If you are actively seeking a job, you may be asked to interview on the phone, at least for the first conversation. Employers use telephone interviews to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for face-to-face interviews.
While you're actively job searching, realize that you may be asked to conduct a phone interview on a moment's notice. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk. That means “now”!
Don’t Get Caught by Surprise
The worst way to handle a phone interview is on the spot. You’ll be off-guard, maybe nervous, and possibly struggling to remember what job this is (of the dozens you’ve applied for). It is always better if you can be calm, cool and collected when interviewing.
For that reason, I recommend NEVER picking up your phone unless you know the number is a friend or family member. Let your calls go into voicemail. Call them back…when YOU are ready.
If you do, nonetheless, get a surprise callback from an employer, do NOT agree to be interviewed on the spot. Just politely say that you are in the middle of something and offer to call them back, even if only 30 minutes later.
Preparing for the Phone Interview
Just like face-to-face interviews, preparation is key. Give yourself some time to prepare, with the following steps.
If you’re applying for a lot of jobs, just remembering which job the call is referring to can be tricky. (This is where keeping a record of the jobs you’ve applied for really pays off.)
Before calling back, you’ll want to dig up, and read over:
- The ad or job description you applied for
- Your cover letter
- The resume you sent for this job
If you have enough time, spend some time looking over:
- The company website
- Some quick feedback on the company from glassdoor.com, or google search
Finally, you can ease your nerves and boost your confidence by preparing for a few common interview questions. Make some notes on your best replies, and keep the notes in front of you during the phone interview. Here are three questions you should be ready to handle:
- Tell me about yourself
- What are you core strengths? Professional weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in this job? This organization?
During the Interview
Make the call back to the employer when you are in a quiet place with a desk or table top for your reference materials. Have the following materials in front of yoo:
- your resume
- the job ad
- your notes with answers to common interview questions
- something to write on, and with
Conduct the interview standing up – it creates energy.
SMILE – it’s been proven: people CAN hear it when you are smiling. Keep a mirror handy and look at it throughout the interview. Catch yourself if you’re not smiling.
Be animated. Use hand gestures. Move around. Get into it!
Finally, be sure to get the name, title, phone number and email of the person interviewing you. Write it down. You will use this to send a thank-you, as well as to follow up.
Ed Hunter is a Career and Executive Coach, and principal of Life in Progress Coaching. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at lifeinprogress.com.