Phone Interviews: How To Handle Your Initial Phone Interview
Phone interviews make even the best of us nervous. When a screener makes that call, they're trying to figure out if you're the right person — just by talking with you on the phone. Can a single phone call find the right person with 100% accuracy? Of course not. It's a best guess.
But an experienced screener can usually eliminate job seekers they feel don't have the qualities to: (1) do the job well; and (2) fit in with co-workers and company culture. Your job is to show them reasons that you are a good match, so you can get yourself to that critical next step.
NOTE: Luckily preparing well can also help calm those interview nerves!
15 tips to help you with your phone interview
Phone interviews are too important to take them lightly. It's not a time to wing it! While you still want to be as natural as possible during the actual screening call, the time you spend ahead of time preparing yourself mentally and with good interview techniques, can make a huge difference. Here are some basic and easy-to-implement tips to help:
- Phone screens can be quick or they can go on for a long while. And you never know what the interviewer will ask, so you need to be prepared as if this were a full interview: 5 Steps To Prepare for Your Job Interview
- Remember to have some good stories about things you've accomplished, problems you've solved, things you've learned quickly, etc. that are related directly to the job you want.
- Interview nerves can get in the way of you being able to listen carefully and answer naturally, so take time beforehand to calm those nerves.
- Before a scheduled phone interview, make sure to get your energy up, even if it just means walking up and down quickly in the room, a few jumping jacks, or listening to music that makes you happy.
- Some people find standing or walking around during the interview helps, but personally I like to settle comfortably in front of a small table where I can easily get to things I need.
- Have your resume handy to refer to if needed. But also review it ahead of time so you know it well and are ready for any questions about it.
- Have some paper and a pen ready to take notes if needed.
- Have some water nearby in case your mouth gets dry.
We're not done yet! More phone interview tips
- DON'T LOOK AT TEXTS OR THE COMPUTER SCREEN during the interview. Turn off all electronic devices and give your full attention.
- Smile as you speak during the interview. Even though they can't see you, it helps keep you and you're voice energized.
- Even though screeners try to keep phone interviews short for the most part, should they ask if you have any questions, have something prepared to ask even if it's simply "What are the next steps?"
- Listen carefully. Be in the moment. And be yourself!
- Show interest in the company and a positive attitude in general.
- Remember your goal during interviews is to show how well you match their needs, not try to get them to match yours.
- Finally … remember to believe in yourself. If you don't believe you have a lot to offer, why should they?
More about phone interviews in general
A big part of my work as an internal hiring manager was screening resumes, and then making that initial screening call, where I got to hear the person's voice and see how they responded to a few basic questions. This article and its companion article (see below) are written to help give you some of the insider view. Of course, every employer / screener is different.
But if you take the time to prepare yourself ahead of time and follow some of these tips, you have a much better chance of being natural and in the moment. And that can make a huge difference! So here's the second part of this article. I hope you will take the time to read it. The more familiar you are with the phone screening process, the better your chances to do your best. And that's all anyone can ever do!