Best Practices - Job Interview By Phone
Do your Research
Do your homework before any job interview. Research the job and requirements. Make sure you read and understand the job description. I would recommend printing the job description, highlight key elements and have it next to you for the interview. Find out what you can about the company. Who is their competition? What is their mission statement? How long have they been in business? What does the company do exactly? Know their industry.
It is always helpful to find online reviews. Sometimes Glassdoor will even have interview questions that a company may ask you. If you know the name of the person who will be interviewing you, you can check to see if they use LinkedIn and if they do, connect with them. This gives you the opportunity to see how long they have been with the company and other industries that they’ve worked in.
You do not want to go into an interview without doing your homework. Have you ever been in a class where a teacher called on you in front of your peers, asked you a question that you didn’t know the answer to? Do you remember how you felt? Did you stutter and stumble saying “umm” a couple of times just waiting for the teacher to call on someone else? That’s how it may feel if you go into an interview unprepared. Be ready for the interviewer to ask you what you already know about the company. I have been in interviews where the first thing they’ve asked is what I know about the company and why I want a position in that specific industry and at that specific company.
Even if you have the job description printed out next to you for the interview, it’s important to really know exactly what the job description says because they make ask questions to ensure that you’ve read it. A common mistake candidates make is skimming over a job description and then contacting the hiring manager asking questions that are directly in the information they’ve supplied. HR/Recruiters/Hiring managers have other applications to screen, emails to answer, and other candidates to contact while also interviewing and doing background checks. You don’t want to ask questions that are answered in the job description or information they’ve already given to you.
First Impressions Last Forever
Everyone knows how important first impressions are. They say you only have 7 seconds to make a strong first impression. As an HR Recruiter I can tell you I typically get my impression of a candidate within the first minute. There are a few tips that I can share with you to help make a good first impression.
Make sure you are in a secure and quiet environment for the phone interview. You DO NOT want to have any background noise. Make sure there is no TV or radio on, put your cell phone on silent and even take your landline off the hook or unplug it for the interview. If you’re applying for a work from home position the interviewer will want to ensure that you have no distractions or background noise. Don’t eat or drink anything while in the interview, chew gum, run water…etc. Change the batteries in your smoke detector if it’s time. (This is a common noise I hear in interviews.) Also, make sure you have a clear phone connection and if you’re using a cell phone you want to ensure that the battery is fully charged before the call.
The way you answer the phone is the first interaction that can make or break the call. Smile. Be enthusiastic. (“Hi, how are you!?”) Be waiting for the interviewer’s call. I’ve called candidates in the past who’ve sounded like they’ve just woken and candidates who’ve sounded surprised by my call. If the interviewer tries calling and the call goes to your voicemail or the line is busy, they may not try calling back, so be ready. Be polite, try not to interrupt or dominate the conversation. It is okay to be nervous but remember to slow down, enunciate and speak clearly. If you are stuck on a question avoid saying “um” or “uhhh” (I know this may be easier said than done) but try “that’s a good question, I need to think about that for a second…” instead. Be confident, remember your strengths, accomplishments, and why someone would want to hire you. Remember what you have to offer!
Prepare Your Own Cheat Sheet
I plan on writing my next article on common interview questions and how to answer them but for now you can google common questions and prepare yourself on how to answer them. When you search for common interview questions you can also search the industry, job title, company or type of work. Have a notebook in front of before the call so that you can take notes during the interview. Jot down some key points beforehand that you don’t want to forget to mention (Awards, certifications, nominations, accomplishments…etc.). You can also write down facts about the job or company in your notebook. I like to use different colors and highlighters so that it’s easier to see and find right away. It’s been easier for me to find notes quickly when they’ve been written in bold colors. I’ve also used colored note cards and added stars or symbols to easily find specific notes and then taped the notecards up above my computer. You won’t want to write sentences or paragraphs. You will never be able to find what you’re looking for quickly and you certainly don’t want to read off your note card. An example would be to have a note card that says something like “strengths” and then have a list or number some things you don’t want to forget. (Organized, fast learner, adaptable, needs little to no supervision…etc.) You have the opportunity to have resources right in front of you without them even knowing, but you definitely don’t want to read off a cluster of sentences. If you decide to use note cards to make lists, highlight the examples that you feel are the most important. Even if you don’t use any of your notes, you will go into the interview feeling more confident knowing that they’re there.
When answering interview questions you want to explain yourself efficiently while completing and explaining each answer. By completing your answer I mean that you want to make sure that you’ve finalized your reply. A common mistake occurs when a candidate answers a question that requires a list of things and the candidate ends their final sentence without sounding confident. It can sound almost as if they’ve ended their sentence with a comma instead of a period. Be firm in your answers and make it clear when you’ve finished answering each question. If ever there is a long silent pause you may ask something like: “does that answer your question?” You don’t want the interviewer to constantly ask you to tell them more, give specific examples over and over again or ask what you mean by your answers. For example if you are being asked what it is that you’ve liked about your past jobs and you say “the hours” or “the working environment” they are more than likely going to ask you what kind of working environment and clarification or what hours you worked and why you enjoyed those hours.
Below are examples of how to rephrase the “working environment” and “hours” answers by giving specific detail and a clearer explanation.
“I liked the environment” – Example: “I liked the working environment at XYZ Incorporation because we all operated together as a team where no one was afraid to give suggestions or ask for further clarification. We all shared the responsibilities as a group and had open communication with one another. By just saying that you liked the environment, it can mean many different things so you want to clarify WHAT you like liked and WHY you liked it.
“I liked the hours” – Example: “I really liked the working hours at my last job at ABC Enterprise because I worked the morning shift where I was able to get up, go to work and have my evenings free to do volunteer work at my church.” Be careful if you answer a question regarding the hours. If you talk about how you loved working morning shifts and the job you’re applying for only offers evening hours they may get the wrong impression.
Be Ready For Common Phone Interview Questions
Being ready for common interview questions can go hand in hand with doing your research and preparing your own cheat sheet but you want to be prepared to answer any question without your notes in front of you. When I help to prepare for a job interview I start off by giving a list of common interview questions. Sometimes the person will fill in the answers and sometimes they will just look over the questions and think about their answers. It is important to have an idea of how you will answer common interview questions and then study your answers before the interview. No matter how much you prepare I can almost guarantee you will be asked something you that you hadn’t expect. Have someone role play with you. You won’t be able to memorize your answers verbatim but if you decide to use note cards as I mentioned previously you can jot down a few key words that will help you remember your answers during the interview. Do not rely solely on your note cards!
I helped a friend prepare for a job interview a few months ago and she kept forgetting a few of the example answers that she wrote down when I’d asked the interview questions. She kept trying to write down entire scenarios with long paragraphs. I told her that in the moment she’d never be able to refer to her notes. One of the questions that she kept forgetting the answer to was “tell me about a time when you disagreed with a manager and how you handled the situation.” She wouldn’t believe me that jotting down a few words would work better than writing out the whole scenario. She was at my house the morning of the interview and before she left I took the note card with that question, scribbled out her long (2 paragraph) answer and replace it with just 3 words (Janet, file, SS#). Well, guess what. She called me after the interview and told me that she started to panic when they asked her a question that was very similar to the question she struggled with, she looked at her notes, saw the 3 words I jotted down to replace her unnecessary amount of details and…she nailed it…AND she was offered the position that same day!
Send a Thank You Email after the Interview
After the interview take some time to look over your notes from the interview. (Remember to take notes!) In your thank you email make sure to include anything that you forgot or wished you had said in the interview. Keep the email short and simple. Reiterate what you discussed in the interview and why you would be the ideal candidate. If they hadn’t mentioned what and when to expect the next steps feel free to address it in the thank you email. Below is a sample thank you email but ensure to customize and personalize your own.
Send each person that was on the call an email but personalize them each differently. Do not send the exact email to each interviewer. Sending a thank you letter or email can show that you are very interested in the position and it can leave a lasting impression. I recently read that 22% of employers are less likely to hire a candidate who does not send a thank you, and 91% like being thanked, according to an Accountemps survey online. Sample template below:
Hi (informal) Dear (formal) [interviewer name],
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me today. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and learning more about the [enter position] role with [Company name.] I’m still very interested and even more excited about the opportunity to [enter examples of what you would be doing and/or responsibilities of the job]. I know with my past experience in [your previous experience that relates and adds value to the job], hard work and dedication that I will be an immediate asset to the team.
Please let me know if I can provide any addition information. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding the next steps in the hiring process. Please feel free to contact me via phone or email at your convenience.
[Your First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name]
[LinkedIn profile address/professional profile (If you have one)]