Many successful career searches begin with a telephone interaction with a representative from a company. When having a telephone interaction, it is important to know the function of the call is – is it a full interview or a screening call – as it will help with your preparation and expectations for the discussion. Yesterday, I covered some of the unique aspects of the screening call, and today we will cover the full-blown telephone interview.
A telephone interview conducted by a hiring manager can be used to make two types of decisions. If it is for a summer internship, the decision to extend an offer of summer employment can be made after only a phone interview. Employers often do not have the funds to bring intern candidates into an office for a face-to-face meeting nor the funds to travel to a campus to conduct internship interviews. When this is the case, telephone or SKYPE interviews are often the option to vet candidates to decide to whom to make offers for summer employment.
For full-time employment, the telephone interview is one more step in the selection process. A hiring manager could use this interview as one more way of trimming an applicant pool in order to make the final cuts in determing who will be brought into the offices for face-to-face meetings. So how can one ACE THE (telephone) INTERVIEW:
Setting: Since non-screening telephone interviews will be scheduled, candidates should secure a quiet place where interruptions are unlikely and one’s phone service is strong (if using a cell phone). Hearing barking dogs, buses and car horns, and other loud noises are distracting and communicate that you are not taking the phone call seriously. Ambient noise should be minimized. Another consideration when choosing a location for a telephone interview is the strength of your cell reception. While recruiters will always say “It is no big deal” if a call is dropped, do you really believe it does not affect your impression with the recruiter?
Preparation: While I recommend conducting the usual amount of research and preparation for the telephone interview, you have an advantage in being able to bring this information with you to the interview. I always have out my resume, my company research sheet, a list of questions I would like to ask, the job posting and a “Prep” sheet when conducting a telephone interview. These resources can help you deliver solid answers and ask engaging questions – just don’t become too reliant on the papers. Wasting time flipping through pages is not a good way to impress a recruiter. Use the research to help you remember examples and questions, not as a prepared list of statements.
Prep Sheet and Pauses: I mention above a “Prep” sheet and I thought I should explain. For telephone interviews and when preparing for face-to-face interviews, I will review a job posting and identify key skills and attributes the employer seeks in a candidate. I then think of examples that demonstrate those skills and some key words that will help remind me of the key parts of the example:
Career Fair 2012 Example
- Unable to book traditional space
- Two day event instead of one
- Each day had focus
- Communication to employers, staff, students
- Positive feedback: younger students, student-athletes, GE, Deloitte
From these bullet points I could deliver an organized answer that asked about my leadership in stressful times, through change, of a team, and other scenarios. Caution, do not try to script out your answer, instead, think of 3 examples that demonstrate the desired skills sought by the employer and have some bullet points on your “Prep” sheet to remind you of the scenario.
Why is this important? Pauses. When one is interviewing face-to-face, a 3-5 second pause after a question is fine as the interviewer can see you are thinking through how you will answer the question. A 3-5 second pause on a telephone will cause one to think the call was dropped. While one does not need to answer immediately on a telephone, a quick response is better than an uncomfortable pause.
Smile: Smile and the whole world smiles with you. But you are on the phone and they cannot see you. They can hear you! When you smile while talking, your voice has more bounce and inflections as compared to when you talk on the phone with a straight face. By smiling while on the phone, your voice will communicate energy and enthusiasm, which will be interpreted as having a strong interest in the firm/position.
Body Posture: Again, no one can see you so who cares if you are slouching in your chair or laying on your couch? I have no proof of this except for my personal experience, but when I sit as if I was in a face-to-face interview I find I perform better in a telephone interview. One time, I had my feet propped on the desk and was answering questions with a more relaxed tone and vocabulary until I realized what was going on and sat straight. I have even heard of candidate getting dressed up for their interviews to help them get into the best possible mindset for the interview. As the Bud Light commercials tout, it it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.
Telephone interviews provide unique challenges for candidates. By preparing and following these tips, you increase the likelihood of moving onto the next round.