Tips for successful telephone interviews

A growing number of employers are using telephone interviews as the first point of contact with potential candidates, especially in the current over saturated market of available talent.

Companies receive more than 75 resumes on average for an opening according to CareerBuilder.com’s survey last year. They have to do something to dwindle down the pool before interviewing in person.

If you have worked with a recruiter, this technique may be more familiar. There are some guidelines that will increase how effective you are with the person on the other end of the phone.  First, let me share a story with you.

Darren has had two phone interviews over the course of the last several months. Yesterday, he had one with a company he is very interested in – do you think he has a chance?

“How did it go”, I asked.

“I think it went well. Although there was a question that the interviewer did not like”, he said.

“What was that?”

“I asked her how she made the decision to join the company. The woman told me she was not going to answer my question and seemed very unhappy that I had asked it.”

“What did you say then?”

“I tried to explain to her that I wanted to understand why she decided to work there. This is a question I ask every interviewer. It gives me some insight into what is special about the company.”

A conversation over the phone with an interviewer can go array very quickly. When you interview in person, you can immediately see what might not be understood because of the confused look on the interviewer’s face and make a quick correction.

In this situation, the woman from the company may have thought that Darren was getting too personal.

Recovering from a misunderstanding on the phone takes time. You lack the immediate rapport that is often established with an in-person interview. When you are on the phone you often create a mental image of the other party.

How many times have you been surprised by seeing someone in person who looked nothing like your mental image?

Let us look at some of the building blocks for a successful telephone interview:

Have your Resume Available

Be ready to discuss your resume with the interviewer on the phone. You can jot down notes in the sidelines of key points you want to make during the conversation. This is one of the benefits of a phone interview – you can refer to the notes without breaking eye contact!

Make your List of Questions

Your list should include questions about the company, business outlook, department, management style, job responsibilities, reason for the opening, opportunities for advancement etc.  Some of your questions will be answered naturally with the interviewer, so jot down some notes and check them off the list.

The best kind of questions are open-ended; answers that require more than a yes, no or one word answer. For example, “What would a typical day be like for someone in this position?” This gives the interviewer a chance to talk through the job responsibilities in a story telling format.

Avoid asking about benefits or salary in the first discussion. There is a saying that the first party that brings up “salary” is usually the one that loses. There is no data I know of to support that; however, I would discuss salary if you believe there is a major disparity on what you believe you are worth vs. what the job is paying.

Move on to the next opportunity if there is not a good fit and do not settle on a firm salary in the first discussion. The phone interview is the first step of the process. To command a higher salary, the company has to want to do it and that requires them getting to know you better in person.

If you are still wondering what kind of questions to ask, here are some questions to consider.

Dress Appropriately

I realize they cannot see you. Dressing up as if you were going on a face to face interview puts you in a different mood. Your vocabulary elevates. What you say sounds more professional.

Talk in a Private Location

This may sound like common sense; however, I have heard of people conducting their phone interview from their office cubicle. Do not, I repeat, do not do this. People in the office will overhear you because whispering is not the way to make a good impression on the phone.

If you must take a call during the day, schedule it during lunch or at a time when you can leave your work place. Sit in your car if there is no other option of going to a quiet location.

Ideally, find a desk with a comfortable chair as if you were in an office setting. You will find the atmosphere will help you have a professional edge.

Focus on the Interview

This is not the time to be multi-tasking. Turn off the computer, cell phone and anything else that might distract you. Act as if you are on a interview with them in person.

Prepare for Their Questions

It is OK to pause for a up to a minute to process their question. If you wonder why only a minute, time it – you will find it is a long time.

The questions you will get are similar no matter if the interview is in person or on the phone. Here is a great list of 50 common interview questions and answers by Bhuvavna Sundaramoorthy.

If there are tips you can share or if you have an unusual situation you faced, share it with us below.

Author: Lynn Dessert

Lynn Dessert is a certified ICF and NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals to accelerate their career advancement and organizations to fast track leadership skill development. Her career eBooks What To Do After Being Fired and The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding give you a roadmap to DIY. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.412.2852 today.

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