Today the process is more arduous. It’s not just a matter of completing a couple of steps – often you will be asked to pass not one or two, but three or four interviews just to make it to the final round. And as a start, assuming you’ve met the basic requirements of the position and your resume has been hand-picked out of a hefty pile, your first conversation with the employer will almost inevitably be over the phone.
Yes. Get ready for the first screen: The Phone Interview.
Perhaps you are not overly concerned. It’s just a quick and friendly chat to say “hello, I am interested”, right? It shouldn’t be a big deal.
Really. But it has become just that. In today’s competitive market, getting the phone interview is in and of itself considered an accomplishment – and as an emotional yardstick of sorts – validating your job searching efforts. Practically speaking, it is the entry point that will lead to further conversations about the position.
Make a good impression and you can start ironing your suit. The in-person meeting is likely not too far away.
But while you dream of knocking them off their feet in your face-to-face interview, here are 6 tips to help you make it through a successful first round.
Most phone interviews last about 30 minutes. It’s not a lot of time to delve deep, but it’s enough time to show the interviewer that you’ve prepared and done your research. You have to be ready to talk about your background and experience without stumbling over your words or sharing inappropriate or unnecessary information.
The interviewer will ask general questions to get to know you and what qualifications and experience you bring to the role. They’ll also tell you about the position. This is your opportunity to get to know them. Doing some research about the company and the role ahead of time will help you formulate the right questions and show that you are eager to learn more.
Statements such as “I’ve read that you’ve gone through a recent reorganization and are looking to fill some gaps. Can you tell me more about your vision for the role and how you’d like for it to evolve over the next couple of years,” will set you apart as a thoughtful and forward-looking candidate.
2. Go over the details
Well, it should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to mess up the details. Did you check the time of the interview? Is it in your time zone?
This is an embarrassing tidbit from my past, but once I called into an interview 3 hours early. Then, having no one pick up, I e-mailed the interviewer to ask if the interview was still on! Guess what? It was. In 3 hours. Pacific Standard Time.
It’s unlikely you’ll make the same unfortunate mistake, but still it doesn’t hurt to double-check the logistics. Check the time. Also, make sure you know who is calling whom. And come to think of it, double-check the name of the interviewer. It’s possible there was a last minute change they e-mailed you about and you forgot to write it down.
3. Find a quiet place
Some of us naturally need peace and quiet in order to think and do our best, while others can take a work call, while drying the dishes, feeding the kids, and writing a novella, all at the same time. Whether you fall into the first or the second camp, when it comes to phone interviews, it’s a good idea to play it safe and eliminate the distractions.
Even if you are a star multi-tasker who has successfully fielded calls in the car or with the kids downstairs watching television, why worry that something might go amiss?
Find a quiet place in your house where you can concentrate on the call. Have a sitter entertain the kids in their play space, or better yet, send them all out for ice cream. Put the pets in another room. Close the door and turn the ringer off on your cell. The landline is always a better bet for important calls, assuming you still have one! If not, find a quiet spot in your house where you can be fairly certain the cell phone reception will not cut out in the middle of the call.
4. Look professional
Think it’s overkill to put on a fancy suit for a phone interview? Perhaps. But sporting a professional look, whether it’s a freshly pressed shirt, a nice dress or pant/skirt coordinates, can make a difference in the way you approach the call. Studies have shown that what we wear and how we look affects how we feel. Want to be perceived as a professional? Then you must dress the part. Surely, you’ll find an opportunity to relax in your new pair of Peter Pan pjs very very soon.
Yes, it’s just a 30-minute phone interview – and less pressure than an in-person meeting – but it’s still significant and, unless you take these kinds of calls daily, likely a bit stress-inducing. Is there something you can do to manage the stress ahead of time, without having to squeeze in an emergency yoga session?
The usual strategies used to lower blood-pressure can do wonders to help calm the nerves, and you can easy do those at home in just a few minutes. Breathe, stretch, or walk around the house before the call and feel your blood-pressure begin to drop.
6. Organize your space
Now that you are in your quiet space, looking sharp and feeling relaxed, is there anything that you may have forgotten? Once you get on the call, it will be handy to have your key documents nearby – the resume, the cover letter, a print out of the job description, and a notepad with any notes you may have jotted down while doing prior research. You’ll likely need a clean piece of paper to write down any new information, and a cup of water in case your throat gets dry.
After all, you want to sound as confident as you can without loosing conversational rapport with your interviewer. This is your 30 minutes to show that you are a good fit – a prepared, detail-oriented, organized professional – ready to take on any challenge!