Companies often conduct phone screenings or pre-interviews before inviting candidates to their offices.
This applies when:
- Candidates will have a long commute.
- There are a large number of applicants.
- Personality is more important than experience or qualification.
- The job involves talking to people on the phone.
If your phone interview has been set up through a recruitment/staffing agency, you are responsible for noting the time of said interview. Sometimes you may receive an impromptu phone call.
Your objective in a phone interview is to:
- Obtain enough information to decide if you would like to proceed with the interview process.
- Give just enough information to answer the hiring manager’s questions and convince them that you are indeed worth interviewing face to face.
- Close the interview effectively and solidify a time, date and place for a face to face.
PreparationPreparing for a telephone interview is just as important as preparing for the face to face interview. The first impression you create, and the manner in which you conduct yourself, will determine your success.
- Find out as much as you can about the company and the job description.
- Make a note of any questions you would like to ask (i.e. Will I have to relocate?
- That training, if any, will be given? What opportunities are there for advancement?)
- Have a notepad and pen ready.
- Have your resume at hand. The manager will have a copy of it too, so you probably won’t be asked to describe your background in detail.
- Prepare a very brief answer to the prompt, “Tell me about yourself.” A manager doesn’t ask this because he or she wants information (they already have your resume), but because they want to hear how communicative you are.
- If you have been asked to call at a specific time, call precisely at that time. If you can’t get through, leave a message to show that you called at the expected time. Ask the receptionist when the manager is expected to be free and try again at that time. Repeat the same procedure until you make contact. If you have been told that the hiring manager will call you, do not expect the same rules apply.
- Ton of voice is the most important aspect of a phone interview. Detail isn’t important, the manager has your resume, they know exactly what you’ve done.
The main rules are:
- Think about how you normally answer the phone. Anser the phone in an enthusiastic style, “John Pickles, good morning!” If this is not your natural style, change it!
- Sound interesting/interested, energetic and enthusiastic.
- Be exact.
- Ask open-ended questions beginning with who, what, where, when, why and how. These all ask for information and keep the ball rolling.
- Don’t use slang or curse words.Be polite and speak to
- Ms (not Miss or Mrs regardless of if you know her marital status) or Mr. Jones. If you are invited to use their first name, use it. Also, use their title if you know it (Dr. or Professor).
- Use the other person’s name regularly but not all the time.
- Use the company’s name a few times.
Prepare to answer these questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you know about our company?
- What are you looking for?
- This can be more tricky so be wary about saying things the manager doesn’t want to hear like, ‘I want to get into marketing,’ unless you know the probability exists. Keep this response general, ‘I’m looking for a chance to join a progressive company that lets its employees shine.’
- What would you like to know about us?
- A good opportunity for your prepared questions.
- What are your strengths?
- Be careful, if you know what the manager is looking for, tell him or her. Otherwise, don’t sell yourself short and be honest.
- What are your weaknesses?
- What else would you like to know?
- Be prepared to answer objections.
- Example: “I don’t think you’ll be suitable because you have no ion-chromatography experience.”
Rebuttal: “This is true, Mr. Brown, but I’m very familiar with other forms of chromatography and I’m a quick learner. I didn’t know anything about gas-chromatography when I started with my current company and now I’m seen as an expert.”
If it is clear that you won’t be getting the job, keep the door open by saying, “Well, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, give me a call.”
Closing the phone interview:
Part of the purpose of the phone interview is to find out how interested you are.
As soon as it seems appropriate during the conversation, ask for a date to meet for the face-to-face interview. Say something like, “Well, this certainly sounds like the job I’m looking for. I’m sure I can contribute to your company. I’d like to visit you to show you what I can do. When can we meet?”
You may have to be content with the response, “I’ll call you,” but at least you can ask when you will be getting the call. If the manager gives you a vague response, ask him for a specific date and time that you will be hearing from him or her.
This approach is particularly important if you are applying to sales jobs, as you are expected to demonstrate your natural salesmanship. However, in the case of other jobs, most people will appreciate your enthusiasm.
If you are invited for a face-to-face, ask for details:
- Where, when and with whom?
- What will you need to bring?
- What will the procedure be?
- Will there be a decision made after that interview?
- How many applicants are there?
- What is the most important thing the company is looking for?
Don’t worry if you don’t feel about to ask all these questions, the first three are the most important.
If your telephone interview has been arranged by a recruitment/staffing agency, call them to let them know how it went. They should be able to answer the rest of those questions.
Remember that the most important things that all employers look for is energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the job.