Often the first step in the hiring process is a phone interview, but few people are masters at selling themselves over the phone. The challenge is to sound relaxed and personable as you share information about yourself, your work history, and what you have learned about the hiring organization.
The good news is that phone interviews are an “open book” test so we recommend that you prepare a “cheat sheet” with notes. These notes should be written or typed in a large enough type that you can easily glance at them while on the phone.
Preparation Tips for the Phone Interview
- Research the interviewer and prepare accordingly – If you will be contacted by an HR representative, they will likely only be fact-checking your resume, evaluating your communication skills, and deciding if you are an overall good candidate for the position. A typical HR screening will last about 20 minutes. If your interviewer is a hiring manager, you can expect a more in-depth call to determine if your technical skills and experience are a good fit for the position and team. Research your interviewer and write down their name as well as some key facts about them on your note sheet before the phone interview.
- Research the company – Carefully review the organization’s website, social media accounts, and other public information ensuring that you are familiar with its history, mission, and goals. Include key points on your note sheet and think about ways you can both convey your knowledge and demonstrate ways you can add value to the organization during the phone interview.
- Research the position – Write down details about the position requirements and align your skills and experience with the specific duties, responsibilities, and qualifications that the job entails. Identify specific accomplishments that demonstrate your ability to meet the job requirements and fit with the organization’s culture.
- Prepare three to five questions to ask – These questions should be based on your research on the company, position, and interviewer and should be unique enough to make you stand out from the other candidates. Be sure to spend adequate time on this portion of your research to come up with specific questions. Your questions should not be about compensation or benefits at this stage in the process.
- Prepare anecdotes for behavioral interview questions – You never want to be caught by surprise and draw a blank during your phone interview. It is highly likely you will be asked behavioral interview questions; prepare short but complete answers to common interview questions like these:
– “Give me an example of a time when you took some initiative.”
– “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or manager.”
– “Describe a time when you were proactive toward a potential problem.”
– “Give me an example of how you handled a missed deadline.”
-“Describe a specific example of how you deal with stress on the job.”
Once you have completed your “cheat sheet” and have become very familiar with it, practice your answers with the phone to your ear, or with a headset. Adequate research and preparation for your phone interview help ensure you’ll interview confidently and will be invited to continue on in the process.