Many companies use the phone interview, or phone screen, to help limit the amount of candidates that come in the door. This is a quick way to screen out people who aren’t a good fit and saves the hiring manager, as well as any support staff that would have to meet with potential candidates, from taking time out of their busy days for interviews that won’t go anywhere. So, in order to succeed at these interviews, there are three things you need to know:
- The purpose of a phone interview.
- How to prepare for a phone interview.
- How to conduct oneself during a phone interview.
Although few companies will bluntly state their true motive, the phone interview is simply a device for weeding out the bad candidates. These are the ones that the hiring manager knows either lack the qualifications to perform the job or the proper attitude to fit in with the team within fifteen seconds of meeting the candidate. So instead of having his or her staff schedule time to meet with someone that won’t be a fit, they request that someone in human resources have a conversation to answer questions and get more information about items on the applicant’s resume.
As a job seeker, understanding that this is the first round of elimination is key to your success. Take a look at your resume and look for things that someone may find questionable. These things include:
- Short stints at several companies / job hopping.
- Unexplained lapses between jobs.
- Loss of responsibly from job to job.
- Inconsistent experience.
It’s often hard to critique our own resumes so you might want to enlist the help of a friend or professional recruiter. Have them take an objective look at your resume for any flaws or red flags.
Researching the company and position is equally important. Look at the listing for the job and match up your qualifications and experience with each required item. Try to come up with an example of how you meet each requirement – these will be the talking points that you’ll try to work each answer during your interview towards.
Visit the company’s web site and read about its products and services as well as any press releases or news items. Read the executive bios as well as any write ups regarding key staff. Create a cheat sheet with notes like you used to in college – remember that a phone interview is like an open book exam. Try to create a list of potential interview questions and practice your answers. All of this will show the person interviewing you that you’ve done your homework and you’re interested in the position and the company.
On the day of the interview, make sure that you wake up at least 90 minutes prior to your phone call. You don’t want to sound groggy to your interviewer. Also, find a nice quiet place where there will be minimal distractions so that your interviewer can hear you clearly. Avoid using a cell phone or VOIP phone if possible – the sound quality isn’t so great and the reception is unpredictable.
Choose a work area that will give you instant access to all your notes and supporting information. You could use your dining room table with all of your information in the form of printed documents or you could sit at your computer with all the pertinent information in the form of open browser and word processor windows.
At the very least, you should have the following information at your fingertips:
- Your resume.
- The job description for the position you’re interviewing for.
- A cheat sheet of information about the company.
- A list of potential interview questions and your answers.
Make sure you’re wearing something that’s comfortable and doesn’t make noise when you move, especially if you’re using a speakerphone (if your phone has a headset, use that instead). Many people recommend that you dress up for a phone interview because it’ll put you in the right frame of mind. That advice is both bad and impractical – why would you want to be unnecessarily uncomfortable?
Phone interviews are the first the step in the interview process for many companies – especially when a large amount of candidates are applying for the job. With a little preparation and understanding, you can successful get through the first round of elimination and set yourself up for a successful in-person interview. Good luck with your search.
If you’ve found these tips useful, you may want to check out my Job Interview Audio Program. It’s packed with with even more tips and makes a great gift – especially for those that have been seeking work for a long time.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.
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