Crushing The Phone Interview With A Buzz.

This isn’t your Dad’s phone interview.  But it is the all-important first connection in the job-search process.  The phone interview has become the far more important because of all the information about you accessible to prospective employers online.   In reality, the employer will be more prepared, and you should be to.  The phone interview is the equivalent of the traditional 1st interview, and without success, you’ll not have a face to face.

Here are some tips that many of my candidates have seemed to enjoy success with:

  • Have a hard copy of your resume, job description, and a list of items you want to cover during the conversation.  Having these in front of you will help you maintain focus and organization.
  • Open a couple of browsers. One on the company’s site, and one on Google.  No surfing and only search when looking for something specific to the interview process.  No speaker phone at your end.  Not a good idea to be heard typing.
  • Nuke your call waiting, answering machine, and accessories. These noises can be a distraction and embarrassment.   It’s not too difficult to disable and re-activate these features on your own.
  • Use a landline if you have access. Don’t allow poor cell signal to keep you from a strong 1st impression. You’ll cut the odds of disconnection.
  • For obvious reasons, activate and test the “mute” before the call.
  • Make the call from home or if you must a hotel room as opposed to the lobby.  You’ll want to be in an environment with minimal noise, where you can speak clearly with strong intonation, and at a reasonable volume. Doing this, you’ll find that there will be distractions and other unanticipated events.  If at home, try to find a quiet place away from pets, TV’s, kids, etc.
  • Carve out, and budget time for the call.  Do not try to squeeze the interview in during lunch.   Most phone interviews are brief, but if you connect with the interviewer, the last thing you want to have to run off to the next agenda item of your day.  Sure it’s just a phone interview, but uncertainty causes stress, but controlling and budgeting time reduces it.
  • Answer the phone with your name. This lets the interviewer know exactly who you are, saves time, and projects confidence and professionalism.
  • I know this may sound silly, but smiling when you’re on the phone projects energy. Studies show that your voice can lose up to half of its energy from speaker to receiver.  You’re not visible so smile and overcompensate a bit.
  • If a major distraction pops during the interview, mention it. Honesty will likely convert to humor. The interviewer is not a robot, yet and may have had it happen to them.  Trying to cover will be a major distraction, and take you right out of your game.
  • Be ready just a few minutes early.  The call could come early.  I’ve known staffing folks that do this on purpose as a test.
  • Focus on your value proposition to the employer.  “Responsible for X, resulting in Y.”  “Accountable for A resulting in B.”  Metrics, metric, metrics.   To get the face to face interview your value must shine.  You are an investment, and the interviewer must be compelled to invest more time in assessing your value.  If you’re not invited for the face to face, and the interview is closing on a reasonably good note, ask for the face to face interview.  All the interviewer can say is “no.”
  • Steer clear of money, benefits, etc.  If/when it comes up, try being vague…” I’ll need a better understanding of the total compensation, and a more comprehensive understanding of the role.”
  • Get an email from the interviewer, and send a quick “thank you” note allowing to the opportunity to again express your interest in the position.

The key take away here is that you need to focus on the fact that this phone interview is the 1st interview, and without success at this stage there will be no further stages.


About Buzz Smith

Welcome. My name is Charles “Buzz” Smith and I’m the SR Curmudgeon of Consulting Services at OPI National Outplacement. My role, in addition to agitating our sales personnel, and consultants is to take the lead on delivering outplacement and career transition services that are effective. I blog about career stuff when my wife of 40 years, Linda banishes to the garden.

Posted on June 17, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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