The phone interview has become the most popular way in which companies reduce the candidate pool for any particular job. And while they seem easy, they might be the hardest step in the job search process. Most applicants are confident going into the phone interview, but find out quickly just how unprepared they are. Here are some tips to help get you from the phone interview to a face-to-face meeting.
Find a quiet space. This is harder than it looks, especially if you already have a job. You cannot participate in a phone interview from your work desk without everyone in the office knowing you are looking for a new job. At the same time, hearing "tall white chocolate mocha for Fred" in the background is not the best way to endear oneself to the interviewer. If you take the interview at home, you can't simply apologize for a barking dog or crying baby and expect to move on in the process. You must find a quiet place for the phone interview. It shows the interviewer respect, it allows both parties to hear one another completely, and it reduces the amount of distractions that could cause you to make costly errors when asked difficult questions.
Listen carefully. You cannot rely on body language to help you get through the phone interview. This becomes difficult during a conversation when you are unsure if your answers are satisfactory. As a result, job applicants always find themselves always over-answering the question, trying too hard to please the interviewer and often times seeming desperate in the process. At the same time, it is often common for the interviewee to talk over the interviewer when they excitedly want to answer the question. Listen very carefully. Make sure the interviewer is finished talking before jumping in. Listen for verbal cues that will help you determine if your answer is satisfactory. In the end, the best bet is to go with your gut and keep your answers quick and to the point.
Dress appropriately. Sometimes, rolling out of bed and participating in a phone interview actually hurts your chances of getting the job. Sure, unless it is Skype, the person on the other end can't see you, but a phone interview already makes it difficult to keep things formal. If you are dressed in your pajamas, you might end up acting too informal on the phone and unprofessional in the eyes of the interviewer. People act differently when dressed professionally. While you don't have to wear a suit and a tie, your attire should put you in the mood for what is one of the most important steps of the job search.
Cheat. The one thing a phone interview allows you to do is work off a script. While you don't want to make it obvious that you are reading off a paper (use your own words and maintain a conversational tone), it is very helpful to have a cheat sheet in front of you - information about the company you are interviewing for; questions you want to ask the interviewer; and answers to important questions about your experience. People get nervous on phone interviews when they realize it is not as easy as they thought, so sometimes a quick reference guide on your computer makes it just a little easier to stay focused and get to the next round.
Beyond that, the usual tips apply - research the company; prepare to answer questions about your greatest strengths, weaknesses and obstacles you had to overcome; be prepared for the all-important "do you have any questions" portion of the interview"; and always follow-up by thanking the interviewer for his or her time and addressing any portions of the interview you might want to elaborate on further to help your cause. This should help you be in a better position as the interview process moves further into the live rounds.
Read additional career insights from Jon Minners on Vault.com.
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