Telephone interviews are often used in the early stages of the interview process by potential employers before arranging face-to-face interviews. It is important to prepare for the phone interview as you would for an in-person interview.
To prepare, you need to research the company and the position. Ultimately, the interviewer’s main question is ‘Why should I hire you?’ To provide a convincing answer, you need to demonstrate your fit and value. You want to be able to explain why you are interested in the position, how your skills will add value and what your salary requirements and expectations are. Prepare and practice answers that will reveal your skills and link to the employer’s needs. Keep your answers focused, relevant and concise. Finally, prepare 3-5 questions you would like to ask the employer.
There may be a considerable time between applying for the job and getting a response from an employer. So keep a list of companies that you have applied to, your resume and your research accessible so you can recall position details quickly.
While a phone interview is usually arranged in advance, sometimes employers just call and jump right into their interview questions. If that call comes at a poor time, thank them for calling, express your interest, let them know you can’t talk to them at the moment and ask if you can return their call shortly. Be realistic about this timeframe – don’t say 5 minutes if you really mean 20 minutes. Be sure to get their complete phone number including extension and return the call within the specified length of time.
Since phone interviews are usually the initial contact, you want to create a great first impression. I recommend you dress as if you were meeting the employer in person and sit up straight to allow your voice to project and sound more confident. Follow the employer’s lead, listen carefully to their questions and allow yourself time to take a breath and collect your thoughts before answering. Smiling while you speak helps you relax and changes the tone of your voice so you sound positive and open to conversation.
At the end of the interview, remember to ask your questions including what the next steps and timelines are for the company’s hiring process. Send a thank you note or email after the interview and send any requested follow up information within the agreed to timeframe to demonstrate your interest to the employer.
While a telephone interview can be challenging, you will do just fine if you remember to breathe, smile, speak clearly and thoughtfully, and slow down.