Pick Up the Phone! How to Excel at a Phone Interview

These days when interviewing, it is common to have a phone screen first, then in-person interviews. The reason for this? Efficiency. It wastes both the hiring manager’s time and the candidate’s time if the candidate is not qualified for the position, or on the juxtaposition, the candidate does not feel that the company is a good fit. It is a process of weeding out seemingly qualified candidates from those who actually would be a fit. However, it has been my experience that candidates are not taking the phone interview as seriously as an in-person interview.  Here are some things to keep in mind next time you are preparing for a phone interview:

  • Be in a quiet place. If you are at work, don’t step outdoors because wind and traffic etc. Rather, duck into a conference room or someplace you will not be distracted.
  • Play pretend. Act as though the interviewer is sitting across from you. Do not slouch, or play with your iPhone or be changing the channel. The person on the other end of the line does not have facial cues to rely on, so they must pay close attention to your tone. If you are doing something else — you will sound preoccupied.
  • Be punctual! I cannot tell you how many times I have called a candidate at the designated time only to get their voicemail. I have set aside time in my day to interview you, and it reflects poorly on you if you are not available at the scheduled time. It is the same as not showing up to a face-to-face interview on time.
  • Have your resume in front of you. You can use your resume as a cheat sheet to follow along with the interviewer as well as write down questions you have on the role and company culture.
  • Ask thoughtful questions. The interviewer wants to have a dialogue with you, not just fire questions at you. Make sure you ask questions that reflect your knowledge of the position and the company. For example, “I noticed a lot of positions posted on the company website. What is prompting the hiring?”
  • Be professional. You are not having a chat with a friend on the phone. Leave expletives and rambling stories out of it. If this sounds like common knowledge, great! But you would be surprised as to how relaxed candidates sound on phone interviews.

The last piece of advice I can give someone phone screening is to close the interview. Commonly I hear from a candidate, “How did I do?” A phone interview is not an opportunity to hone your interviewing skills, it is an interview. In fact it is the easiest interview to fail because the interviewer usually has the highest volume of candidates to qualify at this stage and the least amount of time. You want to leave a good impression. The best way to close a phone interview is by stating your interest in the role and asking what next steps would look like. The phone interview is not a warm-up for the real interview. Simply put, if you do not make it past the phone interview, you will not be asked in for a meeting.

So read up on the company, print out your resume and turn off your email next time you get ready for a phone interview. Remember, this could be the first step to a new job — so make it count!

Lindsey Gurian
Lindsey Gurian
Senior Corporate Recruiter

Lindsey Gurian is the Senior Corporate Recruiter at Acquia. She was previously a Senior Talent Specialist at Sonian, responsible for recruiting initiatives at both the firm and its portfolio companies.
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