You made it past the initial resume screening and are scheduled for a phone interview. It’s easy to overlook this step in the process, but remember, if you don’t do well here, the chances of getting to the next step in the hiring process are next to nil. The person conducting the interview is either going to put their stamp of approval on you as a candidate or send you a rejection letter. Ace this step and you may even gain an ally in the hiring process.
Here are a few dos (and don’ts) to make sure you get the face-to-face interview.
1. Make sure you set aside time so there’s no conflict.
Set up a quiet place where you can have a candid conversation without risk of intrusion. As an interviewer, I always ask a candidate prior to starting if it’s still a good time for them. Recently, I have gotten responses like:
• “Hang on, let me go outside. I’m at a restaurant.”
• “Sure, I’m in the car driving so I may cut out, but go ahead.”
• “I may have to put you on hold if someone like my boss comes into the office.”
• “If you don’t mind the (kids, pets, etc.) making noise…”
The truth is, if you can’t set aside the time to talk about a career move to my company, I will assume you are not taking the job seriously or respecting my time. Why would I want you to join our team? If there is a conflict, let your interviewer know ahead of time so you can reschedule.
2. Do a little research.
You are almost guaranteed to be asked the question, “What do you know about our company and/or this role?” If you are not prepared to answer this, your interviewer is going to lose interest in you quickly.
While it’s the interviewer’s job to learn enough about your background and skill set, your job should be to learn enough about the company and the role to see if you want to move to the next step. They’ve read your resume, done some background research on you and have a set of questions tailored to what they have already learned. You should be equally prepared.
Spend some time Googling the company, and read their website to learn the core business and know their competitors. Take a look at LinkedIn and get a better understanding of their general organization. Once you have done this, make a list of key questions you want answers to. Have those ready during the phone interview so you’re not improvising.
3. Remember to be professional.
One of the things I like to do is get people to let their guard down. But over the phone, it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming too casual. You would be surprised at what folks say over the phone once they get too comfortable.
I cannot tell you how many times a candidate has dropped a swear word or used an inappropriate phrase. This only makes your interviewer wonder whether you will do this with clients, co-workers or other leaders who would interview you if they were to move you ahead.
Talk to the interviewer as if you were in their office. Envision yourself at the conference table with them. A neat trick is to pull up their profile on LinkedIn so you have their photo in front of you while you interview. It will help you stay focused. In this case, a picture is worth more than 1,000 words!
4. Be prepared to close.
When the interview is over, be sure to ask about next steps. Leaving the phone interview with an ambiguous ending is a sure recipe for not moving ahead. Not indicating that you want a next step is also telling.
Even if you need to dictate what the next step is, be sure it’s mutually agreed upon. For example, “This was a great conversation, but I would like to talk it over with my spouse. I will get back to you by Tuesday.” Similarly, you should expect to hear, “We’ll be interviewing several candidates and will get back to you by Tuesday to let you know if we are moving you ahead.”
Think of your phone interview as a low-stress, initial opportunity for you and the company to get to know each other. Don’t torpedo your chances of getting hired because you exemplified your weaknesses over your strengths.