There is something about talking into a plastic device or hiding behind a computer keyboard that sometimes invokes a strange sense of security in us; we send emails conveying messages we might not say in person, we become more relaxed, and can easily fall into the “This isn’t that serious. It’s just an easy email/phone call!” mentality. However, one area you should NOT make this mistake is with phone screens for jobs. Phone interviews, even with their protective barrier of cords and telephone lines, are just as detrimental to your professional goals, and should be taken just as seriously as in-person interviews.
So it’s time to turn off the soaps, kick off the fuzzy bunny slippers, and get serious. The phone is ringing, and your employment is on the line!
Here are 8 tips on ensuring phone interview success:
1) Get a good night’s rest and wake up with time to prepare. As novel as it sounds to tell your friends you interviewed while laying in bed during your morning stretch, it is not conducive to a successful phone screen. Make sure you are plenty rested and are up long enough so there is not a trace of yawn left in your voice and your mind is alive and sharp.
2) Give the interviewer the number to a land line if possible. We know, we know. Who has land lines anymore? But if possible try to schedule your phone screen for a time when you can be around one. Cell phones have a tendency for bad service and dropping calls at the most inopportune times, so running around your apartment with your iPhone saying “Can you hear me now?” is a sure way to interrupt the interview and likely annoy your interviewer.
3) Designate a time and place when you are sure to pick up, and will be in quiet solitude. This goes without saying, but when scheduling your interview, make sure it is during a time when you will be in a place with absolutely no distractions (and this includes not scheduling an interview during which you will be on the road!) Make sure to alert those who typically reach out to you during that time of the day and let them know you will be occupado. No call waitings, rowdy kids, rogue drivers, or background noise is going to keep you from your dream job!
4) Make sure to have a professional outgoing message. If you paid attention to the previous tips, you shouldn’t have a problem with a 2 minute lapse in cell signal sending your interviewer straight to voicemail, or any other distractions that will prevent you from picking up the phone call. However, if this “oops” happens and you for whatever reason aren’t able to pick up your interviewer’s call, make sure you have a professional sounding outgoing message. And please, no ringbacks. If your interviewer calls in to hear “Hit Me Baby One More Time” before being dropped into an unprofessional voicemail box, chances are you won’t be getting a message from them, and they won’t be calling back either.
5) Rehearse. Just like any other interview, it is important to practice answering questions over and over again. Unlike an in-person interview, you won’t have other indicators like body language and facial expressions to convey confidence and enthusiasm in your answers, so it is imperative your answers are on point.
6) Know your resume back and front. This goes with the previous tip. Phone screens go quickly and there is very little time to sit and ponder your answers or refer back to your resume on your key strengths. Those are things you should already have committed to memory. Interviewers might zing you with a few unexpected questions, so reserve your pauses for those instead of wasting them on describing your qualifications that you should know by heart.
7) Dress up. This might sound like a joke to you (why would I have to change out of pj’s and snuggie if I don’t have to?) Even though the interviewer can’t SEE your attire, dressing more professionally will make you ACT more professionally, and you will likely come off more polished on the phone. Sitting in your recliner in your sweatpants might make you TOO relaxed, and this can come off to the interviewer over the phone.
8) Send a thank you. Just like an in-person interview, it is important to follow up your conversation with a hand-written thank you note. Showing your gratitude for them taking the time to talk to you and consider you for the position can go a long way, especially since you weren’t able to shake their hand and thank them at the end of the interview like you could have had it been in person.
The moral of the story? Treat a phone interview just as serious and with the same care and preparation as any other interview… follow these tips, and you will be face to face with the hiring manager in no time!