Preparing for a Phone Interview

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A Reader Writes:

I’ve been back in the job market for awhile now.  I’ve sent out a lot of resumes and I finally heard back from an opportunity with a great company that I am interested in.  I was contacted by a recruiter, and she set up a phone interview with the hiring manager next week and I am very nervous about how it will go.  I’ve done a lot of reading and practice for an in-person interview so interviewing over the phone is throwing me off.  I’m not really a great phone person and feel that I would make a better impression if they had the opportunity to meet me in person.  My biggest fear is not making a good enough impression and not hearing back from them.  I really want this job!  HELP!

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With confidence, you have won before you have started. – Marcus Garvey

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You are absolutely correct that a phone interview can be a key component which determines whether or not you move along in the application process.  More than likely, a number of applicants have applied, so they need to carefully consider who to select to invite in for in-person interviews.  While working as a recruiter and hiring manager, I’ve personally conducted a number of phone interviews and have chosen to not move forward with candidates based on a number of reasons including: candidates not answering the phone at the scheduled time, some were driving and not able to focus (those were cut short or rescheduled), and in other instances the lack of preparation and obvious distractions made it impossible to move forward with some candidates.

The good news is that preparing for phone interview is primarily a mental activity and something that is easy to prepare for.  Also, it is the SECOND impression that you will make on this potential employer.  Your first impression was the resume and cover letter.  And, it must have been positive, or you would not have been contacted for a phone interview.

So, give yourself a pat on the back and congratulations for making it to this next important stage.  Here are some key pointers that will help you to prepare and ensure that you put your best foot forward.




1. Prep Work.

In advance of the phone interview, think of two or three key points  to highlight why you are the best person for the job. Remember, they are already interested in your background and skills which is a great confidence booster. Now you have the opportunity to be truly thoughtful about your qualifications and provide some extra emphasis on what you have to offer. Review your resume for the key points, qualifications or accomplishments you presented and be ready to discuss them.

Remember, hiring managers are not focused on why you would like the job; they care about how you can help the company if you are hired.  What value are you able to contribute to the company?

2. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Practice in front of the mirror, with a friend or with your significant other. Prepare a list of questions you expect the interviewer to ask and have good answers prepared. Your responses should flow naturally and not appear to be memorized. Memorized responses can sound canned and not real which will not help you. You need to appear genuine and confident.  Remember, these are your experiences and no one knows them better than you.

3. Dress for the interview.

Wear the same clothes when you are on the phone that you would wear if you were in front of the interviewer in person. When you dress for success your attitude will reflect it. 

4. Smile.

Smiles are contagious, even when unseen. Something in your voice and attitude is conveyed when you smile and the person on the other end of the phone will be able to sense it.  Remember, there is truth in the old saying, “Smile and the world smiles with you.” It is basic human nature.

5. Remove distractions and speak clearly.

Make sure that you are in an environment that is quiet and free of distractions.  If you are using your cell phone, make sure that you are in an area that receives good reception. Crackling noises, dropped calls, and background noises will negatively impact the positive impression you are trying to create.

Lastly, relax and be yourself  When it is over remember to thank the interviewer for his or her time, and offer to provide any other information they might need to make a decision.   Once your call is completed, do not forget to send a thank you letter.

-Wishing you continued success!

Submit your questions to askacareercoach@penntalent.com.

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