Jobbio’s Expert in Residence, Dee Murphy, offers her advice on how to master the phone interview.
Phone interviews are a cost-effective, time-efficient way for companies to screen candidates before committing to a face-to-face interview, and almost every tech company begins the recruitment process this way. There are pros and cons to the process, one of the main issues is that it can be difficult to build rapport without the benefit of seeing someone. Body language, eye contact and facial expressions can go a long way in winning people over – but if well prepared, many people find the phone interview less stressful than a face-to-face one.
Understand the purpose.
From the company’s perspective, this is their chance to weed out the ‘wheat from the chaff’, to find out who’s genuinely interested in the company and get a sense of whether you’re a good ‘fit’. They’re not going to ask anything overly technical, and they’re not looking for much detail, it’s literally a chance for them to get to know you.
For the candidate, it serves exactly the same purpose. This is your chance to find out as much as you can about the job and what they’re looking for in a candidate – all the info you can squeeze out at this point will be useful to you if you get brought to the next stage. Hiring managers like to be asked questions during the phone screening, it’s a strong indicator that you’re keen and it means that you don’t have to do all the talking. So, relax! This is your chance to investigate as much as it is theirs.
Don’t just accept the first time and date they suggest – make sure you agree to take the call when you’re most comfortable. You’ll need peace and quiet, a space that has excellent phone coverage, is free of distractions and enough time to allow for a long chat if that’s what it becomes. Have paper and pencil ready. There will be things you’ll want to write down to reference later. Consider using headphones or a headset so you have your hands free for writing notes.
Do your research!
Go into stealth mode and uncover as much information as possible about the person who’s going to be calling you. If you find any commonalities and they ask you tell them a bit about yourself, throw those into the mix (maybe you went to the same university, or both play the same sport) – they may not let you know that it’s a shared interest, but it’ll definitely help warm them up! Also research as much as you can about the company and the job. You want to ask questions, but not obvious ones that you can find on the landing page of their website, so do a little digging and then write down one or two strong questions about the position, and one or two about the company. Others will come to you organically, but it’s great to have some prepared in case you draw a blank.
Assess your skills honestly.
Be able to score yourself on how experienced you are in multiple areas – especially for technical roles. Be honest here, if there’s a technical screening process following the informal chat, the level of difficulty of the questions will be based off your self-rated score!
Get in the zone.
It may seem strange, but dress up rather than down for a phone interview, as it puts you in a better headspace for interview than if you’re sitting in your tracksuit or pyjamas. Put in your earphones for the call, stand up, walk around and use your hands as you speak – similarly to how you would if presenting to a group. Also, smile! All of these behaviours shift the tone and pitch of your voice, slow down your speech and help you automatically emphasise important points.
Take some time beforehand to get organised, sit in the space and just breathe. Remember, the phone interview is the least formal part of the interview process. The person on the other end isn’t looking to interrogate you or throw you off guard – they just want to get to know you, so don’t worry.
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