The Telephone Interview
There is a very good chance that the first interview invitation you receive from a company will be for a telephone interview. It costs employers money to bring in candidates for interviews so in difficult economic times, employers will often start with phone interviews to narrow down their list of candidates. These interviews are often much shorter and more focused than face-to-face interviews because potential employers are looking to shorten their candidate list and can do so quickly with a few well targeted questions in the phone interview. With the continued growth in technology, the phone interview could be replaced with the Skype™ interview via the Internet.
So how do you make a good enough impression during the phone interview to be asked to come for an in-person interview? Preparation and practice.
You need to prepare for a phone interview just like you would be prepare for an in-person interview following the steps shown here. However, remember that the phone interview is a screening interview to see if you fit the basic criteria for the job so it is unlikely that the interviewer will ask more than six to ten questions during the interview and will not expect you to ask very many either. Phone interviews are usually very quick since employers are probably calling twenty or more potential candidates to determine who to invite for in-person interviews.
Unlike in-person interviews where you should not be referring to notes, you should have a lot of notes on the table while you are conducting a telephone interview. It's like being given permission to "cheat" by having your notes at the ready. Your notes are all the information you've learned about the company organized in such a way as to be easily located during the interview. You should have in front of you all of the information about the company, its markets, what its current product offerings are, if has just announced a big change such as a new product line or the opening in a new market and also information specific to the type of job you are seeking with them.
Conducting the telephone interview is different from the in-person interview because there are no physical clues to help guide either the interviewers or the candidate. Therefore, vocal inflection becomes much more important during a telephone interview. You should be very attentive to the way you speak during the telephone interview. If you are naturally inclined to jump into the conversation you need to curb this impulse during the interview and listen very carefully to everything the interviewer has to say.
The follow list should help you successfully master the telephone interview:
- When the interviewer first calls make sure you can hear him or her clearly and that they can also hear you. In some cases there may be two or more people conducting the interview using a speaker phone so you will have speak distinctly so you will be understood by all of the interviewers.
- Use a corded phone or a cordless telephone with a headset while conducting the interview. DO NOT use a cell phone to conduct a telephone interview. Cell phones are very prone to interference and your response may become garbled or you may lose the call altogether.
- Listen very carefully to all of the information the interviewer tells you during the opening of the call. If you can, make notes of the most pertinent information including the names and titles of other people involved in the interview.
- Listen very carefully as the interviewer asks you questions. Again make notes if you can because you want to be able confidently answer the question without having to ask the interviewer to repeat it.
- Do not interrupt the interviewer when he or she is asking a question or making a statement.
- When it's your turn to speak, do not talk too loudly nor speak too slowly. It is best if you try to mirror the speaking style of the interviewer.
- After you have answered the question ask if the interviewer understood your answer. "Am I clear and have I answered your question?" or "Can I add anything else to make my point concise?"
- Keep your tone upbeat during the interview. Remember without visual clues the only way you have to demonstrate your interest in the job is with your voice so you should always sound upbeat and cheerful when answering questions.
- Do not ramble and finish all words and sentences when answering questions. You should stay focused on the question you are answering and use the correct words and phrases you need to answer the question. Do not cut off the endings of words (i.e. hopin', fixin', workin', etc.) Make sure and enunciate all words clearly.
- You may or may not get a chance to ask questions about the company and the position during the telephone interview, but in the event that you do keep your prepared list of questions handy. Do not ask multipart questions as this will be hard for the interviewer to keep track of. Keep your questions simple and direct.
- Keep your notepad handy in the event that a response from the interviewer sparks another question you need to ask.
- At the end of the telephone interview, thank the interviewer for his or her time and reiterate in just a few short sentences your interest in the company and in the job and state your willingness to meet with the interviewer at his or convenience.
- After you hang up, make follow-up notes of all the information you learned during the telephone interview including any other questions you've thought of because you will need all of this information to prepare for the in-person interview.