You’ve been sending your resume out to anyone who seemed remotely interested, hoping to find something to fit your needs or maybe even that dream job you’ve always wanted. When you finally get that initial phone call from a company, you better be completely prepared. The phone interview, though not used by all employers, is a quick way for a potential boss to weed through several qualified applicants before calling them all in for face-to-face interviews. If you’ve made it this far in the job search, it’s time to get serious about impressing the employer. Your goal during this phone call is to give them enough reason to want to meet you. These tips can help.
Don’t take the call if it’s a bad time. Some employers will call out of the blue and hope you’re available for the interview immediately but this isn’t always the best thing for you. You might have kids running around in the background or you may be driving. Arrange for a time that’s mutually convenient, where you will be able to completely focus on the phone conversation. But be sure to schedule it ASAP, as employers usually want to get phone interviews out of the way fairly quickly.
Have notes ready. Like practicing before a face-to-face interview, you must prepare for this one too. Luckily with a phone interview, the interviewer won’t see you looking at your notes, so jot down some things you want to highlight during the conversation, but be careful not to read directly from the paper during the interview so you sound natural.
Rehearse. Some employers are getting more in-depth with their phone interviews; be prepared for this by practicing some questions and answers as you would for a regular interview. Be ready to explain why you have a two-year gap on your resume, or the fact that you worked in three very different industries. The key is to tell your story in a way that it sounds rational.
Take notes. Along with having some notes ready, take notes when you learn relevant information about the company or the position that you didn’t already know. Using these at your next interview will likely impress your interviewer.
Research. When you know something about the company beforehand, it shows your interest in the position goes beyond a weekly paycheck. Use the Internet to familiarize yourself with the company history, mission statement, organization, and even possibly the interviewer herself/himself. You can even use this information to come up with a few questions of your own. You might want to explore their Diversity department and policies. Learning about any programs the company has to attract Hispanic employees or consumers might shed light on the kind of organization they are and it may help you weave in ideas or expertise you might be able to offer.
Don’t interrupt. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to interrupt someone on a phone call when they were only stopping for a breath. Make sure the interviewer has completed a thought before you begin talking and practice some basic telephone etiquette.
Slow down. If English is your second language and you have an accent, I suggest that you make a deliberate effort to speak slowly. I tend to speak very fast and had to learn to slow down when doing public presentations so that I don’t lose clarity. This is ever more important on the phone where people can’t see you.
Express your interest in the job before the end of the call. Be prepared to tell the interviewer what interests you about the position and why you believe you would be a good match. Think of skills, experience and personality traits that make you a uniquely good fit. (Why should they hire you and not one of the ten other people with your same skill set? Why do you stand apart?)
Ask for the best way to follow up. You need to know how best to contact the interviewer, or whoever is in charge of arranging future interviews. If a face-to-face interview isn’t arranged during this call, make sure you ask when a decision will be made and who you can call to follow up. Don’t appear desperate, but make sure it’s known that you plan on keeping in contact.
The phone interview is more important than a dress rehearsal, and some people actually suggest you dress the part to get in that interview mindset. If you don’t nail this brief conversation, you will not get invited to interview for the position. Take this interview seriously and you’ll likely talk your way into the next phase of the hiring process.