In today’s fast-paced economy, many employers are opting for initial phone screenings of potential candidates instead of an in-person interview. This added step allows companies to sort through candidates without committing the expense and time required for on-site meetings. It also requires an entirely different set of interview skills on the part of candidates, whose assets are suddenly condensed to their voice, tone, and personality.
If you’re searching for a new job, you’ll likely experience at least one phone screening. As with any interview, you’ll need to bring your A-game to land the job. We’ve compiled all the tips you need to ace your next phone interview.
Often, phone interviews are conducted by human resources employees who are trained to determine quickly whether you meet the basic job requirements, and make initial judgments about personality, temperament, communication style, and salary expectations. Therefore, although they are usually less than half an hour long, they can yield a wealth of information to the screener.
For this reason, it is so important to take the proper time to prepare (see below). If a screener calls you and asks whether you are available now for a phone interview, it is always in your best interest to let the interviewer know that you are not in a place to speak freely, but would love to schedule a call within the next week.
As with any interview, you should prepare by exhaustively researching the company and position you applied to. You should also prepare to answer detailed questions about your work history and qualifications. Ensure you can address any significant gaps in your employment history and justify every career move. Know every bullet point of your qualifications so you can go into detail when asked. Ensure your phone is charged and you have plenty of time if the interview runs long.
As a final step, search for a photo of the person you will speak to (LinkedIn may come in handy here). You will feel more comfortable in your responses if you can visualize who you are speaking to.
While it may be tempting to conduct an interview in your pajamas, you’re more likely to feel and sound professional if you look the part. Put on professional clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident, brush your teeth, and get your game face on. Ensure that all sounds and distractions – televisions, pets, traffic noises – are eliminated before the call.
And don’t forget to smile! Any customer service representative can tell you that smiles can be heard and felt regardless of whether the person you’re speaking to can see you. It is much harder to sound tense, nervous, or uncertain if you have a smile on your face.
Take advantage of the fact that your screener will not, in fact, be able to see you. Get up and walk around – you’re more likely to sound prepared and confident if you are standing than if you are sitting. Compile your notes, your résumé, and your application in one place so you can reference them easily during the interview. You can even tape your paperwork at eye level to eliminate the sound of paper shuffling.
Before you hang up, ask your screener what the next steps are and when you can expect someone to follow up. Then, request your screener’s contact information (email and phone) so that you can complete the next step below.
Even if it’s “just a phone interview,” you should still follow up with a written thank you note within 24-48 hours. Express your gratitude for the opportunity to discuss the position and summarize what you spoke about on the phone. If you want to stand out, include a short blurb and a link to an article about a recent occurrence at the company you found during your research.