Phone interviews are a very important first step in the hiring process and should be taken seriously. First impressions are key! Often you are given the opportunity to prepare for a phone interview, but sometimes they come out of the blue when you answer your phone. You have a goal – selling yourself, your skills, your experience and your value. Here are a few preparation tips to consider if you are conducting an active job search:
If you do have the opportunity to schedule your phone interview and you are contacted via email, be sure to review the email thoroughly. If you are asked to provide information in your response, make sure you provide everything requested. Use good email etiquette. This means a greeting, body and closing. If you are using non-traditional means to reply (e.g. phone or tablet) the expectation still stands that you use proper punctuation, complete sentences and spell check! The last thing you want to do is say on your resume you are detail-oriented and have excellent communication skills and them flub on your email reply!
You might be in a very active job search so it’s very important to keep record of each position to which you have applied. Keep each job posting/description handy. There’s nothing worse than asking the interviewer, “Which company is this for?” or “What job are you calling about because I applied to a lot of places!”. Do your homework. Browse the company website and LinkedIn page. Prepare questions about the company and the position. It’s always a plus when you reference something you learned through your research. Practice common interview questions and be ready with your answers. Think about your experience as it relates to the position you have applied for and try to anticipate the types of questions you might be asked.
Disable the musical recorded greeting when someone calls you! It may be hard for a future employer to take you seriously if they call you and hear “Please enjoy the music while your party is reached” followed by your favorite song selection. Secondly, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you record a professional voice mail message. Hearing your voice and how you’ve structured your message is also a reflection of your phone etiquette skills. Remember if you’ve stated you have excellent communication skills and that happens to be one of the position requirements, you need to pull out all the stops.
4. “Hello, this is…”
Think before you answer the phone. Always answer the phone professionally. However, make sure you’re in a quiet place where you are comfortable and unlikely to be interrupted. Your choices are to:
1) let the call go to voicemail and return the call at your earliest convenience
2) answer the phone and ask if you could schedule another time, or
3) if you answer the phone and they hesitate to reschedule, you might have to give it your best shot considering you might not be getting another opportunity to present yourself.
Focus on your language and voice. Speak clearly, stay up beat and smile while you are on the phone. You want to be sure and convey your interest and excitement the position and the company. Most importantly use positive language and choose your words carefully… especially if you’re asked, “what has caused you to look at the market for new opportunities?” Keep it professional and don’t trash anyone, ever!!! Be honest, but tactful because it’s a small town out there!
A lot of interviewers use behavioral-based interviewing. These are situational interview questions that require you to draw on your experience and provide detailed responses. Remember, preparation is a key (see #2)! Think about your experience, accomplishments and where you’ve been able to add value. Know your resume inside and out so you can discuss these questions with confidence. Brief “yes” or “no” responses will not move a phone interview forward, but end it quickly. One of the worst answers you can provide is, “I do that all of the time, but I just really can’t think of a specific example.” This is an immediate turn off to most interviewers because if you do this all of the time, you should have an abundance of examples. The more prepared you are, the less likely you will be to ramble or leave out key selling points.
7. Online profiles
Direct the interviewer to your LinkedIn profile or other web portfolio, if possible. Imagine if the interviewer asks you to describe the last project you worked on or to describe a recent work product for which you are most proud. This will allow your interviewer to see your results while you talk about them. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and shows your accomplishments. Remember don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.
8. Ask questions
It’s always good to ask relevant questions about the company, the position, benefits and next steps. The interviewer will probably cover salary in this initial conversation as a means to qualify you for the position. If they do not, I personally think it’s a fair question to ask. You might consider letting the interviewer know your current salary and what you would be looking for to
make a move. Then ask if your expectations fit within the company’s budgeted salary range for the position. This way everyone can get on the same page.
9. Take notes
Write down the questions you were asked and comments that were made. These can be useful to help you prepare for the next step in the interview process or for your thank you note (see #10).
10. Thank you
It may seem like a thing of the past; however, thank you notes are still very important. Not a lot of candidates do this anymore and this will make you stand out. Yes, even for a phone interview, it’s important to follow up, say thanks and reaffirm your interest in the position and your excitement about possible next steps.
It can be easy to take the above steps for granted, but it’s very important to take phone interviews seriously so you can land that face-to-face interview every time!