PHONE INTERVIEW TIPS
At Empower, we create value for our clients by conducting phone interviews on their behalf. This makes sense, because it saves them time and, with years of recruiting experience under our belts, we are good at qualifying candidates for our clients’ positions.
Sometimes our clients also want to do their own phone interviews before they move to an in-person meeting. However, there are risks to qualifying a candidate from just a phone call, as it changes the dynamic of the interview. No body language or facial expressions to gauge understanding. No non-verbal cues to help you adjust. To overcome some of those challenges, keep the following in mind:
- Answering the Phone: How you answer the phone when the hiring manager calls is your “handshake”. No one likes a weak handshake. Conversely, you don’t want to break the other person’s fingers either. Somewhere in the middle is usually acceptable. That means answer the phone in a professional, upbeat and positive way without going overboard. A simple, “Hi, this is John” is a good way to go.
- Background Noise: There is always background noise going on in people’s homes. Between the dogs, the kids, and the doorbell, it can be a zoo. If you cannot eliminate the background clatter, at least prepare the caller for it. Let them know that your kids are home from school, or your dog tends to bark at the slightest disturbance. Make sure any predictable noise factors, like TV’s radios, running water, etc. are eliminated before you answer the phone. If you are in the car, roll up the windows and turn the radio off. The ideal phone interview is in a closed room, no background noise, not in your home. So, try and get as close to the ideal as possible.
- Technology: Sometimes technology can crap out, it happens. If you are receiving a call on your cell phone, let the caller know right off the bat and put a plan together for how you will handle a possible dropped call. No need to create unnecessary panic, just a simple, “I’m on my mobile phone, so I apologize in advance if we get disconnected, but please call me right back if we do.” On the same note: make sure your phone is fully charged.
- Establishing Rapport: Just as you would during a face-to-face interview, you will spend the first couple of minutes breaking the ice and building a personal relationship with the interviewer. This is also acceptable on a phone interview but generally the rapport building time will be much shorter. The caller usually has a hard stop, so be respectful of their time –make some small talk, but keeping the conversation moving towards the topic on hand.
- Answering Questions: In an in-person interview you can generally tell when you are being too short or long winded with your answers based on the person’s facial expressions or body language. Since you do not have the luxury on the phone, the best general rule is to keep your answers concise, but not terse. In other words: don’t ramble.
- Be Professionally Prepared: Remember, this is a critical step in the process and a bad phone interview will bounce you from consideration. A phone interview is a critical step in the process and should be treated with the same professional respect and preparation as an in-person interview. This means you need to take it seriously and do your research on the company and prepare 3-5 questions based on your research. The good news is it’s an open book test! You can have your research in front of you, so you can refer to any notes you have prepared without any fear of looking like you are searching.
- Do NOT Google Technical Answers during the Interview: All of our hiring managers are technical and will test your technical skills. They also know what a keyboard sounds like over a phone. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so, but don’t fake it. We have placed plenty of candidates who did not know all the right answers. Plus, if you read something from the internet, it is easy for the hiring manager to Google the same question and see you are reading from a web link.
- Helpful Hint: Another tip we have found from experience is to stand up to create energy. If you were in person you would be able to create that energy and excitement by walking into the office and shaking hands, making eye contact, smiling, and nodding, etc. You still want to have that up-beat energy, so we suggest standing up during your conversation. Some candidates even have a mirror in front of them during the call to make sure they are smiling—trust us, the interviewer can feel a smile through the phone! Just be careful to not walk around too much and create “nervous” energy, which could make you sound distracted.
Remember, the phone interview is a valid and important first step in getting the job you want. Don’t underestimate its importance!