We all know that the purpose of a good resume is to win an in-person job interview. In a tight job market, however, you probably won’t get in the door without passing the next screening: the phone interview. Phone interviews are very normal as a first round interview in most industries, and knowing how to handle them is a vital skill for any serious job-seeker.
Here are four major steps to phone interview success:
1. Do Your Research.
The first order of business is to research the company in question. You’ve already applied for the job, so you should know the basics. Now it’s time to refresh your memory and dig a little deeper.
- Study the company’s history, press releases, sales figures, and target markets.
- Make an easy reference sheet of key facts and figures.
- Prepare questions about the company that demonstrate your interest and help you to determine whether this is an opportunity you really want to pursue.
- You won’t use every bit of information you come across, but the more you can internalize, the better off you’ll be.
2. SET THE STAGE
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to bust a few myths. You might be tempted to think that where you are in the world—and what you’re wearing—are of no consequence in the phone interview process. Don’t make that mistake. Phone interviews are a mental game–and if you want to win, you have to set the stage.
- Choose a quiet place. Bars and coffee shops are not ideal for this purpose. They can be noisy and provide too many distractions. Consider a home office or a private room at a coworking space. Find a location that allows you to focus on the interviewer and allows the interviewer to focus on you.
- Dress the part. What we wear may have an impact on mental sharpness. Most of us know this from personal experience. If you wear shorts and flip-flops, you feel casual and relaxed. If you wear business attire, you feel professional and confident. The interviewer won’t know what you’re wearing, but you will—and your confidence will come through over the phone.
- Have the right tools. A notepad and pen will allow you to make notes without clattering away on a keyboard. Hard copies of relevant materials (e.g. your resume, notes, the job description, etc.) will provide easy access to useful talking points. A glass of water will help you to avoid coughing and clearing your throat during the conversation. A LinkedIn photograph of your interviewer will demystify the voice on the other end of the line (but don’t comment on this).
- Consider a landline. The last thing you want is for the call to drop due to cell service failure. This virtually never happens with landlines. If you can’t use a landline, make sure you choose a location with good cell coverage, and double-check to make sure that your phone service is active and in good standing.
3. NAVIGATE THE CONVERSATION
It’s time to answer the phone and deliver your best performance. There are hundreds of “hacks” to consider, and it’s easy to get lost. Stick to the basics and you’ll find yourself at the top of your game.
- Get centered. Don’t start your job interview in a hectic moment; the interviewer will feel it, and so will you. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to concentrate and prepare. Re-read the job description. Review the notes you made about the company. Revisit the connections between what you have and what the company needs. Take a few deep breaths. If you haven’t warmed up your voice that day, do some vocal exercises. You don’t want to sound drowsy, scratchy, or tired when the time comes to speak.
- Answer the phone yourself. When the call comes through, don’t allow your roommate, your significant other, or your Uncle Chip to answer the phone. This sends an unprofessional message, and you haven’t even opened your mouth yet.
- Keep still. If you pace the room or exhibit other types of nervous energy, the interviewer will probably pick up on it. Don’t chew gum or fiddle around with objects on the table. Try to remain calm, focused, and relatively still throughout interview.
- Smile. We all know from experience that a smile can be heard over the phone. As much as possible, smile during the interview–just as you would in person. This will give your words much more energy and appeal.
- Let the interviewer take the lead. Always listen first, then speak. Take notes, and be careful not to interrupt.
- Be thoughtful and concise in your answers. Keep small talk to a minimum, and don’t volunteer information about your personal life. Don’t be afraid to allow a brief pause before answering questions.
- Be fluid and conversational. A rigid and robotic speaking style is no way to earn points with a hiring manager. Make sure your pronunciation is clear, and give your voice plenty of tonality. It might help to practice with a friend or family member and incorporate their feedback.
- Have your questions ready. There will come a time during the interview when you will be asked if you have questions. Fortunately, you’ve already prepared them during the research phase. Use the ones that feel most relevant to the moment and that you genuinely want answered. Don’t mention salary or benefits during the phone call unless the interviewer mentions them.
- End on a positive note. Always thank your interviewer for the chance to speak. If you have strong interest, express confidence in your ability to meet the need. Let them know that you would be thrilled to meet in person, and allow them to explain the next step in the process.
4. FOLLOW UP
You might think it was the best interview you’ve ever done, or you might wish you had performed a lot better. Either way, your work isn’t quite done.
- Send a thank you email. You shouldn’t do this right after you hang up the phone. Wait to send it later that day. Simply thank the interviewer for the conversation, reiterate your interest in the open position (and in the company at large), and express your wish to schedule an interview in person.
- Don’t expect a quick reply. Remember, you were probably one of several people interviewed over the phone today. Hiring managers may not follow up with you immediately, but don’t lose hope. Simply move on with your day, and continue with your job search.
- Follow up once more. A respectful hiring manager will update you before too much time has passed, but if nothing happens after week, feel free to send another follow-up email.
A DIRECT LINE TO SUCCESS
Your next phone interview could determine whether or not you sit down for a face-to-face interview. By learning these basic rules and putting them into practice, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance to edge your way forward in a competitive job market.
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