Phone interviews are becoming more common as companies use that as a way to screen candidates without having to spend the time or money having a face-to-face meeting. Because of that, job candidates have to ace the phone interview if they want to get to the next level of the hiring process.
The phone interview is the “growing standard for the initial round,” says Michael McGuiness, executive director of Jobipedia.org. “It’s a way to vet candidates before they decide to have them come in person.”
While the phone interview can be nerve-wracking, after all, if you blow it your chances at that company are pretty slim, but it also offers up a unique opportunity to prepare and thus shine.
“The most important thing you can do is research and prepare before you get on the phone,” says Marcia Nelson, practice growth manager at accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin. “Because you are on the phone you can have notes.”
According to Nelson, by looking into the company beforehand, you can get a glimpse into its company culture, any awards or achievements they’ve received, and then weave that into the interview. Unlike during an in-person interview, with the phone interview, you can look at your notes to make sure you are hitting all the key points.
Showcasing Energy, Confidence is critical
One of the reasons why people are apprehensive about doing a phone interview is because they can’t make a connection with the interviewee, which can be done quickly in person. When you only have your voice, Pamela Skillings, co-founder of job coaching firm Skillful Communications says you have to make more of an effort to project confidence and energy. So how do you do that? According to Skilling stand up while you are talking, make a conscious effort to smile, and use positive language.
How you dress can also make a difference. While it’s acceptable to interview in your pyjamas, if getting ready and putting on a suit will get you in the right mood, then experts say to do it. “For people out of work for a while doing their hair and makeup (or putting on business attire) can give them a little bit of an edge,” says Nelson.
Make sure your phone doesn’t drop
In this mobile era it’s unrealistic to expect people to conduct a phone interview on a landline, but if you have a mobile phone that gets spotty coverage in some areas, make sure you are not in one of those areas. You don’t want the call to drop mid-interview, nor do you want the person asking the questions to struggle to hear you. You also want to be in a distraction-free zone. If you are starting and live with roommates, let them know in advance that you will be on an urgent call. If you have kids, who tend to scream in the background every time you pick up the phone, get childcare during that interview. Even if the interviewer can’t hear the background noise, if it distracts you, it’s going to throw you off your game, and you could end up blowing it. “You want to make sure you are in an environment where you can focus solely on the interview,” says McGuiness.
Treat the phone interview like an in-person one
What you say in the interview should be similar to what you would say in a face-to-face meeting, even if it seems more informal. That means holding off on asking about salary, vacation, flex time or any other perks. Instead, it would be best if you were showcasing your knowledge about the company what you can do for them. According to Nelson, it’s a real turn off for job interviewers if you make the initial phone interview all about what they can do for you. Nelson says it’s ok to ask at the end of the discussion what the next step in the process is. “By taking action it shows you are interested and available,” says Nelson. “The last thing you want is to have this interview, and it goes into a black hole, and you never hear anything again.”
Embrace silence; at least for a few seconds
A big fear when it comes to the phone interview is the dreaded silence. Many job candidates will try to fill every silence to avoid awkwardness, but according to Skillings this usually leads to rambling or even blurting out answers. It’s ok to take a few seconds to answer a question but make sure you end your response crisply. “It’s natural to have some silences on a phone interview,” says Skillings. “A silence doesn’t mean that your interviewer is unhappy with your answer or waiting for more information. Your interviewer is probably taking notes, thinking about her next question, quickly replying to an urgent email, or something similar.”