INTERVIEWING INSIGHTS: Don’t Fear the Dreaded Phone Interview

by Maureen Koenen, Co-Chair, Marketing Committee  

The job search process has certainly gone through a metamorphosis in the last few years. The hiring practice used to involve basically three steps: 1) Submitting a resume, 2) An in-person interview and 3) an offer of employment. Well, that simple three level process has added so many steps; you think you were learning a complex routine on “Dancing With The Stars”.

Now the objective, besides hiring the best person for the job, is to contain costs and minimize risk. Companies have gotten quite creative in their approach to their future employees. In an attempt to keep down costs and to minimize the pool of potential candidates there are a variety of procedures that an applicant might have to satisfy. While step #1 is still key (submitting a resume), there are now a variety of segmentations that may have to be maneuvered before a job offer is even contemplated. Some other requirements might be: a) telephone screening, b) telephone interviews, c) Skype exchanges, d) personal demonstrations e) PowerPoint presentations, e) in person multiple interviews and then finally and hopefully f) the employment offer.

We all appreciate and expect to have our professional/personal references called and to submit to drug and criminal background checks. These have not been listed as part of the “interviewing” process because these procedures are just part of the compliance tapestry weaved into our everyday lives. Those requirements are now mandated and standard operating practices.

This column will emphasis the unique requirements and preparedness needed for telephone interview. This process is crucial because unless the applicant excels at this point of contact there will be no further steps in the process. It is amazing that when you Google the topic “phone interview”, there are more than 10 pages of URLs that will give you tips and insights in what to do to maximize this procedure. After reading many “how to articles” regarding telephone interviews, here are the most noted pointers:

  1. Use a land line and not a cell phone. The importance here is there will be less likelihood of “dropping” a call or having a break in service (yes, the batteries even though properly charged can fail us, especially if the interview goes longer than anticipated—or if someone else used the phone and you were unaware)
  2. Preparation is key. The benefit to applicant is they can easily have access to all their notes readily available. You may also have your resume accomplishments highlighted and answers to anticipated questions easily accessible. It is like an open book test…you can use everything at your disposal, and it is all legal. The best part is the interviewer cannot see you using your “cheat” sheets. But again preparation is key…if you are shuffling through 3 X 5 cards, looking for an answer in a pile of papers, thus delaying your response to a question, your interviewer may easily pick up that maybe “due diligence” is not one of your greater strengths.
  3. The call environment is extremely important. Take a phone interview as seriously as an in person interview. Actually an onsite interface might be a slight bit easier because you know that it is just you and the interview. The interview is for a limited amount of time but during that time the focus is on you. Don‘t let anything minimize the effort to get the same attention from your interviewer. Make sure that there are no distractions (no dogs/cats, children, other family members) that need your attention during the call. If possible be in a room with the door closed, no TV or radio, all other devices should be turned off (cell phones/blackberries). Drinking coffee, tea, soda is also not recommended. Have a glass of water nearby, but don‘t risk the potential of a spill by having it in the same area as your notes.
  4. Be mindful to speak clearly and loudly. Do not rush. A clear indication that you are either speaking too quickly or that you are not enunciating properly would be if the interviewer frequently asks you to repeat yourself.
  5. A very, very important element in the phone interview is follow up. You must secure an email address or a name and title of the interviewer, enabling you to send a thank you note after the call. Remember anything and everything that you can do to get to the next step in the hiring process is not to be overlooked just because the procedures have been slightly adjusted.

And remember that the more seasoned candidate has an advantage (you don‘t hear that too often) There are certain generations that are used to conversing on the phone, after all there were no iPods, cell phones, or blackberries when we started our careers. Our familiarity with phone conversations is a definite plus. Let‘s just hope we all “land” before the idea of “texting” becomes the newest method of interviewing.

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