Monday, October 4, 2010

The Dreaded Phone Interview

The Dreaded Phone Interview

If you’re anything like me, phone interviews are probably not your favorite part of applying for any job. However, with many of us conducting internship or job searches all across the country, a face-to-face is not always possible.

The majority of phone interviews used to be short and sweet, generally consisting of qualifier questions. But now with the amount of applicants, phone interviews have become tough, and oftentimes you may find yourself speaking with the actual decision maker. In order to stay in the running, preparation is essential.

With such a competitive job market, the following tips will help you ace that job interview.


Create a cheat sheet. The great aspect of a phone interview is that you can have your notes in front of you to help guide your answers. Have a copy of your resume in front of you, as well as a list of key achievements in previous jobs.

Also have a list of answers to commonly asked interview questions (What are your greatest strengths, career goals…) and don’t forget the ever so popular behavioral interview questions. (Give me a time when…)

Do your research. Knowing about the organization shows that you are truly interested in the position. Be on top of any current news or awards the company recently has received. Understand their mission. Think of it as an early opportunity to show how your interests and values fit with the organization.

Create the right atmosphere. Treat the interview like an important meeting. Have a space set aside that is free of distractions. Keep a glass of water nearby in case you need to clear your throat, and of course, make sure to use the restroom before the call. Keep a pen and paper on hand.

Dress nicely. Wearing professional clothes and taking a serious approach to the call will help you maintain a professional attitude regardless of your surroundings.

Check your voicemail. Make sure your voicemail includes your full name, and sounds professional.

Practice makes perfect. As with all interviews, practicing your answers beforehand helps you prepare for common interview questions.


Confirm the caller’s name. This is important for following up after the interview.

Be professional and polite- you could be speaking with the company president or the administrative assistant. Either way your attitude will play a large role.

Remember that the other person can't see you. If you need to stop speaking in order to write something down, don't just leave the interviewer with a bunch of dead air. Say something like "Please excuse me while I write that down." Also let them know if you need time to think. Just like any interview it is good to have a succinct well thought out answer rather than droning on.

Avoid the simple yes or no answers. Add selling points at every opportunity.

Pace the call. Let the caller do most of the talking, without interruptions. Never start answering a question before the caller has finished speaking. You may jump the gun and answer a question you thought they were asking, but could be completely off. It is also rude to interrupt, and you don’t want your answers to sound too rehearsed. Try to always pause before answering, for a more natural flowing conversation.

Always ask questions. When it gets to the end of the interview, and the caller asks “Do you have any questions for me”, the answer is always YES. Even if they answered everything during the interview, come up with something. If you say no, it comes across that you are uninterested.
Interviews go both ways. Use this opportunity to learn more about the position or company. Only ask questions that you cannot research on your own. For example, if training in a specific software is required, ask how the program is used. Then if you get an in-person interview, you'll be able to highlight your proficiency with the software and your ability to use it as required.

Close the deal. At the end of a phone interview, make it clear that you are enthused about the position and that you would like to go further in the process. Ask about the hiring timeline, and when you should expect to hear back.

A few other pointers:
Don’t chew gum, or eat during the interview
Stand up, or sit up straight. Your voice sounds stronger
Avoid fillers such as “er, ah, um” This is very noticeable on the telephone
Smile- it comes through in your voice

Write a thank you note. Write a thank you note- either electronic or hand written. Your appreciation will help you stand out. In your note, recap your qualifications and emphasize your interest in the job. Make sure to do this within 24 hours of the call.

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