Phone interviews have become the employer’s best friend for screening candidates. Employers, always looking to cut costs and streamline the hiring process, rely on phone interviews to weed out job applicants. As a result, the bar has been raised on phone interviews so make sure you are prepared. Here’s what you need to know to get invited for an in-person interview.
- Know when the interview begins. Contrary to what many believe, the interview process begins with the employer’s first phone call. As the old saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. Just because you got the call does not guarantee a face-to-face interview. Many job candidates get knocked out of contention because they fail to handle themselves professionally over the phone.
- Handle call-backs strategically. Avoid being caught off – guard. “When an employer calls you, you have permission to defer the phone interview to another time”, says Richard Kolikof, Founder and Managing Director of the Winthrop Research Group an executive search firm in Portland, Oregon. “Thank them for calling, express your interest and ask for a convenient time when you can call them back.” Consider letting all of your phone calls go into voicemail during your job search.
- Be prepared. Prepare for the phone interview as thoroughly as you would for an in-person interview. Phone interviews will include complex questions; not just standard questions regarding salary and ability to relocate. You might be quizzed on your knowledge of the company and it’s industry. Expect behavioral interview questions too. ‘Describe an initiative you spearheaded along with quantifiable results’. Employers are keen to know how you have handled real life situations on the job and will weigh in on how effective you were. Bottom line, do your homework ahead of time.
- ‘Set up your phone zone’. Susan Whitcomb, career coach and author of ’Interview Magic’ suggests establishing a quiet place where you are free of interruptions, noise and other distractions (kids, pets) and have access to the following: Resume; work experience stories; company research; answers to questions you anticipate being asked; questions you want to ask; and of course a computer, phone, pen and appointment book or PDA.
- Gather contact data. Be sure to get the caller’s name, job title, phone number and email address. You may be contacted by HR, the hiring manager or a third party recruiter. You’ll need this information for your follow-up email.
- Close your call with a ‘Thank You’. Employers are busy. Acknowledge the time they have spent with you and ask when to expect a call back. After your phone interview follow-up with an email to emphasize your interest and market yourself. Provide an additional reason you are the most qualified candidate for the job based on what you learned during the phone interview.
Remember, the goal of the phone interview is to convince the interviewer you are a strong match for the job and to get a face-to-face interview. You must have a plan so you are not caught off guard when the phone rings. Treat this part of the job search process as carefully as you would an in-person interview. Good Luck!