Congratulations! You researched the company, networked, applied for the job and made a positive impression with your resume. You’re scheduled for a phone interview. Now what?
Research the interviewer who you are scheduled to speak with. This can be done through the company website as well as LinkedIn.
Prepare a list of your qualifications (knowledge, skills, and abilities) as they relate to the job description.
Practice answering interview questions using the STAR method (situation/task, action, result) through mock interviews with mentors, friends, family.
Phone interviews are commonly used as the initial screening. It saves the company time and money and allows HR to weed out candidates quickly. There are downsides to making your first impression over the phone rather than in person. Follow these tips to ensure your phone interview leaves a positive impression:
1. Dress as you would for the job. If wearing t-shirts and jeans is standard attire at the company, then put on a t-shirt and jeans. If business attire is standard, then put on business attire. My point is, do not do a phone interview in pajamas or loungewear. Dress as you would for the job because it changes your mindset to work mode not lounge mode.
2. Make sure you are in a room with no distractions and no noise. Hang a sign on your front door that states “Quiet please, in a phone meeting” to avoid having someone ring your doorbell or knock yelling your name. If you have pets, such as barking dogs, have them in an area where their barking isn’t heard through the phone. If you have children, make sure they won’t be interrupting your call by walking in the room unexpectedly (remember the video that went viral a few years ago with the child running into the room, Dad on video interview, and Mom rushing in? Same can happen in phone interview).
3. Print the job description and a copy of your resume along with a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer.
4. Have your computer open to the company website so you can access information if needed during the interview. Be familiar with their mission, services they provide, recent press releases, and what they’re doing in their community.
5. Have a notepad and pen available. Jot down names of people interviewing you as they introduce themselves. Take notes during the interview so you can follow up on anything you want to ask at the end. After the interview, use those notes to reiterate key points discussed when you write the thank you note or email.
6. Keep a glass of water nearby to sip on if your mouth gets dry. When nervous, sometimes this happens…our mouth feels like it is full of cotton. Sipping water during an interview is fine; no one can see you.
7. Make sure you’re ready to answer the call 5 minutes before the actual time in the event they call early. Additionally, be prepared for up to an hour call. Phone interviews typically last 15-30 minutes, but I’ve experienced some that last an hour. Schedule the phone interview at a time you are available to take an hour or more. If you schedule during your lunch hour, add on a few extra minutes so you’re not looking at the clock worried about getting back to work if the interview is going well and it’s nearing an hour long conversation.
8. Answer the call using your name “Hello, this is Betsy”. It lets the caller know they’ve reached you. Mute your phone when sipping your water, or typing on your computer keyboard if you are searching something they’ve mentioned.
9. Enunciate words and speak loud enough that others listening through speaker can hear you. If you talk fast, practice slowing it down a bit.
10. Smile when you speak. The tone of our voice shifts when we do this and we sound upbeat and enthusiastic. Remember, you want to make a good first impression and your voice is doing that because they can’t see you. Prop a mirror near where you’re sitting or standing in the room so you can see your face J (this is also handy for video interviews).
11. Standing while speaking is also helpful. When nervous sometimes our voice hides down in our throat and we sound nervous. If we stand, our diaphragm opens and our voice is stronger. We may feel more confident standing, too, which will reflect in our voice.
12. Don’t interrupt the interviewer. Let the interviewer stop speaking before you offer your response. If their question is lengthy and you are concerned you may forget what you want to say, jot down words as you listen to the interviewer speak. Refer to your notes as you respond to the entire question with examples you want to share.
13. At the end of the interview ask questions. Look over notes you’ve written throughout the interview. Get all questions answered. If you missed sharing an example or story, this is your opportunity to back track and indicate you would like to speak a bit more about a previous question. Always, have questions to ask. If all questions were addressed throughout the interview, ask the next steps in the interview/hiring process.
14. Thank the interviewer. Never end an interview without saying thank you. Even if at the conclusion of the interview red flags are waving and your gut says run, always thank them for their time and the opportunity to interview and learn more about the position. If at the conclusion you know you want the job, send a hand-written thank you and an email thank you within 24 hours. I recommend sending both because they could be making an immediate decision and a hard-copy thank you note may take a few days to be delivered while an email is received immediately.
15. Reflect on how well you did. How are you feeling? Make notes so you are prepared for the next interview.
Another call to schedule your in-person interview, of course!