Did you write a next-level cover letter and resume? If so, you may have dialed up a phone interview with your prospective employer. During this stage of the game, you need to be prepared to explain the contents of your resume, answer some questions about yourself and your experience, and describe what you hope to accomplish in your new role—among other topics of conversation.
Here are six ways to nail your phone interview, courtesy of Aleron Corporate Recruiter Barbara Strother.
- Treat it like a sit-down interview.
Sure, there’s a little less pressure interviewing over the phone than when in person, but that doesn’t mean you should take your phone interview any less seriously.
“We evaluate a candidate the same way we would if they were sitting in our office,” says Barbara. “People who sound prepared and provide thoughtful and articulated responses stand out from the crowd.”
Prior to your phone interview, check out the company website to learn more about its mission, products or services, and team members. Interviewers want to know that you are invested in the job opportunity. Having knowledge of the company will demonstrate that you have “done your homework,” thereby giving you an advantage over a candidate who hasn’t.
- Have your resume ready.
Hiring managers and interviewers want to hear how your previous work experience has prepared you for your next role. Having a complete list of where you’ve worked and what you’ve accomplished will make it easier to do that.
“We’ll describe the roles and responsibilities of the open position,” explains Barbara. “Then, when we ask the candidate to explain what they’ve worked on in the past, we expect them to cite a relevant task, project, or accomplishment.”
Use your resume as a point of reference so you can clearly point to a time in your career when you solved a challenge.
- Get comfortable.
It sounds obvious, but if you’ve got a phone interview on your calendar, make sure you’re available to take the call.
Put yourself in a comfortable, quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. When you answer the phone, say, “Hello, this is…” and then state your name so the interviewer can quickly identify you and pronounce your name with confidence.
If you find yourself caught off guard by the phone call—maybe you forgot or you got stuck in an unforeseen situation—do not ignore the call. According to Barbara, “it’s frustrating when scheduled candidates don’t answer the phone. I try to be respectful of my candidates’ time and hope they do the same with mine. Neglecting to answer the call makes a candidate appear uninterested in the opportunity. I’d rather have someone answer the phone and politely reschedule the call than not answer at all.”
Remember, your interviewer wants the call to go well. If they’ve scheduled a phone interview, they already like what they see from you, so they’ll probably be open to rescheduling the call. Just don’t let it happen again, because a third chance is harder to come by than a second one.
- Sell yourself.
Some people aren’t comfortable speaking highly about themselves. That can be admirable in certain situations but not in an interview. Rehearsing—with a family member, a friend, or by yourself—is one of the best ways to prepare for your interview. Practicing will help you keep your answers short—a valuable interviewing skill that can improve your chances of getting the job. Typically, your interviewer will have a defined set of questions to get through. You must be aware of the length of your responses and be able to answer questions clearly and succinctly.
The phone interview is meant to revolve around you, your skill set, and your interest in the position. There are ways you can do that without sounding self-centered. Have a prepared list of skills, accomplishments, and examples that you want to highlight. It is easy to get nervous and forget these during the interview.
“We like when candidates can speak about a time when they collaborated or worked well with others to accomplish a goal,” says Barbara. “Celebrating shared success while highlighting an individual contribution tells us you’re a team player, which is much better than someone saying, ‘I’m a team player.’ We want examples.”
- Come with questions.
“Asking thoughtful questions lets us know you’re really interested in the position,” says Barbara.
“It’s always a good sign when candidates ask questions about their potential team and the company values. We’re always looking for people whose values align with ours just as we hope our corporate values align with the candidate’s. It goes both ways.”
A job interview is as much about what you’re looking for as it is about what the company is looking for. Try phrasing your questions around your interests or goals and observations you’ve made about the company. Here are a few question-asking tips:
- Point to a post on the company’s social media page and tie it into a question about the position you’re applying for or a company value.
- Ask what the department breakdown looks like. Who’s the head of the department? Who will you be working with most closely? What sort of project management system is employed?
- Ask the hiring manager what they like most about working at the company.
- Be honest. If you don’t know an answer, it’s okay to say so, but follow up with an explanation of how you’d find the answer. If a position or assignment does not sound right for you, acknowledge why. Don’t force-fit yourself into the role. You’ll regret it later.
- Ask what the next steps are, and the expected timeline of the interview process, so you can prepare.
- Send a thank you note.
It doesn’t matter if you think you crushed the phone interview or if you think you bombed it. Send an email that thanks the interviewer for their time.
Depending on how you feel about the position, you should explain that you’re A) looking forward to the next step of the process, or B) that you wish to excuse yourself from the process but thank you for the opportunity.
“It’s the little things that make a difference,” Barbara says. “A simple thank you email or note is the best way to go. Just don’t go overboard! Keep it simple and keep it short.”