Upstate Business Journal

Four tips to nailing your phone interview

If all goes well, you’ll get an interview with the hiring manager and team. If the phone call is botched, you’ll go back to canvasing LinkedIn and Indeed. Follow these tips to dial up guaranteed success.

August 25, 2017

by Guest Contributor

In a world of job portals and hiring black holes, just getting an interview can feel like an impossible task. I’ve been there.

Now that I’ve seen the other side of the curtain, I can disclose in our defense that HR departments and recruiters are parsing through hundreds of resumes on a regular basis. Those are intimidating odds where every interaction counts.

Phone interviews can be used to speak with candidates who are geographically unavailable, but more often than not they are merely the first hurdles in a hiring process. They allow employers to get a brief look into the personality and skillset a candidate brings to the table without blocking key decision-makers’ schedules, reserving conference rooms, and struggling through an hour-long interview that’s clearly not a fit. Phone screens also allow employers to evaluate a larger number of candidates before narrowing down the talent pool.

If all goes well, you’ll get an interview with the hiring manager and team. If the phone call is botched, you’ll go back to canvasing LinkedIn and Indeed. Follow the tips below to dial up guaranteed success.

Set the scene. A corner booth at a busy Starbucks is no place to have a phone interview. It’s loud. It’s distracting. And your interviewer won’t think you respect their time. Find a quiet place that allows you to hear and be heard. Eliminate any and all distractions including cellphone notifications, televisions, pets, children, and computers.

Some experts recommend keeping a laptop open in case you need to quickly research something. This is a terrible idea. Interviewers can hear you typing, and there is no feasible way you can coherently continue a conversation while Googling the answer to the last question.

Talk the talk. During a phone interview, you and the other caller obviously aren’t able to read non-verbal cues. One of the most common mistakes candidates make during phone interviews is demonstrating very poor listening skills. Elaborate on your experience, but make sure you’re leaving enough time for the interviewer to provide insight or follow-up questions.

Don’t forget that we’re relying solely on verbal communication. You must also use proper grammar and pronunciation.

Don’t forget your body language. We can’t see you, but your non-verbal cues do influence how you sound. First, sit up straight. You should not conduct a phone interview on an overstuffed couch or comfy bed. Sitting at a table or desk will prevent you from sounding groggy. Along those lines, dress professionally. If you’re wearing your jammies, you’re definitely not going to feel confident and prepared. Most importantly, smile. It changes the inflection in your voice and interviewers can hear the difference.

Use a cheat sheet. Your interviewer can hear you typing on a laptop, but we surely cannot discern your pencil jotting notes. Have your resume and a blank sheet of paper available in order to take notes and write down questions along the way. 

A phone interview is not the time to be nonchalant about your preparation. It can be even more difficult to impress someone without shaking their hand and looking them in the eye. Take a little effort with the suggestions above and you’ll be the first one called for the in-person meeting.

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