Career Advice, Interviews

Mastering the Phone Interview

The phone rings, and you’re working on a myriad of different tasks (perhaps none of them related to your job search).  You pick up the line and suddenly you find yourself speaking to a potential employer that you sent your resume to 3 months ago. Even with no warning of the all-important first interview, you can sail through the call as though you’ve been patiently waiting by the phone for them to ring. Here are some tips to help you get to the next round:

  • Don’t just say hello: Most of us have caller ID now (who doesn’t ignore a call once in a while?), so you can usually tell if it’s a potential employer calling. Regardless of when you sent the resume, always answer your phone in a professional manner. For example, “Hello, Mike speaking”. A simple introduction when answering the phone confirms that the caller has the reached the right person and it makes you seem approachable even when caught off guard.
  • Know your resume: If you are in the job market, you probably have passed out enough resumes to wallpaper the Taj Mahal.  In this job market, expedient responses are few and far between so make sure you have a few key talking points from your resume memorized that help to explain your background and experience confidently.
  • Don’t get distracted: Calls don’t always come at a good time, and if you are in a meeting or on a subway platform, ask if you can reschedule the call. You’ll find most interviewers will ask, “Is now a good time to talk?” as they realize they will have caught you unexpectedly. If you are in a less than ideal situation, don’t risk the interview – take the opportunity to reschedule for a better time that works for the both of you.
  • Do ask questions: The first call works both ways – it gives the employer the opportunity to get to know you not just on paper to determine the best fit, and it’s also an opportunity for you to ask questions to find out if the company is a good fit for you. Make sure you find out more about the employer, the position and expected responsibilities – just like a resume, some job descriptions that sound great on paper are duds in real life. For more information, see Career & Workplace Expert John Sumser’s suggestions on how to interview a company.
  • Ignore the call waiting: It may be your mom, your wife or your fantasy football commissioner on the other line, but DO NOT take another call while speaking with a potential future employer. Again, thanks to caller ID, you can always see who is beeping in and call them back once you get off the phone.
  • Take notes: While the interviewer provides an overview of the company and the position they are looking to fill, take notes as you may not remember all the important points later. This gives you something to review and evaluate later when considering if this is the right job for you, and it will help direct a more specific line of questioning for the in-person round of interviews.
  • Follow up: Be sure to send a quick note to the interviewer –thank them for their time and reconfirm your interest in the opportunity.  Don’t have an email address for your interviewer? Make sure that before you hang up the phone, you express your gratitude and excitement toward the position and company, and you reiterate why you are the best fit for the position.

According to reports among Glassdoor interview reviews, phone interviews are the second most common pre-screen activity between a job candidate and a potential employer, behind the one-on-one in person meeting. Don’t let this crucial portion of the interview process ruin your chances for securing a job.