Love it or hate it, the phone interview is, in most cases, a crucial step to landing a face to face interview with a prospective employer. It’s often an employer or recruiter’s first impression of you so it’s important to make sure you leave a good one.
Many job seekers don’t put a lot of weight in the phone interview, which is often why they don’t get called back. The same amount of preparation that you put into meeting face to face should be put into your phone interview. And, if you do your prep work then, you’ll have less work ahead should you land an in-person meeting.
Make sure you follow these do’s and don’ts of a phone interview to be sure you are putting yourself in the best light:
Prepare your materials for the call
This means having your resume printed out for reference, as well as the job posting, and any email correspondence you might have had with a recruiter or hiring manager. Be sure to review the posting and take notes on what they are looking for and how your experience addresses their needs.
You have an advantage to have as many notes on hand as possible for the phone interview since they can’t see you–take this opportunity.
If you’re good at multi-tasking, be in front of a computer with the company website and LinkedIn profile of the interviewer up so you can reference them for questions or conversation starters–but only if you’re good at multi-tasking, if you’re not, skip this distraction.
Practice answering typical interview questions
Often the same questions you would be asked in a face to face interview, you will be asked on the phone, so practice your responses to some of the most common questions. Even better, send a list of questions to a friend to call you and perform a mock interview, and get their feedback on how you come across on the phone.
The interviewer can’t see you or read your body language so how your voice comes across is very important. Make sure your interest in the job reads through your voice, that you are clear and articulate, and that you don’t ramble because you can’t read the other person’s non-verbal cues.
Do not treat a phone interview like any other phone call. Interviewers can hear what’s going on in the background so find a quiet place to take the call.
If you’re at home, alert others not to disturb you and let them know how important the call is, especially if they might answer the phone before you get to it. Prep them on what to say. There’s nothing more off-putting than hearing people yelling and screaming at each other to pick up the phone or question a person about who they are and why they’re calling before being transferred when the interview has been pre-arranged.
If you can, take the call from a land-line phone to avoid interference or dropped calls. Taking a call from a cell phone is more acceptable nowadays as less people have landlines, but make sure you are in a place with good reception, alert the interviewer that you are on a cell phone, and ask should the call drop for a number you can call to reach them at. Take the onus off of them having to try you back until you have service again.
Also remember to turn off things like call waiting so they don’t distract you. If you’re taking the call from a VOIP phone on your computer, turn off other programs that run in the background so they don’t pop up with alerts during the conversation.
And, if you have to take the call from work, DO NOT take it from the bathroom! There’s nothing more disturbing than hearing toilets flush (among other obnoxious noises) on the other end of a phone interview, but you would be surprised how many people do this.
Sounds funny, but even though the interviewer can’t see you, your body language can still have a direct impact on how you come across on the phone. Make sure you are smiling and that smile will come through in your voice.
Sit up straight and you will feel more empowered. If you need to be at your best, feel your best–go ahead and get dressed for the phone interview if it helps or put on your best outfit that makes you feel good.
Prepare for the little things
If you really want to be ready for your phone interview, prepare for the things you don’t think about. Have a glass of water ready in case your throat gets dry or hoarse.
Have a note pad an extra pens or pencils to take notes (especially if one goes out so you’re not scrambling.) And do take notes! This is potentially a future job, you’ll want to remember what was discussed in case you make it to the next round.
Clear away clutter where you’re going to take the call so you can easily identify any materials you need to be focused on during the interviewer.
If you are calling the interviewer, make sure you have the dial-in information ready at least 15 minutes before the call, so you don’t panic beforehand.
You can always ask these again if you make it to the face to face, but by asking them in the phone interview, it will give you more information to build from and allow you to make sure the position is a good fit for you, and not just the other way around.
And once you’ve breezed through the phone interview, don’t forget to follow up with the interviewer (we suggest via email at this stage) to thank them for their time, reinforce your interest (if you are still interested–otherwise, do take the time to politely decline the position) and clarify anything regarding your qualifications for the role in case you didn’t get a chance to during the interview.
So whether you are a pro at phone interviews or they cause you great anxiety, if you follow these do’s and don’ts and you’ll be on your way to a better phone interview experience for both you and the interviewer.
Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.