The Phone Interview: A Survival Guide

The phone interview, sometime called the phone screen, has been established as common protocol in any interview process.  The phone interview is an effective, inexpensive and timely way for firms to pre-qualify a candidate’s personality, communication ability and get a sense of their background.

While the phone interview can be difficult, it is not impossible.  I have listed out a few tips to help you ace your next phone interview.

Prepare your answers prior to the call:

Each phone screen is different and each opportunity has its own set of requirements.  That being said there are certain questions that almost every interviewer will ask.  They are:

  • Tell Me About Yourself.
  • What are you looking for in your next position?
  • Where are you in your search? Do you have any offers at this time?
  • What is your current salary?
  • What salary would you consider to make a move?
  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • Do you have any questions?

You will also want to be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses regarding your most recent position.  Being able to clearly articulate both of these will impress any interviewer and get you past the phone screen.

Schedule the call when you have no interruptions:

It is very important that your voice is the only sound coming through the phone.  Eliminate all background noise.  Never conduct a phone interview in a coffee shop, outside, around children or pets, on a train, in your car or in your office.  If an interviewer calls to talk and you do not have at least 30 minutes of quiet, reschedule the phone call.

I would also recommend that you not conduct an interview on a cell phone however, cell phone technology is changing.  If you are on your cell phone insure that you can be heard clearly and that you have a strong, constant signal.

Get up and move around:

Because your voice is your strongest asset during a phone screen you want to enhance your voice as much as possible.  A good way to do this is to stand up.  Standing up expands your chest and lungs letting you take full breaths.  Deep, full breaths let you project sound better.  It also helps to smile.  You can hear someone smile!  I know when I hear a smile through the phone the candidate is relaxed and excited about the potential position. 

Have your resume and portfolio in front of you during the call:

It is very important to have the same copy of your resume and portfolio as the firm has in front of you during the phone screen.  Having your documents in front of you allows you to quickly reference them when an interviewer asks a question.  By quickly address any questions an interviewer my have you keep the interview on track and limit any confusion.

Prepare your questions prior to the call:

Asking question during the interview gives you a huge professional edge.  It shows the interviewer you are interested, inquisitive and eager to develop.  It also helps you determine if the job is right for you.

I believe questions should come naturally however some general questions you many want to think about are:

  • How big is the team?
  • What is the reporting structure of the department?
  • How long has this position been open?
  • Why is this position open?
  • Does your firm have a training and development program?

Other question topics could be about the firm’s growth over the past five years, personality traits that have been successful in the firm and current projects the firm is working on.

There is one question I encourage you to ask anyone who interviews you.  I think is shows interest in the position and the answers can be telling.  It is:

  • Is there anything I have not asked about you think I should know as we move forward?

Asking this question will help you stand out as someone who is very interested in the position

Moving Forward:

As the phone interview is wrapping up you want to show the interviewer your interest in the next steps.  Your immediate goal is to get a face-to-face interview.  To do this simply asks for it.  You may say “Our conversation has me very interested in learning more about the opportunity.  What are the next steps?”  Posing the question this way shows interest but does not assume anything.

Overall the most important thing about the phone interview is to relax and be yourself.  Letting your personality shine through is the best way to impress on a phone screen.

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