Interviewing 101: Acing the Phone Interview

One of the most important yet least prepared for interviews is the phone interview.  I’ve never understood why, but candidates rarely take them as seriously as they should.  The phone interview is often the first time a recruiter or interview gets to hear your voice and from your voice they make lots of assumptions about who you are and how you will or will not fit into their organization.  Here are a few key steps in preparing for the phone interview.

Don’t be caught by surprise.

In a world where most of us only use mobile phones we are far more likely to be caught off guard when an interviewer calls.  It can be difficult to switch from the mindset of grocery shopping to interviewing for your dream job in 2.6 seconds so remember to stay calm and if that moment isn’t a good time ask to arrange a time to speak with them later that day or later in the week.  There’s nothing wrong with letting someone know you can’t talk but are interested in speaking with them.

Prep for the phone interview like a face to face interview.

Often candidates are too casual or distracted even when the phone interview has been prearranged.  Phone interviews give you the opportunity to set yourself apart from the slackers and show the interviewer they matter to you.  Do your research about the company, write down your questions, prep your answers to the commonly ask questions, and be prepared to ask for the face to face interview.

Sit in front of a mirror while on the phone

Through some chemistry I can’t explain to you, seeing yourself in the mirror tricks your mind into thinking you’re talking to someone else.  When we talk to other people in person, we’re more expressive and that expression comes through in our voice.  It’s probably the trick that has set more of my candidates apart than any other.

Shut off email and other distractions

Turn off the computer, ipad, etc and focus! We’ve all been on conference calls where we find ourselves checking email instead of listening intently to others on the call.  The same can happen in an interview so eliminate all of the distractions.  Take the dog outside, put the cat in the other room, get a sitter for the kids just like you would in a face to face interview, and give yourself and the interviewer the courtesy of really engaging in the process.

Ask for the face to face interview.

When the conversation has wrapped up,be prepared to ask for the face to face interview.  As the interviewer if (s)he has any questions or concerns that will keep you from moving to the next level.  It takes guts to ask this question but it will give you the opportunity to clarify anything you might have misstated and show the interviewer you’re willing to address concerns head on.  Once you’ve asked that, ask the next logical question, “When can we meet in person to continue this process?” Interviewers are looking for leaders and leaders don’t leave something as important as their future up in the air.

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