How to Ace Telephone Job Interviews

Getting past an interview screener so you can be invited in for a face-to-face interview is what you want at this stage.

A good resume with impressive credentials may not be enough to get you the face-to-face interview that you want.

Most companies will probably have you go through an initial phone screening interview to make sure you meet the minimum qualifications and requirements that the human resources recruiter or hiring manager has specified in the job description.

Based on the way I do pre-qualifying phone screens, I normally shortlist ten to fifteen candidates who best match the job requirements, then I invite about five of those candidates in for a face-to-face interview who have exhibited the qualities and skills needed for the role.

It’s important to know that the goal of the interviewer is to gather enough information to determine whether or not they want to pursue you as a serious candidate, and take the next step in the interview process with you.

Here are some helpful tips that should help you ace the telephone interview, so you can be invited to a face-to-face interview.      

Pre-Interview Preparation: You will typically have one of two phone interview scenarios. A scheduled interview and an unscheduled interview. If you have already scheduled and confirmed a phone interview, then that’s great!

The unscheduled interview might come in the form of a call to ask if you have a few minutes to talk about the job opportunity you applied for. This type of call might also come at a bad time when you can’t talk because you’re not in a place where you can talk comfortably.

In cases like these, it’s best to politely ask the phone screener if you can schedule the call for another time that works better for you and them.

Make sure you are in an environment that is comfortable to talk in, and that you have no distractions or background noise.

Do your homework and research the company: The most efficient research tool is the internet. Visit the employer’s home page, read articles written about the company, and go to forums, blogs or video stories that list the company with related articles about how they do business, etc.

A good source I would recommend is LinkedIn. It is likely that they will ask if you know anything about their company or what they do. Having relevant company information in front of you will help if they ask any questions.

Keep a positive attitude: Maintain a high level of energy throughout the phone interview. You don’t want to put the person on the other end to sleep. Start with proper posture while you’re speaking on the phone. Smile when you ask and answer questions. Keep a bottle of water handy in case you get dry mouth. Relax and take a few deep breaths before the interview starts.

Take Notes: Having notes with answers to certain questions should help you breeze through some of the recruiter’s questions. When answering their questions, make sure you don’t sound like you are reading from a script. It will sound obvious and they can pick up on things like that.

Listen carefully before you speak: Make sure you speak directly into the telephone and avoid using the speakerphone on your home phone or cell phone. You want to make sure you hear things like the persons first and last name, the company name or division they work for, their job role or title, why the position is open, and other important information that you will need to know.

Be ready to spend fifteen to thirty minutes on the phone: A typical phone interview will likely last between fifteen to thirty minutes. An interview phone screener will have a series of questions that they will ask you to determine if you are a good fit for the role.

How to address the Interviewer: Address the interviewer by their last name…..Mr. or Mrs. unless they say it is OK to call them by their first name. If you feel a connection on the phone, you can politely ask if you can address them by their first name.

Interview Focus: You should be focused on the interview. Don’t eat or chew gum, or have any other distractions that will not allow you to be laser focused on the interview. If you are near your computer or any device that gets notifications or pings of any kind, you want to turn those off, or be in a room or area where they will not distract or disrupt your call.

Ask clarifying questions: You should be able to learn the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name and everything you wanted to know about the position by the end of the interview.

Make a list of questions before the interview to make sure you fully understand the role, the position expectations, schedule and reporting times, compensation, and other related questions.

Turn off call waiting on your mobile phone: If you knew they were going to call, make sure to turn off call waiting. Distractions from other people calling your phone will give the interviewer the impression that you didn’t care enough to take this preventable step. You might want to make sure your mobile phone is fully charged as well.

If you are calling from a landline: Be sure to turn off your mobile phone. I would recommend you completely turn it off, or put it in a room where you are not able to see any calls coming in.

Give accurate and detailed contact information: This information should be clearly displayed on your cover letter and resume so your interviewers can easily connect with you.

Make sure you know which job and company you applied to: I see this all the time. I call someone to talk about a position I have open, and they mistaken my position for another one that is similar to mine. Don’t get confused between the different jobs for which you’ve applied.

Keep track of all the positions you applied to, when you applied, what was the specific title of the position, and the company name. Make sure you have the correct job description, company and contact person’s name in from of you so you know exactly who you are talking to, and the position you are talking about. It would help to do a LinkedIn search to find out a little more about the person, their title/role, etc.

After the Interview

If you were not told during the interview when a hiring decision will be made, follow up with a phone call and email 24 hours later, then another email two days after that. If they tell you upon your follow-up call that the decision has not been made, find out whether you are still under consideration for the job.

Ask if there are any other questions the interviewer might have about your qualifications and offer to come in for another interview if necessary.

Reiterate that you are still very interested in the job, and point out a few reasons why you are a good fit for the role. If you learn that you did not get the job, try to find out why.

You may also inquire whether the interviewer can think of anyone else who might be able to use someone with your abilities, either in another department or at another company.

Lastly, remember to send a “Thank you” letter. I recommend sending a hand written letter if possible. If your hand-writing is not great, the alternative is an email “Thank you” letter. 

 

If you get an offer

If you are offered the job, decide whether you want it. If you are not sure, thank the employer and ask for a few days to think about it. Ask any other questions you might need answered to help you with the decision.

If you know you want the job and have all the information you need, accept the job with a proper thank you letter and get the details on when you start.

Ask whether the employer will be sending a letter of confirmation of the offer, as it is best to have the offer in writing. Also find out what the on-boarding process is, and what documentation is required. For example: I-9, Employee Agreement, E-Verify, copies of your Identification if the company is out of state, etc.

Even though you might be up against several candidates for the same job, remember to keep a positive outlook on your job search. You know you can add value to a company, and most companies would be lucky to have you.

 

~ Tom Dushaj

 

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