One of the best phone interview tips is to always remember: A telephone interview is nothing more than a sniff test to judge whether or not you are worthy of an on-site interview.
Companies do this to save time and money as sometimes candidates prepare eye-popping resumes, but can't communicate worth a darn.
Poor communication skills and lack of enthusiasm are the top two reasons people aren't hired.
It's impossible for companies to know if you have these attributes just from reading your resume. But in 5 minutes, a good interviewer can pretty much zero in on this.
Phone interviews typically last 20-30 minutes. Usually the HR manager or an HR specialist will call you, but sometimes the hiring manager will call.
On rare occasions, you will have a teleconference with HR and the department manager.
This is usually a good sign that the powers-to-be are impressed with you. Otherwise, why would 2 people spend their time talking with you?
Phone interviews tend to lack warmth.
You'll find managers and HR folks want to get right down to business and get this over with as quickly as possible.
Don't be put off by this. Be glad your well written resume created enough interest to prompt a conversation.
Remember...no one ever hired a resume.
The person interviewing you will likely use a 1-2 page form with predetermined questions. They will also use your resume as an agenda. This is one of those job interview tips that is good to know because...
Phone interviews are screening type interviews...especially if you're talking to someone in Human Resources.
In other words, you're going to feel a little more on the defensive than you would in a face-to-face interview; however, knowing a few key job interview techniques can lessen your anxiety.
Their mindset is to discover any problems, questions, or gaps in your resume to screen you out so they don't have to spend a lot of time with you if you're not the right fit.
On the other hand, if you impress them with your responses, be prepared at the end of your phone interview to be invited in for an on-site interview to face one of 6 types of interview.
Typical phone interview questions are covered in depth on another page in this website. But before you go there, it's very important to understand the psychology of a telephone interview.
Phone Interview Tip 1:
Request that the interviewer call you at a specific time
It's nerve racking and annoying to be waiting around all day for an important phone call.
You don't want one of the most important phone calls of your life coming in when you're out in the garage, fixing dinner, driving around in your car, or after you just poured yourself a second glass of wine at 6:00PM figuring they won't be calling today.
Worse yet, you don't want your teenage son or daughter answering the phone, "What's up, Dawg?!"
It's not unreasonable to ask whomever is scheduling your phone interview to call you at a specific time. This way you will be prepared for their call, get it over with, and can turn your attention to other things in your life.
SIDEBAR: If for some reason, a company won't commit to a time, just collapse and go with the flow.
Try and narrow down when they might call...morning, mid-afternoon, evening.
There may be a good reason why the manager or HR person can't commit to a specific time such as traveling, on vacation, or off site at a meeting.
The important thing is they want to talk with you. This is good.
But the more control you have over the interview time, the better. So, if you can prearrange a specific time, you'll be in the best mindset to talk with them.
This is one of those phone interview tips that will save you a lot of anxiety...especially on the weekend when you're trying to relax or complete a home project.
And yes, I have known a few managers who were so impressed with someone that they actually called them from their vacation in the Caribbean (although I always wondered how their spouse felt about that!).
Phone Interview Tip 2:
Be well prepared for your telephone interview
The nice thing about a phone interview is you can have notes in front of you and other memory joggers.
Take the time to review the top 10 phone interview questions.
Write out your answers, but make sure you don't read your answers to them. A good phone interview tip is to rehearse your answers out loud.
Go to a quiet place where you won't be disturbed. Tell your family about your important phone call and ask them to please be quiet and not interrupt you for 30-40 minutes.
If you have a dog, make sure they are put away so that if they start barking you won't be distracted or embarrassed.
I've conducted phone interviews where you could hear their dog yipping in the background non-stop for 10-15 minutes or erupting into a barking fit because a squirrel just ran up the tree in their front yard. Very annoying.
SIDEBAR: The whole interviewing routine is a game. It's really unnatural. Companies are watching your every move and the littlest things can sway their opinion about you. Prepare for your phone interview just like you would if you were going out on a first date with someone you really like.
Phone Interview Tip 3:
Avoid interviewing on your cell phone
Technology is wonderful, but I can't tell you the number of times I've had a cell call dropped, or I hear on the other end, "Hello, hello...you still there...hello, hello...can you hear me now?..."
Not good...and don't ever do a telephone interview in your car or while you are out and about. This is a life changing moment and you need to be in a place where you can focus and minimize distractions.
Note: If you can't pass my Mock job interview quiz you're probably not ready for your job interview.
Phone Interview Tip 4:
Change your voice mail greeting
Some people think it's cute to have their 4 year old leave a voice mail greeting. Others have an unusual sense of humor that they like to share with whomever.
I remember one time I called a serious candidate for a dream job opportunity and was entertained with the following voice mail greeting:
"Hey...thanks for calling...BUT...we can't come to the phone right now because...well...me and the wife are probably out skinny dipping in our hot tub...ta-ta for now good buddy."
Not too bad (actually sounds like a great idea), but is this the kind of voice mail greeting you want your future boss to hear?
It's just too high risk. So, just change it...at least until you've changed jobs and are off the market.
Phone Interview Tip 5:
Don't answer call-waiting
Never, ever do this. If you can disable call-waiting, that's even better.
When you hop off the phone to grab another call, you're basically telling the interviewer that their call isn't that important to you.
Truth is, this call is the most important priority of your life right now.
Everyone else can wait for 30-45 minutes. For decades we didn't even have call waiting.
Phone Interview Tip 6:
Be prepared to provide dates you will be available to interview on-site...and don't be afraid to ask for the interview
When the interview is concluded, give the interviewer a couple of dates that you are available to interview with them on-site.
This makes it easier for them to set something up without a lot of telephone tag. Also, it's a good way to get a reaction from them as to how they perceived you in your phone interview.
You could say, "I've very much enjoyed talking with you about this opportunity. I'm excited about it, and looking forward to meeting you. I'm available to come in for an interview on Thursday or Friday of this week, or Monday or Tuesday of next week. Which days work best for you?"
It's a good sign if they say they have to discuss it with their boss, or ask you if you are available on other dates. This is an early indication that you did well, and it's likely your will be invited in for an interview.
Phone Interview Tip 7:
Be yourself, but remember the phone is a cold instrument
Communication experts tell us that 80% of our communication to one another is non-verbal.
It's tough to really get a feel for someone by a voice over the phone.
Make sure you smile when you talk.
Try and project an enthusiastic, positive, can-do attitude.
Don't eat food, slurp your coffee, or chew gum.
I'm not suggesting you change your personality. Be yourself, but you don't want to come across as too laid back or relaxed.
SIDEBAR: The number one reason people are rejected is lack of enthusiasm or not much personality. The number 2 reason is poor communication skills (talked too much, talked in circles, talked in a monotone).
Phone Interview Tip 8:
Expect gaps of silence during your phone interview
Remember I mentioned earlier that whoever is interviewing you will be filling out a form when they are talking with you?
While you're answering their question, they are busily writing down your responses on their form.
Most interviewers are so focused on doing this that they don't give you any kind of verbal feedback when you've finished your comments.
This wouldn't happen in a normal interview. You would immediately get some kind of response that they understood you or agreed with you.
Even if they nodded their head or smiled, that's feedback. Not so with the phone. Don't let that get to you during your phone interview. Avoid the temptation to keep talking because you can't stand the silence.