Don’t Phone in That Phone Interview

Career Blog

Photo of young beautiful businesswoman standing near window in her office and talking by phone. Look at the window.I was recently interviewed by an MBA class about the importance of phone interviews.

  1. Are phone interviews really important? Most candidates prepare for face to face interviews. They shine their shoes, double check their smiles, and take steps to ensure their answers are as crisp as the creases in their outfits. Unfortunately, not everyone gives the same attention to virtual meetings, but that could be an opportunity destroying mistake.
  2. Why do companies use phone interviews and who typically does them? They are usually a first step screen designed to save time or a second pass session designed to save money if the candidate is out of state. They are usually done by junior level HR reps or colleagues of the hiring manager.
  3. What type of questions are common in phone interviews? Often the bulk of the interview is used to verify and gain color on experiences noted in the person’s resume. For example, the interviewer might ask: What was your role in project x? They may also look to get a sense of your career storyline i.e. What led you to this role? What are you looking for in your next job?
  4. What type of responses are employers looking for?Recruiters are insanely busy. They are looking for no-fluff specifics on what you did. To that end, be aware that “We language” is great for displaying humility and teamwork but be sure to clearly state (not overstate) your contributions. Also understand that how you communicate is key. The recruiter may not know as much about the details of your field as you do, so be relatable and demonstrate that you can talk to a variety of stakeholders.
  5. How can job seekers prepare for a phone interview? Prepare as you would for an in-person interview (breath-mint optional) Make sure you have brief stories and examples that back up the claims on your resume. You don’t need to be (and really shouldn’t be rehearsed), but if the interviewer asks you to share a time when you exceeded customer expectations, you shouldn’t be stumped. Also, use the medium to your advantage. You can have notes to prompt your war stories and you can also leave yourself written clues like “slow down” or “breathe” if you tend to get nervous.
  6. What are some mistakes job seekers make in the phone interview that can be avoided? Many people don’t realize that their voice is not the only thing that travels across the phone line. Feelings and intentions also make the journey. Watch clips of voice actors reading their lines in the studio. They use a tremendous amount of body movement. While those actions will never be seen on film of course, the pros understand that physical movements translate to and enhance quality of sound. Obviously, you don’t need to go over the top with this, but simple things like standing up and using hand gestures can help convey your enthusiasm.
  7. Why do employers use phone interviews versus in-person interviews? Money is part of it, but it’s also easier to schedule back to back calls than a series of meeting where you have to secure conference rooms and bookend the sessions to allot for travel issues, over runs and executive schedules. Also, it’s a lot easier to end a call quickly if the person clearly overstated their experience on the resume.
  8. How can job seekers stand out and make an impact in the phone interview? It’s important to realize that the screener is calling another five to 10 people with backgrounds similar to yours. To stand out you have to convey an X-factor – the one thing that sets you apart from the other people they will talk to. For example, maybe you’re the finance pro who loves doing presentations or the marketing person who enjoys creating ROI based business cases. Showcasing that will often get you to the next round.

Phone interviewers are a great chance for you breathe life into your resume and road test your proof points, so they are even stronger when you secure that in-person meeting. Take them seriously.

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