InMoney & Career

How To Crush Your Next Phone Interview

When you're looking for a job, it's super important to be ready for a phone interview at a moment's notice. Here's the ultimate guide to acing your phone interview.

When you’re looking for a job, it’s super important to be ready for a phone interview at a moment’s notice. Numerous businesses open the interview process with a phone call to talk about the job with a potential employee, find out if the candidate is a good fit, and measure their interest in the position.

Often your phone interview will be scheduled in advance, but in other cases, you might receive a surprise phone call, so you should always answer the phone professionally, especially is the number is unfamiliar. It’s also a smart idea to make sure your voicemail message is professional sounding.

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Why do companies use phone interviews?

Employers usually have way, way more qualified job applicants than they can realistically interview, so a phone interview is used to weed out potential candidates and narrow the pool before bringing the front-runners in to talk in-person.

Most phone interviews have seven objectives:

  • Making sure you’re sane and reasonably intelligent.
  • Check on basics like availability, whether you’re able to relocate if necessary, and what hours you’re ready to work
  • Salary expectations- are they in line with what the employer intends to pay.
  • Checking your understanding of the job- Did you read the job description, and understand it?
  • Clearing up any questions about your resume-
  • Establish basic qualifications
  • Seeing if you’ll do or say anything obvious that takes you out of the running- If you sound low-energy, unfriendly, distracted, or simply unprofessional, or if you chronically interrupt or don’t communicate clearly.

A phone interview is also used to minimise expenses in interviewing out-of-town candidates. For many remote positions, a phone interview is likely to be the only one you have.

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How to Ace a Phone Interview

You should prepare for a phone interview in the same way you would prepare for a regular in-person interview. Make a list of your strengths, weaknesses and a list of answers to common phone interview questions. It’s also a clever idea to have a list of things to ask the interviewer.

Take some time to match your qualifications to the job description, so that you can talk about why you’re such a strong candidate for the position. Review your resume, make sure you know the dates when you held each of your previous jobs, and what your responsibilities were.

You’ll need to be comfortable and confident and ready to discuss your background and skills during the phone conversation. Keep a copy of your resume, job posting and a copy of your cover letter close by, so that you can refer to them during the interview if you need to.

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Research the company

If you have prior warning of the interview, review the job description and do a bit of research on the company. When you do your research start by visiting the company website and review the mission statement and history, products and services and management structure, and try to find out some info about the company culture. If there’s a press section of the site, read through the featured links.

You should pay attention to themes that come up repeatedly. As much as any stated corporate values, the language that businesses use to describe themselves is very telling. Do you want to work somewhere where people are “driven to excellence” or does that sound exhausting? Do you like the idea of working with people who think of their co-workers as family, or do you need some distance between work and private life?

Next check out the businesses social media accounts. They’ll give you an excellent sense of how the company wants to be seen. Like or follow the company to get updates, and you’ll uncover info you wouldn’t find otherwise. You might also reveal some red flags. If the organisation doesn’t have a professionally managed social media presence, or if it’s only updated occasionally and unreliably, they might not be entirely in control of their public image.

If you are serious about your job search, you’ll be on LinkedIn. Company profiles on LinkedIn are a great way to find more info about a company that you’re interested in. You can see your connections at the company, new hires, promotions, jobs posted, related companies, and statistics. If you have contacts at the business, reach out to them. Ask for their perspective on working there, and any tips that will help you with the interview.

In the search for connections, ask your college or university career office for a list of alumni that work there. You can email, send a LinkedIn message, or call and ask for assistance.

Inspect your interviewers LinkedIn profile to get understanding into their job and background. Do you have any common links? Connections? Did you go to the same school? Are you part of any of the same groups, online or off? These common links could help you establish rapport during the interview and make you more memorable.

Search both Google and Google News for the company name. You might find out that the company is expanding into Asia or received a round of funding. Or, you might discover that a recent product has underperformed or had to be recalled. The knowledge you learn here can help shape your responses to interview questions.

As well as researching the company, review the overall industry. Get to know the company’s biggest competitors and identify their successes and flaws. Any insight you have into the company’s industry and rivals is going to impress the interviewers.

Your company research will make your responses much more compelling and show that you’ll be helpful to their goals and bottom line. They’ll also know that you’ve put a lot of work in and that you really want the position.

The knowledge gained will help you give a specific answer if you’re asked about why you’d like to work for the company. You’ll be able to share details about what you find admirable about the company, its mission, or it’s culture.

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Practice Interviewing

A mock interview, conducted over the phone, will be a great help to you. You’ll be able to rehearse answers to common phone interview questions, and realise if you have any verbal ticks, fail to speak clearly or talk too fast, or too slow.

Your mock interview will help you learn how to answer difficult questions, develop strategies, improve your communication skills, and perhaps most importantly reduce your stress before the actual interview, and give you confidence that you know what you’re doing.

A lot of career centres and career counsellors will be able to help you hold a mock interview. Alternatively, you can use a career coach or counsellor to practice interviewing. When you make your appointment, you should provide the information on the specific company that you are interviewing, or the general career field. The more specific the info you can give the better. You should provide them with as much info about your goals and interests as well, this way they’ll be able to tailor the questions to fit the actual interviews you’ll have. For example, if you’re going for a tech job, the interviewer can ask a bunch of tech interview questions so that you get familiar with what you’ll get asked, and be able to frame good responses.

If you don’t provide specific info, the questions you’ll get asked will often be more general employer interview questions. Either way, take the time to prepare responses to the questions you’ll get asked during your mock interview. Your mock interview is an opportunity to practice interviewing and to make sure you have the skills to make the best impression.

To prepare for your mock interview, get ready for it just as you would for an interview with a hiring manager. You should arrive 10-15 minutes early, and bring your resume, and any other materials you would bring to a real interview. Bring a notebook so that you’re able to take notes on what the interviewer tells you afterwards, and be sure to dress in professional attire.

Another good option for practice interviewing is utilising an online program or app. These programs provide you with a pressure-free way to prepare and practice for upcoming interviews. Many of the programs are incredibly basic, you’ll be given a bunch of random interview questions and type in the answer and usually, don’t allow you to practice verbal responses. However, they do get you thinking about how to answer interview questions, which is nothing to sneeze at.

More sophisticated programs will allow you to select questions related to a particular career field, or type of interview (behavioural, group, etc.). A video of a hiring manager will ask a series of questions, you must verbally answer the questions. Sometimes you’ll have a time limit, and be recorded either audially, or through your webcam. After the interview, you’ll be able to review your recording or send it to someone to review.

These online practice interviews familiarise you with the process and allow you to answer common interview questions with confidence (yay!). Be aware though, that many of the online practice interview programs cost money, especially those that record your interview. Ensure that the program you select offers what you need at a price you can afford.

If you can’t participate in a mock interview with a professional counsellor or afford an excellent online program, you can and should, recruit a friend or family member to help you. The more you prepare, the more comfortable you’ll be with interviewing. Have your interview recorded on your phone. This way you can hear “ums”, “ahs” and “okays” that might make you sound unprofessional, and work on reducing them.

If you don’t have anyone who can help, you can always practice answering your own questions. You don’t need to memorise your answers but having a good sense of what you’re going to say will help your responses be both, quicker than if you don’t practice, and more natural than if you over practice.

Don’t let lack of resources stand in your way if you don’t absolutely have to.

Be Ready For The Call

Before the call, confirm the details like date, time and who you’ll be talking to. Know whether the interviewer is ringing you, or if you need to ring them. If something goes amiss, and you miss the call, or the recruiter doesn’t call on time, don’t panic. You should be able to reschedule if you have to.

Use a private space with no distractions so that all your focus can be on the interview.

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Phone Interview Tips

Follow these tips so that you ace your interview:

  • Make a checklist. Review the job description and make a list of how your qualifications, both formal and informal, match the hiring criteria. Have it on hand so that you can glance at it during the interview.
  • Keep your resume in clear view so that it’s right there when you need to answer questions about it.
  • Have a pen and paper ready so you can take some notes.
  • Don’t forget to turn call-waiting off, so that your call isn’t interrupted.
  • If the time is inconvenient, ask if you can reschedule and suggest some alternatives.
  • If you have a landline, use that not your mobile. You’ll remove the possibility of lousy reception or flat batteries (hopefully!)

If you don’t have a landline, make sure your phone is charged!

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do use the person’s title, unless they specifically ask you to call them something else.
  • Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat or drink.
  • Do keep a glass of water handy, so that you can take a quick mouthful if you get dry, or there’s a catch in your throat.
  • Do smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the interviewer and changes the tone of voice. Practice this during the mock interview. It can also be helpful to stand because this gives your voice more energy and enthusiasm.
  • Do make sure you concentrate, listen and enunciate. Concentrating on the interview can be much harder on the phone than in-person. Make sure that you listen carefully and ask for clarification if you aren’t sure what you’re being asked. Speak, slowly, carefully and clearly when you answer. Don’t be afraid of taking a couple of seconds to compose your thoughts before you respond.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer. If you have something to say, write it down and mention it when it’s your turn to talk.
  • Do keep your answers short. Stay focused on the questions and providing good responses.
  • Do have your questions to the reviewer ready. Be ready to respond when you’re asked whether you have anything to ask.
  • Do remember that your goal is a face-to-face interview. At the end of the conversation, after you thank the interviewer, ask if it would be possible to meet in person.
  • Don’t let anyone else answer the phone. Let your family or housemates know you’re expecting an urgent call. When you answer the phone, respond with your name, so that the interviewer knows they’ve reached the right person.

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Follow up

As the interview finishes, make sure to say thank you. Ask for the interviewer’s email, if you don’t already have it. Send out an email thank you note immediately. In the note thank the interviewer and reiterate your interest in the job.

Once your interview is over, review any notes you were able to take during the conversation. Jot down what types of questions you got asked, how you responded, and any follow-up questions you might have if you have an in-person interview, or a second-round phone interview.

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I hope these tips help you to ace your phone interviews, let me know in the comments if you have any other tips, or hints to help ace phone interviews.

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

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