Phone interviews tips

Phone interviews are an important part of the hiring process, the very first step, and you need to do them effectively.

Any phone interview has rules to follow.

Phone etiquette

The most important of the rules is that you're all there, mentally alert. It's very easy to slip into your usual phone manner, and get casual, not like an interview kind of response.

Don't do that. This is business, it's make or break time, and you have to be on the ball. Make sure that you sound like you're on the job. Just act as if you're at work, talking to the boss. Because you are.

Answering services have attracted a lot of comment as making a negative impression on some employers. That's true, but there's another issue.

If you miss a phone interview, it doesn't look good, because it isn't good.

A person who can't organize a phone call isn't setting themselves up to look like Employee of the Month.

Make sure you've got everything organized, particularly yourself and your times (see our Preparing for a phone interview article) before you think about going anywhere near a phone.

Yes, answering services do need to sound either business-like. For example: This is So and So, I'm out of the office at the moment, please leave your name and number and a preferred time for me to call you. Or they can be very straightforward This is So and So, sorry I'm not here to take your call, please leave a message, etc.

The message for job hunters is Don't Miss Phone Interviews, period.

During the interview

Do listen, carefully, to everything the interviewer says, not just the questions.

These people don't waste their own time if they can help it. They have a series of related things that they have to tell you, by law. There are also things that are relevant to the job. They will tell you all those things like a machine. You can't say later that you weren't told, because you were.

Don't let anything you don't understand slip past you. You need to know. It's a fact of life that it's the things you don't know that will come back and haunt you, particularly in the job hunting market. Ask your own questions after any statement of information, if you have questions. You can ask later, if you want, but it drags out the process for both you and the interviewer. If possible, ask while the subject is still fresh.

Don't interrupt the interviewer.

That's a real own goal. Even if you've been told something you think is wrong, let them finish. You can ask about then. Phone interviewers are trained to operate on a single track of information. If you distract them and get them off track, at the very least, you're slowing yourself down.

Don't argue with the interviewer.

Far worse than interrupting is a full blown argument with the interviewer. Even if you know the information better than they do, (and there's a pretty good chance you will, because you're the one with the expertise for the job), you can't achieve much by arguing.

Actually the situation can be quite useful to you, and provide you with some other information, because you know it's wrong. If a phone interviewer is providing you with dud information, there are a few possibilities:

  1. You've found a dud employer.
  2. You've applied for a scam. Many scams are caught out because they don't provide correct information.
  3. If someone's vague about your question about wages or other basic, important, issues, you can start thinking about whether you trust this employer.

So even under these circumstances, let them talk. They're telling you far more than they realize.

Another point to consider is that you may be wrong, yourself.

Check your information later, and find out, definitely, before creating issues with someone who hasn't hired you yet.

Peace and quiet during the interview.

We covered the basics about this in the Preparing for a phone interview article, but during the interview, it's absolutely crucial you don't have any disturbances.

The appearance of peace and quiet is important.

Far more important is the fact that:

If you miss a couple of words, you can miss the entire meaning of the interviewer's statement or question.

That, you do not need. It makes you look like you weren't listening, or don't understand what's being said to you. Both of these impressions are likely to be fatal, and you have to go into damage control mode, immediately, to fix it.

You might be OK with one miss, if the rest of the interview's OK, but not several of them.

Particularly if the job's criteria emphasize communication skills.

Speak clearly.

People have their own way of speaking on a phone, and some people are such constant phone users that they talk at top speed, loudly, all the time.

In a phone interview, it's what you say, not how you say it. Be patient, but make sure the interviewer can hear every word clearly.

Consider listening to a phone conversation like this, where the whole story is told in about ten seconds:

I solved a problem by (something) and then I went to the manager and (something) and the customer said (something) and we (something) which was how we solved it, even though it took us three weeks to achieve (something)

Informative, isn't it?

If there are ten questions in the interview, by the time the interviewer's finished finding out what all those (somethings) meant, both of you could have done another two or three interviews.

Don't waste time.

There's usually a certain amount of time allowed for phone interviews, somewhere around 15-30 minutes, usually, depending on complexity.

Anything more than that, you'll have an edgy interviewer on the other end, and you'll be feeling that you're not answering too well.

You'd be right about not answering well, unless the interviewer's adding extras to the questions. More isn't necessarily better.

The trick is to cut out the superfluous material.

Try and stick to a simple structure, like Who, What, Why, How, and Result. It does save time, you get your message across, and you don't complicate your statements.

You can also keep track of what you've said a bit more easily.

The interviewer may ask you to go back and give more details. That's better than having to explain details you've already given but don't remember clearly.

Making an impression.

You've now seen some of the normal blunders possible in a phone interview.

In any phone conversation, people get an impression of the person they're speaking to; it's quite unavoidable. There are ways of avoiding giving the interviewer the wrong impression, too.

You need to give the impression of a genuine, sincere applicant who's both competent, and a good communicator.

Communications can be assumed to be part of any job, and your phone interview is part of checking that out.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will summarize your answers with something like:

Interviewee was concise and gave required answers. Met essential criteria.Interviewee was vague, answers disjointed.

Recommend for formal interview: Yes/No

You might like to remember that if you're dealing with a hiring agency, that recommendation will be made with their account in mind, not your job prospects. They don't want a client coming back to them and saying Why did you send us this guy?

It's that simple. That's why phone interviews are becoming so popular with employers.