A phone interview is often the first step in the interview process. The recruiter or hiring manager’s goal is to take a long list of applicants who have great resumes and narrow them down to a manageable list of candidates that can be brought in for the next level: the interview.
Remember, your ultimate goal is to pass their screening process and be brought in for a second interview. Knowing how to do so isn’t always easy, however there are a few concrete steps you can take to be better prepared to move on to that next interview.
Know What to Expect
Sometimes a phone interview is a quick screening to gather basic information. Other times, a phone interview can be more in-depth with a smaller set of traditional interview questions. If possible, when scheduling your interview, try to find out what you can expect so you can be well prepared.
While not always the case, some job seekers may be contacted without any previous interaction and asked to speak to a hiring manager on the spot. If you feel flustered and unprepared, let them know you’d love to chat but can’t chat at the moment, then ask to reschedule. Even later in the same day will give you enough time to gather your thoughts and be prepared. It may also be beneficial to start practicing your interview skills and have your resume and the position description at the ready just in case!
Your Phone Manner
Your first step in preparing yourself is to think about your phone manner and how you’ll respond to questions.
Pleasant and Personable
Offer a pleasant greeting and appropriate small talk. Smile, they won’t be able to see it, but they’ll feel the warmth in your voice. When you close the conversation, thank them for taking the time to speak to you.
Competent and well-spoken
When speaking to the interviewer, do your best not to talk over them. Instead, listen completely first and then respond. Sometimes it’s hard not to talk over each other as you can’t see any physical clues that someone is about to speak, but do your best not to jump in too soon or interrupt while they’re finishing a thought.
If you fear you’ll forget something they’ve said by the time it’s your turn to speak, take notes. When you do respond, try not to ramble or give long winded answers with too much detail. Preparing your answers ahead of time and practicing them out loud will help you feel comfortable with what you’d like to say. But don’t speak as if reading a script, remind yourself to slow down, be in the moment, and ask intelligent follow-up questions based on the conversation.
Skilled in your industry
Be sure you’re familiar with the latest industry terms, technology, and skills and be ready to speak directly to the information in the job posting in relation to your own experience. Prepare job “stories” that support and demonstrate your skills and experiences.
A fit for their company culture
Use online research to give you a broad feel for the employers’s culture and values. Review the language on their website, blog, social media or press-releases. Determine what they value and how you genuinely connect to them, then bring that to your conversation.
Research the Interviewer, Company and Industry
You’ll likely be asked to speak about what you know about the employer. Review their mission statement, departmental structure, press releases and any other pertinent industry or company information. Take a few brief notes prior to your interview to help you sound knowledgeable.
You’ll also want to research the hiring manager interviewing you. Try to find their bio on the employer’s website and review their LinkedIn profile for pertinent information.
Prepare Your Questions
As you would before any interview, you’ll want to prepare questions that you can ask the hiring manager. Think closely about the position using the position description and what you learned about the company to craft thoughtful questions.
Create a Cheat Sheet
Since you’re speaking over the phone, you’ll have the ability to use notes. Your “cheat sheet” can include questions for the interviewer, as well as a list of key points, terms or job stories you want to relate, if asked. Don’t be overly wordy, write just enough to remind yourself of what you’d like to say. It will also be beneficial to have a copy of your resume and the job description on hand as well as info about the employer. You can use your cheat sheet or another blank sheet to take notes while you interview.
Your Phone Interview Environment
Make sure you take your phone interview seriously as this is your chance to impress the hiring manager. This may mean you’ll need to take time off work to go home or find a place where you can concentrate. You’ll want to ensure your spot is quiet, without distractions or background noise. If using your cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged and that other sounds are turned off.
Keep in mind that a barking dog, ringing phone or street noise can be an indicator to the hiring manager that you’re not serious about the opportunity. If you absolutely can’t ensure ideal conditions, let the employer know at the start of your conversation.
Send a Thank You Note
While many of us know we should send a thank you note after an in-person interview, it’s less clear whether they’re needed after a phone screen. The answer is yes, always send a thank you note. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also reinforces your positive impression and gives you the chance to clarify anything that you may not have made clear during the interview. Finally, it’s a great way to keep yourself top-of-mind for the interviewer and give them a final impression of how qualified, excited, and passionate you are about the job.
As with any interview, you want to put your best foot forward. Preparing ahead of time is key. Spending time to ready your space, craft your questions, understand the employer, and have a cheat sheet to remind you of your salient points, will help you nail your next phone interview.