Phone interviews. To some the thought is horrifying, to others it seems like a waste of time, the first step in a long process. Realistically, phone interviews are a very important first step, if you don’t succeed here, there won’t be additional interviews. Here are some phone interview tips to ensure you are on the path to a face-to-face interview:
1. Be prepared! Have a copy of your resume long with the job description in front of you during the call. Prepare to have questions written up and in front of you before the conversation starts. In addition, have the company information in front of you so you are prepared to discuss in full what products/services they offer.
2. Restrict phone features. Whether it’s call waiting or an answering machine for an additional phone line, turn off all your phone accessories. These noises can be a total distraction.
3. Use a landline if possible. Remove the chance of experiencing choppy cell service. Making the call from a landline leaves less room for misinterpretation and cuts the odds of disconnection to a minimum. Also be sure to use a high-quality phone.
4. Call from home. Making the call from a comfortable, controlled environment will allow you to keep noise to a minimum, speak at a reasonable volume and give you fewer distractions. Be sure to have your pets or kids (or any other noise makers) in the care of someone else during this time.
5. Make the time for a full interview. Many job seekers make the mistake of trying to fit a phone interview during their lunch hour at work. Disaster could strike if the interviewer is running a few minutes late. Also, the longer the call, the better you’re doing! Most phone interviews last only a few minutes, but if you end up hitting it off with the interviewer, the last thing you want to do is have to cut them off.
6. Answer the phone professionally and use your name. Avoid an awkward start to the call; take charge by answering the phone by stating your name. This lets the person on the other line know exactly who you are and saves them the trouble of asking for you. Know exactly how you will greet the caller and start the conversation.
7. Smile while you talk. Smiling when you speak brings energy and excitement to your voice. When speaking on the phone, your voice actually loses about half of its energy during transmission. Make sure your enthusiasm gets across by overcompensating.
8. Watch your movements. We each have our own phone habits. Some pace, some stand like statues, some may even lounge on the couch. During a phone interview hold your body in an upright position and don’t be afraid to use your hands to be expressive. If you are the type of person who is on the move when on the phone, give yourself an enclosed area that is large enough so you avoid wondering around the house.
9. Use the mute button. If you need to take a sip of water or handle a situation outside of the interview, the mute button can be your best friend. On most phones, the person on the other line will never know you hit the button. However, it’s always a good idea to test “mute” before the call to see if the person on the other line gets an indication that it’s been activated.
10. Honesty is the best policy. If a major distraction occurs during the phone interview, mention it. Your honesty will likely be appreciated; after all, the person on the other line is human too and has likely encountered a similar situation. The worst thing you can do is attempt to cover up something that takes you out of the moment, because it could make you look like you weren’t paying attention.
11. Ask. The interviewer is closing the call but there has been no talk of a next step. Speak up! Express your enthusiasm for moving forward and ask about the next step. If an in-person interview is not scheduled at the end of the call, find out when you can follow up with the employer. Be sure to ask for contact information (name, phone number, and email address) of the person who will be your contact.
12. Speak and write your gratitude. Unlike a face-to-face interview, there’s no commute afterwards. Send a thank-you note an hour or two after the phone interview. The goal of a phone interview is to get a face-to-face meeting; don’t be bashful about making this request. If you can’t send the email right away, make several notes about the call while they’re fresh in your mind. These will come in handy when you send the thank-you note later in the day.
13. Avoid benefit and money questions. Now is not the time to ask about benefits or salary. However, the interviewer knows you might attempt to do this and may try to force the issue. After all, determining an employee’s desired salary is part of the filtering process, which is why they are conducting a phone interview in the first place. Try to keep your answer vague by telling the employer that you need a better understanding of the total compensation package until you can state your desired salary. Phrases like, “I’m negotiable,” “I’d rather discuss compensation in person,” or “I currently make X but am looking to make Y” can often get the interviewer to move on.
While keeping all of these tips in mind, don’t lose sight of your phone interview mission: to earn an in-person meeting!
Source: 17 Tips to Ace Your Next Phone Interview, by George Arms; Acing the Phone Interview: Preparation Is Key, by Marc Cenedella; Phone Interview Etiquette Can Propel You to the Next Step in the Hiring Process, by Maureen Crawford Hentz