What’s the big deal? It’s just a phone call! I don’t have to wear my Sunday best, brush my teeth or comb my hair; nobody is going to see me because we’re just talking on the phone, right?
You could certainly approach your first phone interview with that attitude but it’s a fairly sure bet that, if you do so, you won’t get any further in the job interview process.
The hiring manager isn’t calling you to chat; s/he has an agenda to follow.
How you conduct yourself and how you respond, down to the degree of informality you inject into that conversation will decide whether you will be up for further consideration as a future employee or your application will be dismissed altogether.
Today, your Superprof adopts sports analogies to help you figure out what to bring to the game, how to build up your playbook and how to execute the winning plays – to move you from the city to the regional playoffs, as it were.
Why Phone Interviews?
Not so long ago, interviews were conducted strictly face to face. Even when technology afforded everyone the possibility of their own phone number, seldom did anyone conduct job interviews over the phone.
Over time, as budgets became stretched and time of the essence; as applicants came to outnumber the positions needing to be filled, corporations adopted the tactics used by journalists the world over.
Interview subjects can disclose pertinent information over the phone as effectively as in person.
Thus, rather than bearing the cost of flying candidates in and spending precious time on interviews that well-written CVs demanded, HR managers came to realise that they could cull the most eligible candidates by pre-screening them over the phone.
The phone interview was born.
Today, phone interviews are conducted in that same spirit of getting to the point without wasting unnecessary resources.
Potential employers want to know a bit more about you, so they might ask questions about your career goals and which skills you possess that will be pertinent to the position you applied for.
We’ve covered specific interview questions you might be asked during a phone interview in a separate article.
Your phone interview might last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on how satisfactory your answers are; however long it takes for the recruiting team you are talking with to determine you might be a good fit for the job based on your skills, abilities and preferences.
Said preferences might be anything from willing to work the night shift to being willing to relocate.
Once you’ve made an impression over the phone, you – and a substantially shorter list of candidates than the number that sent their CV in will be invited to come in for a face to face interview.
The trick is nailing the phone interview but, even to get that far, you need to write a good cover letter…
Preparing Yourself Intellectually
As we mentioned before, a phone interview is not a casual chat with mates… besides, between texting and Snapchatting, does anyone even use their phone to casually chat with mates anymore?
As you might not have participated in a long phone call in a while and these are not your mates calling, a measure of preparation is necessary.
The first thing to remember is that it is your interview but the interview is not all about you.
You’re quite right in thinking that the person conducting the interview wants to know more about you but they don’t want a barrage of information; they want to know specific things. To learn what these things are, you have to actively listen.
Active listening is an acquired skill that is easy to pick up. Two of the main components of active listening are paying attention and visualising.
Let’s say you’re interviewing for a position in a food processing plant and the interviewer informs you that they’re looking for someone to clean test tubes and Petri dishes in their quality control lab, and the interviewer asks how you feel taking a seemingly menial job.
You should not respond with “In my food chemistry courses, I spent a lot of time in the laboratory and I know all about laboratory equipment.”
True, you have made a vague reference to a lab, but the answer you gave indicates you did not hear the question.
You might practise your listening skills with friends and/or family; in fact, a good technique for interview preparation is conducting a mock interview: provide a trusted other with a list of job interview questions. They will clue you into the vital information you may have missed in their questions.
Interviewing for a job with your parents or an older sibling is also a great way to work out all of those 'umm...'s, 'you see...'s and 'innit's out of your vocabulary before you accidentally spill them all over your interviewers!
Do Your Research
Another important part of interview preparation is researching the company you hope to work with. Fortunately, unlike job seekers in the past, you have a wealth of resources at your disposal.
Online, you can find just about anything you may want to know about any entity worth knowing about. If you can’t find any information online, research similar businesses to find out what they do.
“(similar) Company XYZ does this/has that; how does their profile compare with yours?”
Nobody will be angry that you’ve brought up a rival company; in fact, they may be impressed that you’ve done so much to learn about them!
If all else fails, try phoning the company ahead of your interview. There’s a good bet that they would have at least press releases and/or a company profile to share; they may even direct you to places you can learn more about your prospective employers.
Also, pick up on more tips to make your resume stand out…
Prepare Yourself Physically
Wait a minute; physically? Nobody is going to see me; what physical preparations do I need to make?
You may feel most comfortable taking this interview all cosied up in your personal space and wearing your most comfortable pyjamas. However, experts warn that interviewing in that manner would be a mistake.
For one, your laid back position might translate into the cardinal sin of phone interviews: coming across as apathetic and uncaring of the task at hand.
The adage ‘the clothes make the man’ has never been truer than in phone interviews.
Granted, nobody will see you but, by wearing professional attire, you are conditioning yourself mentally to the task. Additionally, rather than planning to sit throughout the time you spend on the phone, you might consider standing – an extra means of focusing.
If you do follow the recommendation to stand, you should avoid pacing. Your steps might echo through your phone connection, potentially distracting your interviewers or leading them to wonder what’s going on around you. In that same vein, choose a quiet area in which to conduct your interview.
It should be reasonably comfortable; nobody ever said you couldn't have some comfort!
Make sure your phone has a good connection. If you haven’t given your future employers your fixed phone line number, you must ensure that the phone you use will have a strong signal in the spot you plan to interview in.
If you have WIFI, note that it doesn’t like walls or doors, and it doesn’t like to climb stairs to the second level or the basement. If possible, get as close to your router as possible and/or make sure you will have adequate signal strength in the location you choose for your interview.
And make sure you have a full charge on your battery!
Learn more inside interview techniques and tips for finding your first job…
Other Tips for Acing Your Phone Interviews
Granted, you wrote your curriculum vitae and you probably know everything on it. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to review it and even keep a copy at hand during the interview in case your interviewer ask more pointed questions about it.
Also, any notes you’ve made while researching the company should be neatly compiled, preferably in bullet points, and kept where you can see them. Speaking of notes…
Set up your interview space in such a way that you will be able to take notes as the conversation progresses.
For instance, as your interview reveals details about the position, write down keywords and main points of what s/he is saying. Later, when s/he asks ‘Do you have any questions for us?’, you can confidently reply: ‘Yes, I do. Earlier, you mentioned _____, I would like to know how ______ relates to the position.’.
Such a tactic is sure to sway the HR manager to recommend a second interview – and this one will be face to face!
You might also use those notes to write post-interview thank-you notes…
Another good response to the ‘questions for us’ question is asking about what happens next.
There is nothing worse than being left hanging, unsure of how things will develop or turn out. There is nothing wrong with you asking ‘What is the next step?’; in fact, your interviewer might see you are keen indeed to start working.
S/he may oblige you and put you to work sooner than you thought!
Now discover how you can adapt your CV and cover letter for any job…