase.
- Practice with someone. Rehearse possible answers with a friend, a family member, or a mentor and then record it. Listen to the recording and determine the parts you need to improve: vocal sounds, pitch, tone, delivery, etc. You should sound interested yet natural.
Making a Good Impression
- Stay organized. Show that you are prepared by having your resume in hand and research notes ready. Organize and put your files and papers near the phone for easy access. All of these documents should be within reach in case you need a particular bit of information.
- Be punctual. Punctuality is not just for in-person interviews. Set reminders for yourself prior to the phone interview, and stay near the phone during the half-hour prior to the interview. When answering, greet the interviewer with a formal and professional tone. It is also advisable to smile during the interview, as this will convey a lively personality.
- Be formal. Unless the interviewer specifically directed you to address him or her by his or her first name, address the interviewer formally. Make it a point to always be polite, no matter what.
- Use a normal and friendly tone. When enunciating words, speak clearly and concisely. Do not interrupt the interviewer with your “ahs” and “ums.” It’s okay to pause for a while to provide an appropriate answer for a question, but remember not to make it too long.
At the end of the session, don’t forget to thank the interviewer. Then, send another letter of appreciation via mail or e-mail. Do a post-interview follow-up every once in a while to draw the company’s attention to you and boost your chances of getting a final-round interview. With these suggestions, you can make the phone interview a positive experience that leads to a successful career.