Phone interviews are extremely common in today’s hiring processes. It is a way for an HR manager or Hiring manager to get a quick gauge of skill set and presence to ensure that bringing you in for the face to face will not be a waste of time. The first thing to remember is the goal of the phone interview is to move to the next step, the personal interview, and you need to be a closer and ask for the order. But first you have to build value in yourself and also show interest in the company. If you get the call for a phone interview here are a few tips to get you to the point you can close for the next step.
- Schedule a time. You answer the phone and it is a representative from the company you applied for a job opening with weeks ago. You are in traffic, dropping your kids off at school, or at work. Hopefully they are just scheduling a time to talk but it they want to talk now be careful…this is an interview. Danger zone…don’t try to wing it on a first round interview…schedule time in which you know you will have a good hour of uninterrupted talk time. If the hiring manager asks “Can we talk now?” respond “Now is not a good time is there a time tomorrow?” Work through it, you will never know unless you ask. Set up your rules of engagement. Will you call them or vice versa? If they are calling you be sure to get the number in case you miss each other (it should come up on your caller id…you may not have to ask be sure to make note of it!)
- Study, study, study. Luck favors the prepared. Now that you have scheduled a time, do your homework. Study the company…news releases, company website, other job openings on job boards, and Linkedin company page. Study the job…print out your resume and the job description set them side by side and look for the match. Get ready to sell yourself for the job. Now study the managers…Linkedin again is a great resource but you also have the hiring managers name (from the phone call). Again look for press releases, awards, or trade show attendance. Have quick questions prepared about responsibilities beyond the job description, the career path, or the company.
- Now is the time. If they don’t call on time don’t panic. Wait 10-20 minutes (depending on your window of availability) and reach out to them if they were supposed to call you. If you were supposed to call them (you better not be late!) and you don’t connect leave a message. In both situations stay upbeat, brief, and leave how long you will be available. If by some circumstance you are late, call as soon as possible, apologize, give your reason, and move into the phone interview.
- Stay positive! Every bump in the road was a learning experience; every downsizing was a chance to move on to new things. Don’t talk in a negative tone about your current or past companies. If they ask why you are looking…respond “I have heard great things about your company & the role looks very interesting” (you studied right?). Smile, stand up, and pause after every answer to give them a chance to talk. Flow is very important in a phone interview; let them talk…if there is a pause go ahead and ask your questions about the company, role, or responsibilities. Wrap up your answers; don’t just talk to fill space. If they ask about something you have not experienced, try not to pass, fall back on a hypothetical. “I have not experienced that but worked closely with someone who did, here is how I would handle it. “
- Ask for the order! Show gratitude, compliment, and close for the next step. “It has been great talking. Thank you for taking the time. You work for a great organization. I look forward to meeting you face to face to discuss the role and my qualifications in more detail. Is there a time we can schedule now?” If you get delayed with the “we will call you when we are ready”. Don’t worry, get the hiring managers email address (you may have this if you Googled them) and send a follow up thanking them for their time and confirming your interest. Always send a follow up unless the recruiter you are working through has stated otherwise. Keep it brief but show gratitude and confirm interest.
Of course you need to know your audience and situation well. If you are in tech, the next step may be a test. If you are relocating, you may have a few more phone interviews with more members of the team. You still need to close for that next step. If you make the time, do your homework, stay positive, thank them for their time, compliment them on their organization, and close for the next step you could move up to the short list for the next round.