Phone interviews can be extremely difficult. The interviewer and the candidate lose the ability to communicate through facial expressions, body language or hand gestures. During a face-to-face interview, the candidate can see if the interviewer looks confused or unsure about what he’s hearing. The candidate can proactively clarify his answer or ask if there are additional questions that can be answered. In a phone interview, there is a wider communication gap and the candidate may not always recognize when there is a lapse in understanding.
Even with the known communication gap, employers will often use phone interviews to pre-screen candidates. When a company posts a position, it may get hundreds of responses. Even if it culls the list to 20 top candidates, it is much easier and simpler to do an initial screening through a phone interview. This allows the company to continue to whittle down the list even further.
Another consideration is that many businesses now operate globally. Phone interviews are used to reduce travel expenses when a company is hiring someone living across the country or even on the other side of the globe. Travelling for an interview is simply too costly and time consuming.
If you get called for a phone interview, follow some of these tips to help you ace the interview:
- Dress for it! Don’t lounge around in your pajamas. This is an interview and it should be treated with the same respect and care as a face-to-face interview.
- Choose your environment wisely. Think very carefully about where you will have this interview. You don’t want kids screaming in the background. You don’t want dogs barking. You don’t want the interviewer to know you’re answering the call from the local coffee shop. You do want quiet, so everyone can focus on the interview.
- Turn off all phone noises, such as call waiting or text message notifications. The last thing you want is that dinging noise notifying you that a friend tagged you in a Facebook post.
- Make sure your mute button works just in case you have to cough or take a sip of water. You can quickly mute out the unwanted noise, then un-mute in order to keep the interview going without interruption.
- Use a land-line, if possible. They are less likely to get interference, background noises or to drop calls. If you must use a cell phone, make sure it is fully charged, in great working condition, and that you are in an area that gets good reception.
- Keep a glass of water handy, but if you get thirsty, make sure to sip quietly. Don’t gulp!
- Pretend the interviewers are sitting right in front of you. If it makes you feel more comfortable, continue to use gestures and facial expressions. Anything that helps you better express yourself is a good thing.
- Give the interviewer time to fully finish his questions. You do not want awkward silence following the questions, but you also don’t want to cut in if the interviewer is simply gathering his thoughts.
- Be concise and brief in your answers, but make sure you are fully answering the questions.
- Use good diction and pronunciation. You may even wish to record yourself prior to the interview and have someone else listen to your recording. They may be able to tell you if you are not clearly pronouncing certain words or if you mumble sometimes.
- Keep important information close to you in hard copy format. Print out copies of the job description, your resume, a list of your accomplishments and spread them around the phone. This way, they are at your fingertips and handy should you need to reference something.
- Keep your computer open and on the internet, but do not use it unless you have a question that you must look up. If an interviewer hears you typing in the background, he might mistakenly assume that you are multitasking or not giving the interview appropriate attention. If you do get a question that you need to research, make sure to ask the interviewer, “Do you mind if I take a minute to get that information for you? It’s on my computer.”
- Give enough time for the interview. Some people want to get the interview done with over lunch or during break time, but that’s not a good tactic.
- When answering the phone, do not just say “hello”. Be professional and say something like, “Hello – this is Ted.” Even though it’s your own personal phone, you should give a professional greeting. Like they say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
- Always follow-up with an email thanking the interviewer and letting them know you are interested in the position.
Here are things not to do:
- Because it’s hard to see that the interviewer understands what you’re saying, you may be tempted to ramble on. Keep this in mind and make sure to stop when you have nothing constructive to add. It is always acceptable to ask the interviewer, “Did I answer your question or is there something else you would like to know?”
- If you create a list of accomplishments or have your resume printed out, make sure you don’t read from them directly. Someone reading from a list always sounds like someone reading from a list. Have the list available as a reference, but use your own words to discuss your accomplishments.
- Watch the words you use. Try to limit words such as “you know”, “like”, “um” and other such words that don’t really add to the conversation.
The biggest tip of all is to practice! Get sample questions from the internet. Practice into a tape recorder. Practice with a co-worker or friend. The act of practicing will allow you to get used to the good habits so that by the time the phone interview comes along, you are very comfortable in yourself and confident that you are putting your best foot forward.
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List of the different interview types:
- The Video Interview
- The Informal Interview
- The Technical Interview
- The Phone Interview
- The Structured Interview
- The Scenario Interview
- The Assessment Event
- The Second Interview
- The Panel Interview
- The Lunch Interview
- The Group Interview
- The Behavioral Interview