More and more companies are kicking off their hiring process with a phone interview prior to a traditional in person meeting.
It saves time; allows the hiring manager to ask pointed questions and qualify you for a role and give the applicant an opportunity to explore the position further and decide if it’s a match for their career goals. Those are the positives. The negatives to qualifying a person from a phone call is that it changes the dynamic of the interview. There is no body language to gauge. No facial expressions to let you know, as a candidate, that you are on the right track with an answer. No non-verbal cues to help you adjust. To overcome some of those challenges, keep some things in mind:
1.) Answering the Phone: How you answer the phone when the hiring manager calls is your “handshake”. No one likes a weak handshake. Conversely, you don’t want to break the other person’s fingers either. Somewhere in the middle is usually acceptable. That means answer the phone in a professional, upbeat and positive way without going overboard. A simple, “Hi, this is John” is a good way to go.
2.) Background Noise: There is always background noise going on in my house. Between the dogs, the kids and the doorbell it’s a zoo. If you can’t completely eliminate the background clatter, at least prepare the caller for it. Let them know that your kids are home from school, or your dog tends to bark at the slightest disturbance. Make sure any predictable noise factors, like TV’s radios, running water, etc. are eliminated before you answer the phone. If you are in the car, roll up the windows and turn the radio off.
3.) Technology: Sometimes technology can crap out, it happens. If you are receiving a call on your cell phone, let the caller know right off the bat and put a plan together for how you’ll handle a possible dropped call. No need to create unnecessary panic, just a simple, “I’m on my mobile phone so I apologize in advance if we get disconnected, but please call me right back if we do.” On the same note: make sure your phone is fully charged.
4.) Establishing Rapport: Just as you would during a face to face interview, you will spend the first couple of minutes breaking the ice and building a personal relationship with the interviewer. This is also acceptable on a phone interview but generally the rapport building time will be much shorter. The caller usually has a hard stop, so be respectful of their time –make some small talk, but keeping the conversation moving towards the topic on hand.
5.) Answering Questions: In an in-person interview you can generally tell when you’re being too long winded or short winded with your answers based on the person’s facial expressions or body language. Since you don’t have the luxury on the phone, the best general rule is to keep your answers concise, but not terse. In other words: don't ramble.
6.) Be Professionally Prepared: Remember, this is a critical step in the process and a bad phone interview will bounce you from consideration. A phone interview is a critical step in the process and should be treated with the same professional respect and preparation as an in person interview. This means you need to take it seriously and do your research on the company and prepare 3-5 questions based on your research. The good news is it’s an open book test! You can have your research in front of you so you can refer to any notes you have prepared without any fear of looking like you are searching.
7.) Helpful Hint: Another tip we have found from experience is to stand up to create energy. If you were in person you would be able to create that energy and excitement by walking in to the office and shaking hands, making eye contact, smiling and nodding, etc. You still want to have that up-beat energy so we suggest standing up during your conversation. Some candidates even have a mirror in front of them during the call to make sure they are smiling- trust us, the interviewer can feel a smile through the phone! Just watch walking around too much and creating “nervous” energy and end up sounding distracted.
Remember, the phone interview is a valid and important first step in getting the job you want. Don't underestimate its importance!