Thursday, January 24, 2013

Steps to a Successful Phone Interview

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Telephone interviews have become a common step in today's hiring practice. Actually this new step makes sense both for the hiring company and for the candidate. Both are able to go beyond the thin pages of a job description and a submitted cover letter and resume and delve into the realms of expectations, personal skills, company culture and other areas related to both company and candidate discerning a successful match. Obviously, the company benefits also from not spending funds to fly in a candidate and to schedule managers' time to interview a qualified but unapt candidate; at the same time, the candidate, with a deeper knowledge of company culture and expectations, can be protected from spending time and emotional capital on pursuing an opportunity that would not eventually be a good match.

Typically a phone interview lasts between 30 to 60 minutes and should continue the honest exchange of basic information started through the job description and cover letter and resume. However, there are positives and negatives associated with a phone interview:

The Good News: You control your environment. Whether you are in your office, your home or sitting by the side of a pool, you choose where you want to be during the interview.

The Bad News: Since you can't see the person to whom you are speaking, you don't have an opportunity to read their body language. Also, since they cannot see your body language, you must be very clear and articulate your answers carefully so they will not be misinterpreted.

The Ugly News: Interviewers must make a quick decision about you without much information. Thirty minutes is not a long time to make a strong impression. In fact, the truth is that within the first 5 minutes of your conversation, some interviewers will have determined if you are going to be included in the next round of the process.

The goal of the phone interview is to get a face to face interview. (I have never been in a situation where a job was offered based solely on a phone interview.) Your primary goal during this phase of the interview process is to make it to the next round which is usually the face to face meeting.
Here are ten ways to help you succeed:

1. Choose a quiet, comfortable location to talk on the phone. The key word is QUIET. That means no barking dogs in the background, no toddlers wailing or tugging on your arm, no traffic noises in the background. You want to choose an inside area that has a door that can be shut.

2. Make sure you have GREAT phone reception. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had poor telephone reception with a lot of ambient or background noise? It is very frustrating. Do not take a chance on this. If you have to use your mobile phone for the interview, make sure you are out of any windy areas and that you do not have to scream into the phone in order for someone to hear you. If you are accustomed to using headphones or any other hands-free device, make sure the reception is crystal clear. If you are using a mobile phone, make sure you have plenty of battery life. Have a charger handy just to make sure.

3. Have the documents in front of you. This would include your resume, the job description and any reference materials or research notes. Lay these out so that each one is easy to locate should you need to refer back to them.

4. Have a list of prepared questions already written down. You will feel more relaxed because you are better prepared AND you will come across as someone who prepared for the session. If the dynamics of the interview made it difficult to introduce your questions, you can wait and say at the end of the session "I wrote down some questions, let me see if we have covered them all." Then ask at least your most important questions. Remember that the phone interview should benefit your understanding of the company as well as the company's understanding of you and what you bring to the table.

5. Have a pen and pad of paper, and take fast and furious notes. Make sure you refer back to your notes when answering questions throughout the interview.

6. Have something to drink in case of dry mouth. Water or soda only, please. Save the alcohol for AFTER the interview.

7. Know who you are talking to and write their name down on a piece of paper. Write their name in BIG letters. Nothing will kill an interview more quickly than calling someone by the wrong or a mispronounced name or, even worse, forgetting their name.

8. Have a clock in front of you. You want to be cognizant of the time.

9. At the end of the session, if you like everything you have heard then be BOLD. Ask clearly and straightforwardly to take the next step in the process. Use a simple question like "So, Mr. Hiring Manager, from what we have discussed this afternoon, I am confident that I am the person you are looking for and that I have the skills to succeed. What is the next step in the process? I have my calendar in front of me; let's see what our schedules look like."

10. Thank them. You'd be surprised how many people forget to thank the interviewer with a quick follow-up email. Ask for their email address. The follow-up email is a great way to add value.
Following these steps will help you be more at ease during a phone interview. Knowing how to make use the phone interview to your advantage will help you move your job search forward.

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