Phone Interview Tips

Phone interviews have been pretty common in my job search history, but I have spoken with people for whom they are not ordinary, and others who get extra nervous about them. So I put together this set of quick tips for shining through the phone interview stage.

In my experience, there are two kinds of phone interviews. The first I refer to as a phone screening. It is conducted by HR, not the hiring manager. HR asks some standard questions and provides a sheet to the hiring manager. In my old company, they did not give an opinion, just wrote down the answers and left it for the hiring manager/their helper to make the decision.

One of the important things to remember for these cases is that the person who screens the candidate is not actually involved in the hiring process, so the fact that it may seem to go well had no real impact on the decision to move the candidate to the next level.

A phone interview is actually conducted with the hiring manager or members of the team doing the hiring. It will also likely have some standard questions, but they will be more along the lines of behavioral interviewing, much like a first, in person interview would.

In either case, the purpose of a phone interview is to narrow down candidates. Right now, a single position often receives literally hundreds of applicants. And even if only 25% are actually qualified, no one has time to interview that many people in person. Phone interviews allow you to interview more people, give a chance to people who are maybe not quite “perfect” to impress you on the phone. They are a standard first step in the interview process.

So here are my tips for making it past the phone screen and the phone interview.

Phone screenings (unscheduled, HR person calls and says “do you have time to talk”):
Do some research on every organization before you apply or immediately after. Know at that time the answer to the questions “Why do you want to work here?” “What about this position interests you?” “What do you know about our company/organization?”
If you figure that out at the time you apply, when you are called randomly while at the dog park, you can answer those questions with some confidence.

Phone interviews (scheduled, w/ hiring manager):
-Make sure you are in a comfortable place where you won’t be fidgeting.
-Limit distractions.
-If possible, have your computer in front of you.
-Have the job posting up.
-Have the company website up.
-As people, we are very used to visual clues and body language, and you don’t have that over the phone. Because that can be very disconcerting, you might try closing your eyes when not actually looking at something in front of you.
-Remember that the person you are talking to is trying to write or type notes as you speak. Try to speak slowly and calmly.
-Do NOT be afraid of silence on the other end. Sometimes they are just trying to catch up.
-Try not to use too many acronyms or jargon, especially if you’re talking to an HR person- they don’t know what that means, and often won’t translate what you say exactly right. So try to keep it simple.
-Be confident in yourself.
-If possible, have a sleeping Beagle cuddled next to you (or something else that helps you relax)