How to ace the
By Ronnie Ann Himmel
There are times you will be contacted ahead of time to arrange the actual phone interview, but other times the phone might just ring. If you need a moment to gather your thoughts, it’s OK to ask if they can call back in 10 minutes. However, if you are looking for a job and have prepared yourself for the possibility of an impromptu phone interview, go for it right then and there because you don’t want the opportunity to disappear.
What interviewers are looking for
Having interviewed many people for various jobs and having been interviewed myself it is useful to keep in mind what an interviewer (over the phone or in-person) is looking for in a job candidate. Here are a few desired qualities or characteristics employers are looking for:
- Someone who can do the job. If asked, give clear, strong examples of skills that fit the job description.
- Someone they want to work with on a daily basis. Personality matters. You don’t have to be dazzling—just someone they feel meshes well with their team.
- Someone they can turn to in a crisis. Help them see you are someone others can rely on and who doesn’t get caught up in drama.
- Someone who finds solutions. Share experiences in which you helped solve a problem or figured out a better way.
- Someone who listens and responds coherently. The phone interview is your chance to show one of your most valuable job skills: effective communication.
- Someone who comes across as positive, pleasant and proactive. Employers want candidates who will add positive energy to their teams.
Before the interview
If you are looking for a job, be prepared for a phone interview at any time. A few simple things can make that welcome call less stressful. Find a quiet place where you can do the phone interview away from the distractions of stereos, televisions, other noisy devices, children and pets. Then, keep a few items such as your résumé, any potential company or contact information, a notepad, pen or pencil and a calculator near the phone so you have your important materials readily accessible.
Also prepare for the phone interview by researching the companies you’re interested in, being able to recite the skills and accomplishments on your résumé and preparing stories that show obstacles you’ve overcome or weaknesses you’ve turned into strengths.
Since you may not always be available to take the call, make sure the recording on your voicemail message is clear and professional. If you are making the call, it is important to know how to turn off call-waiting and use a landline to avoid the possibility of a dropped call.
During the interview
Although any interview can be stressful, with a phone interview you have the benefit of being in your own environment with your materials close at hand.
Assuming you know what time the phone interview will be, consider dressing as you would for an in-person interview. Being dressed in a way that says, “I am ready to do this job,” will come across over the phone.
Good energy also makes a big difference in how you are perceived over the phone. Some experts suggest standing or walking around to keep the energy up. Do what is most comfortable, but at the very least, sit up straight and give your full attention and energy to the person on the other end of the line. It is important to realize that your position and posture are closely tied to your engagement and enthusiasm on the call. Also, smile when you speak. Smiling changes the tone of your voice. Phone interviewers can sense your positive attitude.
One of the most important things to remember during the phone interview is to be present and fully engaged in the conversation. If your mind wanders to the next question or last answer, they’ll feel the loss of energy and connection. Listen carefully, answer thoughtfully and be yourself. Remember, you have something great to offer them. During a tough job search, we sometimes forget who we are.
When answering questions, speak slowly, loudly and clearly enough that you are easy to understand. Make sure your responses are professional and not too personal. Avoid excessively long, negative or inappropriate stories. Find the balance between talking too little and talking too much. Answer what is asked but where appropriate, give the interviewer a chance to see your personality. Don’t feel you must share every interview story. They just need to see you are someone they want to know more about. When appropriate, ask questions that show your genuine interest.
If you have thoughtfully answered a question, don’t worry about a quiet period. Let the interviewer look for his or her next question. Don’t over-commit yourself during the in-between times. You don’t have to fill in the dead air. Avoid um and uh. Just pause to think. Practice, if necessary.
Below are a few additional tips you should remember for your phone interview:
- Do not call the interviewer by his or her first name unless invited to do so.
- Do not interrupt the interviewer.
- Do not eat, drink, chew gum or smoke during an interview.
After the interview
Write down the questions, answers and responses you can remember. If you do this while the interview is fresh in your mind, you will have better information to refer back to.
Make sure you send a short thank-you note for the interview. Common courtesy is still essential.
You have no way of knowing exactly what your interviewer is thinking or screening for. All you can ever do is your best. By being fully engaged, using positive, results-oriented stories where appropriate, connecting with the interviewer and letting your real self shine through, you give yourself the absolute best chance of getting that next interview and landing a job that’s right for you.
Ronnie Ann Himmel is an organizational consultant, workplace coach and writer living in the New York City area. She blogs about job searches, interviews and career advice at Work Coach Café (http://workcoachcafe.com).