Phone Interview Techniques

Some employers conduct interviews over the telephone. In many cases, these interviews are a pre-screening process before they bring candidates to their company. In other cases, a telephone interview may be used to reduce recruiting costs. Consider the following tips before the call:

Find a Quiet Place  Try to avoid as much noise and as many distractions as you can during the call. If you’re at home, go to a quiet room and ask your family not to disturb you and not to pick up the phone. Some people set up a separate business line during a job search, which allows for fewer disturbances. Don’t pick up calls on call waiting during the phone interview. If you conduct a phone interview at work, get to an office or conference room that will guarantee no distractions.  If there is no distraction-free office space that allows you to speak freely, schedule the call before or after business hours, or during lunch, and take it at home.  Conducting a phone interview on a cell phone is acceptable, but not recommended.  If using a land line is not an option, make sure you get to a location where you know your cell phone reception is excellent and make sure your battery is completely charged.  How the interviewer reads your energy level and passion for the role is extremely important, so land lines are always preferred.

Use an Animated Voice On the telephone, you don’t have the benefit of body language to illustrate your enthusiasm. You need to project energy through your voice. Practice responses out loud before the call and be mindful of your level of expressiveness. Remember to speak clearly. Don’t be Afraid of Silence: The interviewer may be taking notes or reviewing your resume when he or she is silent. Some candidates are unnerved by this and continue to talk through the silence, often saying anything just to fill the gaps. When you have completed an answer, wait for a response. Even a few brief seconds may seem like hours on the phone, but remember to be patient.

Pay Attention to Filler and Lazy Language  Be cognizant of how silence is filled. Use of filler words such as “um”, “uh”, “er” or “you know” should be avoided in your conversation. Lazy lanugage, i.e. “gonna”, “wanna” , gives the impression that the interviewee is uneducated. On the phone, the interviewer will detect these verbal signs of nervousness even more so than in person.

Listen for Clues  When speaking, be mindful of the interviewer and listen for clues that he or she wants to break in and ask another question when interviewing in person, it is much easier to detect when someone is going to speak by watching, their body language.

Have Notes Available  One advantage of a telephone interview is that you can have a “cheat sheet” in front of you. Write down three or four major points you want to get across in the conversation, such as three reasons you’re a good match for the position and project examples. Be sure that you make all of the points before the conversation ends.

Keep a Resume Handy  The interviewer will have your resume close by so keep your own copy in front of you to answer questions about specific points. You might want to make notes on the resume so that you illustrate prior experience with maximum impact.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up

Never Discuss Salary Expectations  There is one absolute during the actual interview – never discuss salary expectations. Your focus needs to be entirely on how you can help the company and not how the company can help you.  If your current or recent salary is requested, it is appropriate to reveal that information, but discussing a projected acceptable salary forfeits all negotiating power and your ability to collect information regarding job level, detailed responsibilities, cost of living, relocation benefits, etc. It is also inappropriate to ask about or discuss benefits during the first call.  Your Columbia Search Partners (CSP) Recruiter will work with you on getting information on benefits, etc.

Close the Sale  Don’t forget to “close the sale.”  As the conversation comes to a close, reiterate your fit & interest for the position, and ask the interviewer about next steps.  Remember that the ultimate goal of phone conversations and all other contacts with a firm is to gain a personal interview with the individual who has the authority to make a job offer.

General Phone Interview Flow

  1. To begin the conversation, get the interviewer to tell you what his expectations are for the role or ask your interviewer to describe what the short and long-term goals are for this position.
  2. Follow dialogue of the conversation and take advantage of opportunities to give examples that directly relate to what the interviewer related in #1.
  3. Once the brunt of the interview is over, start closing out the interview.
  4. Ask the interviewer if you have answered all of his/her questions?
  5. At this point, do you have any concerns or reservations about my ability to succeed in this role?
  6. Express a positive level of interest: I feel that I my background is a strong fit for this role and will be able to contribute a great deal to the company’s goals.
  7. Reiterate your interest in the role and ask what are the next steps.

Remember, your Columbia Search Partners (CSP) Recruiter will prepare you in detail before the phone interview.