They Scheduled a Phone Interview...Now What?!

You’re ready to make a career change and you’ve been applying to what seem like an endless list of jobs both in close proximity of your current location, and for those flexible to relocation, quite a distance away.

Today you hear from one of the employers that they would like to schedule a phone interview.

You think GREAT…. I have an interview; someone (finally) recognizes my value.

But then the euphoria dies and you realize you’ve done face-to-face interviews but never a phone interview. 

How does this work?  What should you expect?  How do you prepare?

Most likely a phone interview is scheduled to maximize the interview process and at this stage the employer is probably interviewing a number of candidates.  It’s quicker and cheaper to use this medium to interview more candidates, especially those from a distance away.

How does this work? 

It’s very simple really, the employer schedules a date and time for your call, you confirm and provide the number for them to call and at that date and time they call you. Phone interviews are usually short anywhere from 15-30 minutes in general.

What should you expect?

This is the interview where they ‘weed out’ the strongest (or weakest depending on how you look at it) candidates to determine which ones best meet the needs of the position and the company.  Next they will take this smaller group and schedule face-to-face interviews.

How do you prepare?

  • Location: make sure you are situated in a location that is private, comfortable and free of distractions.   Even though this is a phone interview, you must treat it with the same level of respect as you would a face-to-face interview. The interviewer will be able to sense if you are not completely focused.
  • Phone number/medium: make sure that you provide a phone number that has a clear connection. Some cell phone connections seem to have a slight delay, some hollow. For me I still prefer the old landline for my comfortable connection to hear clearly and to be heard clearly, but that's me, you need to figure out what’s best for you.
  • Dress:  This IS an interview, so dress professionally for the type of position; dressing as you would for the face-to-face interview can prevent you from sounding to casual and it can make you feel more professional. 
  • Preparation:  research their company and/or their website and review the job posting qualifications and duties and compare them to your resume; organize your thoughts and rehearse responses to questions regarding your experience relating to those expectations; and have a copy of your resume nearby, this is the time when you can look directly at it!  Just make sure you are natural in your responses and aren’t reading. 

Also be prepared to ask a question focused on the position itself or their timeline in the process. Most likely you’ll get this opportunity at the end,               so make the most of it. Not having a question can make you appear disinterested.

  • Stand versus sitting:  many people will tell you that standing during the phone interview can help in remaining calm and sounding professional, just be careful not to pace or walk, stand still otherwise they’ll be able to hear this in your voice.  Sitting is also fine just make sure you are sitting in a straight back chair with strong posture.  You wouldn’t slouch if sitting in front of the interviewer so don’t do it now.  

Challenges?   To many the phone interview is easier as they can have notes in front of them and don’t have to worry about the nervousness of having someone in front of them watching their body language.  To others though it can be nerve racking and cause them to under or over speak, as they cannot see the interviewer to gauge their reaction, so they end up saying to little or they ramble. 

Another challenge is the long pause….the interviewer often is taking notes or looking over your resume to ask more questions but you can’t see this so you begin to wonder what is wrong.  You also can’t see their facial expression after a response to know how they reacted. 

Practice!  Ask a friend or family member if they will allow you to practice a phone interview.  Give them your resume and the job posting and have them go through the motions of asking questions about your experience, timing your responses and inserting a long pause to see how you react.  It won’t be perfect but it will help to put you at ease for the interview that really counts!

It’s over….now what?

The phone interview should be treated no differently than a face-to-face interview.  You evaluate how you think you did, send a thank you email reiterating your interest in the position and working for their company and clean up or a particular question where you think your response wasn’t quite what you truly wanted to say.  Just make sure you are only clarifying your response to one question not the entire interview. 

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