Waiting for a phone interview can be more nerve-wrecking and exhausting than the phone interview itself. But when it comes, you had better be ready! Use these 25 tips from Sean Haggard of InterviewBackdoor.com–increase your odds of getting a phone interview, impress the interviewer while you are on the phone, and seal the deal after you say goodbye.
Before the Phone Interview
1. Include your phone number and email address on your application, cover letter, and each page of your resume. The worst reason for not receiving a phone interview is because the interviewer didn’t know how to contact you.
2. If you have special contact instructions, list them in your cover letter, but don’t expect they will be followed. Many interviewers just look at whatever paper is in front of them, find your number, and dial. They may not necessarily read the part of your cover letter where they are asked to call your home number between 2:00pm and 5:00pm EST or your cell phone number after 6:00pm EST.
3. Make sure your voicemail greeting is appropriate. One interviewer may laugh at the song you play or the joke you tell during your greeting, while another might just be annoyed and subtract points from you. A simple greeting such as “You’ve reached Sean Haggard. Please leave me a message” or “You have called 555-235-1212. Record your message at the tone” is fine. You can always change your greeting back after you get the job.
4. Let the phone go to voicemail. Although your family or roommate may have the best of intentions, messages sometimes get lost. The easiest method is just to give out a phone number that you know will either be answered by you or by no one.
5. Keep the company information on hand. I track my applications with a folder system on my computer. Each folder has a name, such as “IBM_ProcessEngineer_012811” (company_job_date). Then inside that folder I keep the job description (I make a PDF copy of the website if it was online), the resume I submitted, the application I submitted, and any notes that will help to refresh my memory when they call. If you do answer the phone when the interviewer calls, you want to be able to access all of this information on the spot.
6. Return messages promptly. An un-returned call for a phone interview is a missed opportunity. Also keep in mind that most interviewers call batches of people to schedule phone interviews. If you don’t answer, I leave a message, hang up the phone, and call the next person on the list. Whoever gets back to me first has the first pick of a slot on my busy schedule. Whoever gets a phone interview first has the potential for having an in-person interview first. And that leads to the shiny, new job.
7. Remind interviewers who you are. If you return a call and must leave a message, give your name and phone number, mention you are returning the person’s call for the (insert your position name) position, and state that you are still interested in the position. I suggest saying your name and phone number once at the beginning of the message and again at the end. If you speak slowly enough, the interviewer will be able to write down your information or grab your file without too much effort.
8. When you arrange the phone interview, confirm the details. You need to know the date, the time (if you are in a different time zone from the recruiter, confirm the time zone), who will be calling whom, and the phone number to call. Add the appointment to your calendar and set a reminder for at least 15 minutes prior.
During the Phone Interview
9. If you are calling the interviewer, call exactly at the scheduled time. Wait by the phone for a few minutes if necessary. If you do not reach the person, leave a voicemail, wait ten minutes, and try to call again. If you still aren’t able to make contact, see if you can “opt out” of the person’s voicemail and reach a receptionist or assistant.
10. If the interviewer is calling you, be ready for the phone interview whenever you are called. It is possible that you will be called 5 minutes early. It is possible you will be called 15 minutes late. Do not act offended either way; just get on with the phone interview.
11. Limit the negatives. If you are interviewing on your mobile phone, make sure the battery is charged, that you are in an area with little background noise, and that you are outside of a dead zone. Do not chew gum, eat, smoke, or drink (you may sip quietly if you need to).
12. Avoid distractions. Keep babies, dogs, vacuums, and construction equipment out of the background. If you have difficulty hearing the interviewer, say something polite like, “I’m having trouble hearing you. Are you able to hear me ok?”
13. Have the position information, your resume, and your notes in front of you. Don’t ever expect the interviewer to wait for you to find those things.
14. Take notes (with either a pen and paper or a computer). Write down the person’s name and role (or the people’s names and roles if you are conducting a phone interview with a committee).
15. Smile. I was taught this trick in a call center many years ago, and it still works. If you smile while you are on the phone, it will come through in your voice. If you feel cheesy, just make sure no one else is around. It’s worth the extra effort!
16. Answer questions. Focus on the job’s needs, the hiring manager’s needs, the company’s needs, and how your past experience and future possibilities fit into all of those.
17. Ask questions. Show interest by asking questions throughout the phone interview and also at the end.
18. Treat a phone interview like a real interview, because it is.
19. Find out the next steps. When will you receive information about additional interviews? How long should you wait before following up? Should you contact this interviewer or someone else?
After the Phone Interview
20. Breathe! It’s over.
21. Flesh out any notes or questions that you have, while they are fresh in your head.
22. Send a thank you note via email. Express your appreciation for the opportunity to discuss the position, say how much you are interested, and reiterate why you are a good fit. Include the position name, your name, your phone number, and your email address.
23. Address any outstanding questions. If the interviewer asked something you didn’t know, answer it now. If you feel you didn’t give your best answer for one of the questions, clarify it now.
24. Follow up. If the interviewer doesn’t call you back when he said he would, call him. If the interviewer asked you to call him on a certain day, do it.
25. Don’t count your chickens. Continue to pursue other opportunities and apply for other jobs. No matter how perfect this job may seem, it sadly may not be in your future. The good news is that the more applications you submit, the more phone interviews you will receive, the more interviews you will have, and the more jobs you will get. Any rejection just means that you’re that much closer to your dream job!