Even if you’re lucky enough to live close to the career hub for your industry, chances are that you are going to have to do a preliminary interview over the phone at least once. Those chances are multiplied if you’re applying for remote positions or for companies that are large enough to be using (third party or in-house) recruiters who like to assess potential candidates over the phone before recommending them to the internal hiring team.
Each time a writing contract ends, I am put back into interview mode. This past week, I had five different phone interviews (and three video interviews…which we’ll talk about soon), and it inspired me to jot down tips I’ve learned over the years:
Five Tips for Slaying Your Phone Interview
- Smile and Move Around Often. This might sound crazy since the person on the other end of the phone can’t see you, but have you ever talked to someone on the phone while they were watching TV? You could totally tell that they were distracted, right? Similarly, your interview will pick up on your positive energy and enthusiasm for the job if you act as though they can see you smile and nod. Walking while you talk will help keep your energy up and blood pumping, which will send the message that you’re excited about the job.
- Minimize distractions. For me, this includes locking my cats in the bedroom, shutting all the windows, and turning off my TV and laptop. Even if you think you’re super focused, it’s human nature to attempt to ease nervousness of new situations by falling back to the familiar, so you might not be able to prevent your eyes from wandering to the TV. If your apartment or home is too full of distractions or you don’t live alone, consider taking the call somewhere, such as in your parked car.
- Prep ahead of time (don’t depend on notes). Phone interviews might seem like a slam dunk since the interviewer can’t see you. If they ask you a question you aren’t sure how to answer, you can always look something up on your laptop, right? Wrong. Although using your laptop is okay for an emergency, you shouldn’t depend on it. Prep for the call as though it were in person. The time it takes to look up an answer or research the company will be noticed by the interviewer and might make you feel self-conscious, which could throw off your confidence for the remainder of the call. If you prep for the interview, then just keep in mind that you are qualified and you know the answers. Trust yourself!
- Be ready for a call at any time. Once you submit an application for a job, you should be prepared to receive a call from the recruiters at any time. They might email you ahead of time, but they might not. If you don’t have the time to focus on the call (or you’re driving, feeding an infant, etc), it is absolutely okay to reschedule the call for another time. This is much better than not giving the best interview you could have because you were distracted, and your caller might even be impressed by your polite manner. Similarly, if you aren’t able to be able to talk professionally (i.e. three beers in at Happy Hour), let your voicemail get it…because, you already recorded a professional voicemail message before applying.
- Don’t forget to follow up with a Thank You note. Since your conversation took place over the phone, it’s easy to forget to send a thank you note. However, sending an email within 24 hours of the call is essential after phone interviews because it will keep you top of mind during a critical step in the hiring process: the initial screen. Chances are that whoever you spoke to probably spoke to several other candidates, and you want to make sure they remember you, specifically. Thank them for your time and refer to specific parts of the conversation. Offer to send any additional materials needed for the application and include all of your contact information. Since I’m a writer, I usually include my writing samples again, even if I sent them in the initial application, to make it easier to forward on. Include your resume, too, if you think it’s appropriate. Make it as easy as possible for your interviewer to move you to the next level!
Best of luck on that phone call! Next time, I’ll give you some tips on acing the newest and perhaps most panic-inducing type of interview: Video!