A phone interview, or phone screen, is probably the first interaction you are going to have with a potential employer. This being the case, you must remember first impressions are the most important. To a recruiter or manager, this is a serious step in the process, and decisions are made during this 15 to 30 (average) minute call. Treat this call just as you would a face-to-face interview where you are prepared and focused on your objective. As a recruiter and employer, you would not imagine how many people do not take a phone interview seriously and never get a 2nd chance.
The following are some suggestions that will help you achieve this objective. Many seem pretty simple and obvious, but the best advice usually is simple and obvious:
Schedule A Firm Time:
Set a time and be there to accept the call. If you are calling the interviewer, make sure you call at the designated time and get an alternative phone number/email to follow up if they are not there. If you have to leave a voice message, suggest an alternative time to call. This is often your first test, though non-intentional, to see how dependable and organized you are.
Just like in any other interview, do your homework. Study up on the employer (or even better, the interviewer if you know in advance). Have questions ready about the company or the position.
Make sure you have a copy of the resume they have in front of you. Also, have a copy ready to email to the interviewer if they need one. It is very awkward if you are not on the same page.
Have a copy of the job description in front of you for reference too!
This is probably the most important factor. Here are a few things to remember:
- Use a landline if possible – Cell phones are the norm now, but the good old landline is still the best option for clarity, no dropped calls, etc…
- Find a private place – This will allow you to speak freely. It is annoying to have a candidate say “I can’t say that right now”.
- Find a quiet place – background noise around you is a distraction to you and the interviewer.
- Do not do it in the car driving – besides being hazardous to your health, you will be distracted.
Your energy is a major part of the evaluation. If you sit in a comfortable chair and lay back, that comes across on the phone. I find standing or sitting in a normal chair keeps me on my toes.
Sounds pretty odd, but this works. Treat this just like a face-to-face interview and imagine the interviewer is right across from you. I have even gone as far as having a mirror in front of me to remind me to smile. I positive attitude usually starts with just a simple smile. Most importantly, this will put you at ease and make this a fun experience.
Write down your questions as they come up or action items you need to follow up on for the interviewer like websites to visit, etc… Write down the names of people the interviewer mentions who might be the next person who will interview you.
Ask the interviewer what the next steps are or any additional information they may need. This also shows your interest in the position which interviewers appreciate.
Most Important – Relax!
This is an important step in your job search but remembers to relax and learn from it. Follow these steps and the more you interview, the more comfortable it will be.
Best of luck in your search and career!