I had my first telephone interview last week and it went well. Actually, it went better than I expected, and I have another one scheduled for this afternoon. Hopefully, the second phone screening will result in me being called in for a live interview.
I learned a few things about doing telephone interviews, so I thought I would share them with everyone.
Schedule an appropriate time and location
You need privacy and a quiet location to do your best. This allows you to concentrate on your responses and not worry about interruptions or eavesdroppers.
I work close to home, so I scheduled my interview to occur before lunch (a more appropriate time than after lunch, when people tend to be sleepy). I took a couple hours personal time, did my interview, then ate lunch. When I returned to work, no one had a clue I had just done an interview on my own time.
If you can’t make it home, you can consider doing a phone screening from your car or a public location that has minimal noise and allows you to converse without interruptions. A place like Starbucks or Panera Bread may work fine for your situation. Grab a booth in the corner, set up your notepad, and get prepared.
The absolute worst place you can do a phone interview is from your cubicle at work. In fact, you probably shouldn’t do it from work at all. Even though that empty conference room might be tempting, I am pretty sure most companies would seriously frown on using company time and resources to interview for a position with another company. In fact, it may be grounds for dismissal.
You should be well read on the position you are applying for and the company you are applying with. Nothing will turn an interviewer off faster than not knowing about the position for which you are interviewing, or admitting you only applied for the job because “it sounded cool.”
At the minimum you should brush up on the company’s business structure, clients, products, industry terminology, or anything else that may relate to the position you are applying for. Spending an hour or two researching these things before you do an interview can make a great impression on your interviewers and possibly land you a second interview or even a job.
You should also prepare your interview location. Have a copy of your resume, a pen and pad for note taking, have a glass of water handy, ensure your phone is fully charged, use the restroom before the interview starts, and…
As I mentioned earlier, I did my interview from home. While this is a comfortable place to be, it can also be distracting because it is easy to get too comfortable. I shut off or put away everything I didn’t need for the interview. I didn’t do any work from my current job, nor did I use the TV, radio, computer, games, have food available, or do anything else that might distract me. I had a copy of my resume, a pen, some paper, and my cell phone. That was all I needed to do my interview.
Some people may need access to a computer depending on what the position they are interviewing for. Just use your own judgment and be careful not to surf the web or play games during your interview. Your prospective employer deserves 100% of your attention. And trust me, even though they can’t see you, they will know you are distracted.
What? You’re on the phone! They can’t even see you! That’s true. But multiple studies have proved that people who dress professionally act more professionally. I’m not saying you need to put on a 3 piece suit and tie, but you shouldn’t do a phone interview in your pajamas either. Being too relaxed can take you off your game and you may respond in too causal a manner.
Follow standard interview etiquette
Telephone communication is often less formal than in person communication. But don’t fall for that misplaced sense of informality. This is your first impression with a company and you want to make it favorable. Paying attention to standard professional etiquette will go a long way in your favor.
Here are a few examples:
- Address the interviewer by title (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.)
- Don’t chew gum, eat candy or food, or smoke
- Don’t interrupt
- Don’t be afraid of silence; take your time and give a well thought out answer
- Close the interview with why they should hire you
- Thank the interviewers for their time
- Follow up with the interviewers with a hand written not, or e-mail if more applicable to your industry or there is a time constraint
Successful interviews require practice, preparation, and more…
There is a lot more to a successful interview than just these tips. I have tried to focus on the major differences between doing a telephone interview vs. an in-person interview. Many of the questions you will face in a telephone interview, and the best way to answer the questions may be similar.
If you have additional tips or observations, leave them in the comments section. I would love to hear your ideas. After all, I am looking for a job!